In these times where immigration restrictions are to be feared especially if you are a migrant, the success of the people of Bangladeshi origin in Britain has become a subject of great interest. Bulgarians and Syrians are among the ethnic groups that are now seen as a burden Britain’s society because most of them have little education and only a few are employed in good jobs.
Years ago Bangladeshis were in a similar predicament to the Bulgarians and Syrians. Tower Hamlets, was where the largest community of Bangladeshis lived and it was also the worst performing local authority in England back then in the 90s way into the 2000s. The British Bangladeshis performed worse and were actually ranked lowest.
A Different Story Today
Today the story is different. The Bangladeshi population is thriving and according to the Department of Education figures, 62% got five good GCSEs including Maths and English and in 2015 they were 5% above average. Also, the results of Bangladeshis on Free School Meals (FSM) have improved more than any other ethnic group.
A Story About London Schools
Actually, this is partly a story about London. London's schools have actually benefited from motivated Bangladeshi students. The attention given to the capital has also resulted to many Bangladeshi pupils benefiting as well especially those from Tower Hamlets. A greater percentage of Bangladeshis in Britain live in the capital but still even outside the capital, the students from the community are doing great and are outperforming Pakistani students, something that was unheard of in the recent past. This is according to Simon Burgess from Bristol University.
The Gender Factor
There were 8% more Bangladeshi girls who outperformed the boys in 2015, something that has piqued a lot of interest. Gender equality has also prevailed a lot and when the gender pay gap fell by 31% from 1999-2009, this has caused many Bangladeshi parents to take female education with a lot more seriousness. Abdul Hannan the Bangladesh High Commissioner in the UK traces the development back to 1991 when Khaleda Zia became the first female prime minister in the history of Bangladesh. The country then went on to have a female prime minister for 22 of the last 25 years.
Roots Of Bangladeshi Population
The origin of the Bangladeshi population in Britain could also be another factor in their great success. Majority of the immigrant Bangladeshis in Britain come from the city of Sylhet, which is central when it comes to Bangladesh’s economy and politics not to mention it is famous for its food. Pasha Khandaker who was born in Sylhet and is now the owner of a small chain of curry houses in Kent says, “Our forefathers were the pioneers of the curry industry and we have followed in their footsteps.”
Brick lane alone is home to 57 Bangladeshi-owned curry houses and 90% of all curry houses in England are actually owned by British Bangladeshis, according to a report by the Bangladesh High Commission.
Less Constrained By Kinship Ties
Another reason why Bangladeshis have been so successful is that the community is less constrained by kinship ties. In some British Pakistani communities there are actually families that live their lives with little or no contact with other communities. Younger British Bangladeshis have actually benefited from how their parents have become integrated into British life. The Bangladeshi parents offered their children better financial support, better moral support and better access to education.
An Attitude Change
Younger generation Bangladeshis are more aspirational. More of them are going to universities and parents are willing to spend more money on tuition. Many are getting an education and increase their chances of employment in very rewarding careers.
Challenges Still Exist
As much as the employment rate of Bangladeshis has improved and the one-third more women are working in the last five years, still there is a challenge. 9% of working age Bangladeshis are still unemployed which is twice the national average. Also, the fact that the 12,000 Bangladeshi curry houses in Britain are closing at a rapid rate and this is not due to lack of demand but the government immigration restrictions. This has made it difficult to find high-skilled chefs. Also, the increased ambitions of the younger generation have led to many young Bangladeshis today wanting to explore other careers and not just work in the family business all their life.
Soaring Bangladeshi Children
Despite all these concerns, the soaring Bangladeshi children of today progress into adulthood well prepared to work in leading jobs. Looks like a British Asian Prime minister as David Cameron once said will actually come to pass at this rate. The story of the Bangladeshi community goes to show that with the right support migrant communities can actually contribute to a lot to a country’s economy.