Social class and Education

  • cultural deprivation theory
  • speech codes
  • material deprivation
  • diane reay
  • labelling theory
  • setting and streaming
  • examination sets
  • class subcultures
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  • Created by: Eva
  • Created on: 13-04-12 19:59
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In general, the higher a person's social class of origin ­ the higher their educational
qualifications. This has been shown time and time again over the past 50 years by
sociological researchers and government statistics.
Social class is the most important in educational attainment. Its effect is nearly three times
greater than ethnicity and over five times greater than gender.
At every level of education ­ from nursery to university ­ upper and middle class children
tend to do better than working class children. This remains the case even when they have
the same intelligence quotient.
During 1960's, sociologists claimed that the low attainment of many working class pupils
resulted from a lack of something. They were deprived. This deprivation was material, a
lack of money and the things that money could buy ­ and cultural, and absence of the
attitudes and skills that were needed for educational success.
In general, the higher children's class of origin, the higher their family income. High income
can provide many educational advantages (a comfortable heated home, working table,
computer, books).
Traditionally, many working class students left school at the minimum leaving age because
their parents could no longer afford to support them.
Many sociologists in the 1960's saw differences in primary socialisation as the main
reason for class differences in attainment. In a large ­ scale study of British children
entitled The Home and The School J.W.B. Douglas (1964) claimed that middle class
children received more attention and encouragement from their parents during their early
years. This provided a foundation for high attainment in their later years.
Based on questionnaires given to over 5 000 parents, Douglas concluded that the degree
of parents' interest in their children's education was the single, most important factor
affecting attainment. His research suggested that, in general, middle class parents showed
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They were more likely to visit the school and to
encourage their children to stay on beyond the minimum school leaving age.
Differences in social class subcultures ­ the norms, values and attitudes typical of each
class ­ were often seen as part of the explanation for class differences in attainment.
The British sociologist Barry Sugarman (1970) described working class subculture as:
a) Fatalistic ­ accepting the situation rather than improve it.…read more

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The American psychologist Carl Bereiter argues that the speech patterns of many low
income children are inadequate to meet the demands of the education system. As a result,
they directly contribute to educational failure. This view has been rejected by American
linguist William Labov (1973). He examined the speech patterns of low income African ­
American children from Harlem in New York. He claimed that their speech patterns were
not inferior to standard English, they were just different.…read more

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The French sociologist Pierre Bourdieu (1977) starts from the idea that there is a dominant
culture in society. The higher people's position in the class system, the greater the amount
of dominant culture they are likely to have. Children born into the middle and upper classes
have a builtin advantage. Their culture is closer to the culture of the school so they will be
more likely to succeed.…read more

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It can make a difference to students' examination results
and their chances of climbing the educational ladder.
Stephen J. Ball (2003) argues that middle class has advantage. They have the knowledge
and skills to make the most of the opportunities on offer. Compare to the working class,
they have more material capital, more cultural capital and more social capital ­ access to
social networks and contacts which can provide information and support.…read more

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Most teachers prefer to teach higher ability groups. The conduct of pupils in higher groups
is likely to be better than of those in lower groups. These in lower groups tend to develop
an antischool subculture in which breaking school rules is highly regarded by some pupils.
Teachers spend more time controlling behaviour in these groups at the expense of
teaching. They expect less from these pupils, deny them access to higher level knowledge
and skills and place them in lower examination tiers.…read more

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Other researchers see class differences in attainment resulting from a combination of what
happens inside and outside the school.…read more


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