Functionalism: Differential educational achievement

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  • Functionalism: explanations of differential educational achievement
    • why can working-class students not reach the top?
      • parents fail to prepare their children for school
      • in essence, the working-class family is dysfunctional and it fails to transmit the right values and skills to its children
      • they lack cultural support from the home
      • Key study: Hyman
        • working class families possess a distinctive sub-culture that is passed on through generations
        • many members placed a limited value on education and gaining a high-status job
      • Key study: Sugarman
        • 1. working class develop a culture based on fatalism, immediate gratification and present-time orientation
        • 2. working class jobs are monotonous and boring; workers have no control over their lives as they're told what to do and when to do it
        • 3. they develop a culture in response to these jobs and develop immediate gratification
        • 4. however, middle class jobs encourage workers to plan for the future and emphasise individualism
          • 5. this cultural difference explains differential attainment as schools are based on middle class values rather than working class
    • Key Sociologist: Bernstein
      • 1. there are two language codes: elaborated code and restricted code
      • 2. elaborated code = complex sentences, explicit meanings and a large vocabulary
      • 3. restricted code = short sentences, shared meanings and a limited vocabulary
      • 4. language codes are learnt primarily in the home. middle class have access to both restricted and elaborate, working class can only access restricted
      • 5. the education system uses elaborated code, therefore working class students are disadvantaged
    • Evaluation
      • ignores the impact of poverty on attainment. also, it could be argued that the values of the working class may be a product of their poverty
        • they may not value education because they have to earn money for their family or they may recognise that few escape poverty, and they're just being realistic


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