These cards state important sections of the Education topic of Unit 2 of your Sociology Course.

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Explaining Class Differences - Education

Social Class Background has a powerful influence on a childs chances of success in the Education System;

  • Children from middle-class families on average perform better than working-class children, and the class gap in achievement grows wider as children get older.
  • One popular explaination of class differences in achievement is that better-off parents can afford to send their children to private schools, which many believe provide a higher standard of education.
  • FOR EXAMPLE; Average class sizes are less than half of those in state schools. Although these schools educate only 7% of Britain's children, nearly all of them (90%) go on to University.  



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Internal and External Factors - Education

Sociologists are interested in why these class differences in educational achievement exist and have put forward a number of explanations, which are grouped into 'INTERNAL' and 'EXTERNAL' factors, which are often linked;

INTERNAL FACTORS - These factors are within schools and the education system, such as interactions between pupils and teachers, and inequalities between schools.

EXTERNAL FACTORS - These factors are outside the education system, such as the influence of home and family background and wider society.

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Cultural Deprivation - Part 1

Cultural Deprivation theorists argue that most of us begin to acquire the basic values, attitudes and skills that are needed for educational success through primary socialisation in the family. The basic 'Cultural Equiptment' includes things such as Language, Self-Disciplne and Reasoning skills.

Many working-class families fail to socialise with their children adequately. These children grow up 'Culturally Deprived'. that is, they lack the cultural equiptment needed to do well at school, so they under achieve. There are three main aspects of Cultural Deprivation; Intellectual Development, Language and Attitudes and Values.

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Intellectual Development - Part 2 of Cultrual Depr

This refers to the development of thinking and reasoning skills, such as the ability to solve problems and use ideas and concepts.

Cultural deprivation theorists argue that many working-class homes lack the books, educational toys and activities that would stimulate a child's intellectual develpoment. Thus, children from such homes start school without having developed the intellectual skills needed to progress.

E.G. J.W.B Douglas (1964) found that working-class pupils scored lower on tests of  ability than middle-class pupils. He argues that this is because working-class parents are less likely to support their child's intelletual skills through reading with them, or other educational activities within the home.

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Language(1) - Part 3 of Cultural Deprivation

The importance of language for educational achievement is highlighted by Carl Bereiter and Siegfried Engelmann (1966). They claim that the language used in lower class homes is deficient. They describe lower class families as communicating by gestures, single words, or disjointed phrases.

As a result, their children fail to develope the necessary language skills. They grow up incapable of abstract thinking and unable to use language to explain, describe, enquire, or compare. Because of this, they are unable to take advantage of the opportunities that school offers.


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Language(2) - Part 3 of Cultural Deprivation

Like Bereitner and Engelmann, Basil Bernstein (1975) also identifies differences between working-class and middle-class language that influences achievement. He distinguishes between two types of speech code;

The Restricted Code: Is the speech code typically used by the working-class. It has a limited vocabulary and is based on the use of short, often unfinished, grammatically simple sentences. The speech is predictable and may only involve a single word or gesture. It is descriptive, not analytic.

The Elaborated Code: Is typically used by the middle-class. It has a wider vocabulary and is based on longer, grammatically more complex sentences. Speech is more varied and communicates abstract ideas.

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