Class Differences in Education

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  • Class Differences in Educational Achievement
    • Class patterns of achievement
      • Working class pupils in general achieve less than MC pupils in education. Children of higher professionals are 2-3 times more likely than children of manual workers to get five of more A*-C grades at GCSE, and about five times more likely to go to university. Sociologists have put forward a range of explanations, which can be divided into: External or home background factors that lie outside school. Internal factors within the school and the education system
        • Achievement and home background:
          • Class differences in pupils' home background may play a key role in causing differences in achievement. Home background may include many things, but these can be grouped into two different types of factors: - cultural factors and material factors
            • Cultural Deprivation Theory
              • Culture refers to all the norms, values, beliefs and skills and knowledge that a society or a group regards as important. This culture is transmitted to the next generation through socialisation. Different classes socialise their children differently and this may affect achievement. According to cultural deprivation theory, some WC parents fail to transmit the appropriate norms and values for educational success.
                • Intellectual stimulation: WC parents are less likely to give their children educational toys and activities that will stimulate their thinking and reasoning skills, and less likely to read to them. This affects their intellectual development so that when they begin school they are at a disadvantage compared with MC children
                • Language
                  • BASIL BERNSTEIN distinguishes between elaborated and restricted speech codes. The elaborated code i
                    • The MC uses the elaborated code. This is more analytic, with a wide vocabulary and complex sentences. Speakers spell out their meanings explicitly and don't just assume the listener shares them.
                    • The WC use the restricted code - this is less analytic and more descriptive, has a limited vocabulary and is formed of simple sentences or even just gestures. It assumes that the listener shares the particular meanings that the speakers holds, so the speaker doesn't spell them out.
                • Parent's education
                  • FEINSTEIN argues that parents' own education is the most important factor affecting children's achievement. Since MC parents tend to be better educated, their children gain an advantage.
                    • Parenting style: Educated parents emphasise consistent discipline, high expectations, active learning and exploration. Less educated parents' inconsistent discipline means children have poorer motivation and problems interacting with teachers
                    • Parents' educational behaviour: educated parents are more aware of what helps children progress, e.g. they form good relationships with teachers and see the value of educational visits
                    • Language: an essential part of education. The way parents communicate affects children's cognitive development.
                    • Use of income: educated parents spend their income to promote children's development, e.g. on educational toys
                • Working Class Subculture
                  • Immediate gratification: wanting rewards now rather than being willing to make sacrifices and working hard for future rewards - unlike the deferred gratification practiced by the MC
                  • Fatalism: a belief that 'whatever will be, will be'. WC children don't believe they can improve their position through their own individual efforts.
                  • Low value on education: HYMAN argues that WC don't value education and don't believe they will benefit from it, so don't try. DOUGLAS argues that WC parents show less interest in their children's education and give them less support; e.g. they are less likely than MC parents to attend parents' evening.
              • Criticisms of Cultural Deprivation Theory
                • - It ignores the impact of material factors such as poverty        - It ignores the impact of school factors, e.g. labelling by teachers           - It blames the victim for their failure. Critics argue that the WC are not culturally deprived - they simply have a different culture from the school and this puts them at a disadvantage
    • Material Deprivation
      • Material deprivation or poverty can cause WC under-achievement because of factors such as:           Poor housing: overcrowding or cold and damp rooms mean pupils have nowhere quiet to do homework. Similarly, being homeless or living in temporary accommodation may mean frequent moves and changes of school.     Poor diet: can lead to illness, absences from school and lack of concentration in class due to hunger      Low income - such problems are often caused by low income, which can affect educational achievement in several ways
        • Financial costs of education:     -  Poorer families can afford fewer educational opportunities, e.g. trips, computers, private tuition. Children may be stigmatised or bullied for lacking the right uniform or latest fashion items
          • Higher education: CALLENDAR AND JACKSON found WC students more debt averse. They saw more costs than benefits in going to university (e.g. tuition fees) and this influenced their decisions. When at university, they receive less financial support from their families.
        • Cultural Capital Theory
          • This approach combines aspects of both cultural and material explanations. Marxists such BOURDIEU argue that MC pupils are more successful than WC pupils because their parents possess ore capital or assets. This capital comes in two forms - economic capital (wealth)  and cultural capital (the attitudes, values, skills, knowledge of the MC)
            • Educational Capital - the MC use their greater economic and cultural capital to give their children an advantage, by using it to obtain educational capital - qualifications. This allows their children to get MC jobs and more economic capital, thus reproducing the advantages of the MC from generation to generation
    • School factors and achievement
      • Factors and processes within schools and the education system also influence class differences in achievement. Most sociologists who have studied the role of school factors are internationalists who focus on small-scale interactions between teachers and pupils.
      • Labelling: labels are meanings or definitions we attach to someone or something to make sense of them - e.g. MC pupils are labelled 'bright' 'motivated' 'cooperative' etc. BECKER argues that teachers label MC children as 'ideal pupils' and prefer to teach them than WC children. The key idea of labelling underlies many of the other processes within schools that cause under-achievement
        • The Self-Fulfilling Prophecy: Teachers can create self-fulfilling prophecies through the labels they attach to pupils. Studies of labelling show that 'what teachers believe, pupils achieve'. That is, while teachers believe MC pupils to be bright (and therefore succeed), WC pupils are likely to be labelled negatively and thus fail
      • Streaming: Streaming is an extreme and institutionalised form of labelling. It works by putting all pupils of similar ability together into the same class or 'stream' for all subjects: 'bright' pupils are grouped together in the top stream, 'thick' ones in the bottom. LACEY describes streaming as 'differentiation' - a way of separating the sheep from the goats and then educating them differently. Streaming often creates a SFP: DOUGLAS found that the IQ of pupils labelled as less able and placed in the bottom stream actually fell over tine, whereas that of pupils put in the top stream increased. Those placed in lower streams may be denied access to the same curriculum - e.g. not being put in for higher level exams
      • Pupil Subcultures: A subculture is a group whose beliefs, values and attitudes differ to some extent from the culture of wider society. Pupils may form their own subcultures in response to labelling.
        • Pro School Subcultures: usually formed by pupils in higher streams. They accept the school's values and goals of hard work, regular attendance, respect for teachers etc. Typically, they enjoy school, participate enthusiastically in its activities and intend to continue in education
        • Anti-School Subcultures: often formed by those in lower streams. They reject the school's values and often invert them (turn them upside down). They dislike school, flout it's rules, disrespect teachers, avoid doing schoolwork, play truant, sabotage their uniforms etc.
        • Status and Subcultures: LACEY argues that lower stream pupils form or join anti-school subcultures because school deprives them of status by labelling them as failures. Therefore, these pupils create their own status hierarchy: they gain status from their peers by rejecting the school's values and breaking its rules
          • Pupil subcultures often lead to a SFP: members of pro-school subcultures work hard and are successful, while those in anti-school subcultures mess about, truant and fail.
    • Class Identities and achievement
      • ARCHER uses Bourdieu's concept of habitus to understnad the relationship between pupils' WC identities and underachievement.
        • Habitus is a social class's habitual ways of thinking, being and acting, e.g. lifestyles and expectations about what is normal for 'people like us. The MC has the power to define its habitus as superior and impose it on the education system, so the school holds MC values
      • Symbolic capital and symbolic violence: school commits symbolic violence by devaluing WC pupils' habitus, judging their clothing, accent, interests etc tasteless, illegitimate and inferior, and denying them symbolic capital (recognition and status)
      • 'Nike' identities: Symbolic violence leads pupils to create alternative class identities and gain symbolic capital from peers through consuming branded goods. However, this leads to conflict with the school's MC habitus.
      • 'Losing yourself' - succeeding at school means being inauthentic, changing how you presented yourself to fit in. 'Nike' identities are authentic but they cause conflict with school.
      • Working class identity and educational success: INGRAM found 'fitting in' was a problem for WC grammar school boys. They experienced a tension between their neighbourhood's habitus and that of their MC school. They faced being judged worthless at school for wearing 'street' clothes or worthless in their community for not doing so.
        • Self-exclusion from success: EVANS found that even successful WC girls faced hidden barriers. They felt their identity would not 'fit in' with the habitus of elite universities. The girls had a strong attachment to their families and intended to remain at home to study.


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