class difference in achievement ................... 17th may

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class patterns in achievement

working class pupils in general acieve less than middle class pupils in education. 

children of higher professionals are 2-3 tmes more likely than children of routine manual workers to get five or more A*-C grades at GCSER, and baout five times more likely to go to university.

  • external or home backgrounds 
  • inernal factors (within the school)

achievement and home backgrounds 

class differences in ouils home background may play a key role in causig differences in achievement. home background includes many things, but these can be grouped into two differnt types of factor:

  • culteral factors (norms and values classs differences aquired through socialisation wc/mc)
  • material factors (physical neccessities in life, such as adequate housing, diet and income)
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cultural deprivation theory

  • culture refers to all the norms and values, beliefs, skills and knowledge that a society or a group regard as important. This culture is transmitted to the next generstion through socialisation.
  • different classes socialise thier children differently and this may affect thier achievment.
  • according to the cultural deprevation theory, some working class parents fail to transmitt the appropriate norms and values and attitudes that is the right culture for educational success.

cultural deprivation theorists see three factors for working clas under achievement.

  • the lack of intellectual stimulation 
  • the restricted speach code 
  • working class subculture
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intellectual stimulation

working class parents are kess liely to give thier children educational toys and activities that will stimualte thier thinking and reasoning skills, and less likely to read to them. this affects thier intellectual development so that when they begin school they are at a disadvantage comared woth middle class children.

speech codes Basil Berstein (1975)... distinguishes between ebaborate and restricted codes 

the working class use the restricted code- this is a less analytic and more descriptive, has a limited vocabulary and is formed of simple sentances or even just gestures. it is particularistic- it assumes that the listener shares the oarticular meanings that the speaker holds, so the speker doesnt spell them out.

the middle class use the elaborate code- this is a more analytic, with a wide vocab and complex sentance. it is universalistc- speakers spell out their meanings explicitly and don't assume the listener shares them. crucially the elaborate code is the one used in education, by teachers, exams, textbooks, university interviewers ect.. giving the middle class at an educational advantage. 

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working class subculture

Cultural Deprevation theorists identift three aspects of working class subculture and contriute to under achivement:

  • immediate gratification- wanting rewards now rather than being willing to make sactifices and woring hard for future rewards- unlike the deferred gratification practised by the middle class (going into full time emplyment straight away rather than college, university)
  • fatalism- a belief that whatever will be will be- working class chldren don;t belive they can improve their postition by working hard/own individual efforts.
  • low value on education-  Hyman arues that the working class don't value education and don't believe they will benefit from it so they don't try. Douglas argues that the working class parents show less interest in thier childrens education and give them less support; they are less likely than middle class parents to attend parents evenings.
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Criticisms of the cultural deprivation theory

  • it ignores the importance of material factors such as poverty 
  • it ignores he impact of school factors eg. negetive labelling by teachers
  • it blames the victime for thier faliure- critics argue that the working class are not culturally deprived- they simply have a differnt culture from the school and this puts them at a dissadvantage in education compared to the middle class. 
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Material deprivation theory

Material Deprevation or poverty can cause working class under achievement because of these factors:

  • Poor housing- over crowding or cold and damp rooms means pupils have no where quite to do homework. simply, being homeless or living in temory accomodaton may mean frequent moves and chages of school. not having the recources mddle class children have , such as revison books, a desk or the avilability of a laptop or computer. 
  • poor diet - can leads to illness, absences from school and lack of concentration in class due to hunger.
  • low income- such problems are often caused by low income. tis can affect educational achievemnt in several ways eg..
  • lack of educatonal materials
  • lack of the right uniform or the latests fashion items leading to bullying
  • not being able to fford university fees. 
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Cultural Capital Theory

this approach combines aspects of both cultural and material explanations. marxists such as Bourdieu (1984) argue that middle class pupils are more successful than working class pupils because thier parents possess more capital or assets. this capital comes in two forms:

  • economic capital - the wealth that middle class families own 
  • cultural Capital - The attitudes, values, skills, knowledge ect of the middle class.

Ecucational Capital - the middle class use their greater economic and cultural capital to give thier children an advantage by using it to obtain educational capital- qualifications. this allows thier children to gain middle class jobs and more econmic capital, thus reproducing the advantages pf the middle class from generation to generation. 

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School Factors And Achievement

factors and processes within school and education system also influence class difference in achievement. most sociologits who have studies the role of school factors are ineractionists who focus on smalll scale interactions between teachers and pupils. 

Interactionist identify a number of different causes...

  • labelling
  • the self fullfilling prophecy
  • streaming
  • pupil subcultures
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Labelling and Self Fulfilling Prophecy


labels are meanings or definations we atttach to someone or something to make sense of them, eg; middle class pupils are labelled 'bright', 'motivated' ect.. Becker (1961) argues that teachers label middle class pupils as ideal pupils and prefer to teach them rather than working class children. 

self fullfilling prophecy 

A prophecy is a prediction made about someone (eg he is stuoid he is bounf to fail" 

teachers can ctreate a self fullfilling prophecy through labels tey attach to pupils. studies of labelling show that 'what teachers believe, teachers achieve'. that is, while teachers believe middle class pupils to be bright (and therefor succeed) working class pupils are likely to be labelled negetiely and thus fail. 

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streamig is an extreme and institutionalised form of being labelled. it works by putting all pupils of simulaar ability together into the same stream for all subjects: 'Bright' Pupils are grouped toegther in the top stream. and the 'thick ones in the bottom sets.  Lacey (1970) sees streaming as a differenation - a way of seperating the sheep from the goats and then educating them diffently. straming often creates a self fulfilling prophecy.

Douglas found that the IQ of puils labelled as les able and placed in the bottom stream, actually fell over time, whereas that of pupils put in the top stream increased. 

those placed in lower streams may be denied access to the same curiculum - eg not letting them be out in for higher level exams.

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pupil subcultures

a subculture is a group whose beliefs, values and attitudes differ to some extent of wider society. pupils may form subcultures in response to labelling;

  • pro school subcultures- are usually formed by pupils in higher streams. they accept the schools values and goals of hard work, regular attendence, respect for teachers etc. typically they enjoy school, particiapte enthusiastically in its actyvities and intend to continue in education.
  • anti school subcultures  are often formed by those in lower streams. They reject the schools values and often invert them. they dislike school, flout its rules, disecpect teachers, avoid doing school work, play truent, sabotage thier uniform etc. 

status and subcultures      lacey argues that lower stream pupils form or join anti school subcultures because school dpreives them of statues by labelling them as faliures. therfore these pupils create theier own staues hieracy: they gain status from thier peers by rejecting the schools values and breaking its rules. 

pupils subcultures often kead to a self fullfilling prophecy: members of pro school subcultures work hard and are successful, while those in anti school subcultures mess about, truent and fail.

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Educational Policies

what goes on in school isnt just a product of what teachers deside to do. It is also greatly influenced by government policies. and threse can have an important effect on class differnces in achievement. for example, some sociologits argue that marketisation policies have increased the amount of streaming in schools.

likewise, policies on issues such as

  • grants
  • fees
  • maintenance allowences
  • the school leaving ages
  • compensatory education age
  • ect...

have an impact on home background factors such as material or cultural deprevation.

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