Class differences in education

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External Factors - Cultural Deprivation

Cultural Deprivation - Being deprived of basic skills, values and attitudes needed for educational success

1. Language

Hubbs-Tait et al (2002) found that where parents use language that challenges their children then cognitive performance improves.

Bereiter & Engelmann (1966) claim that the language used in lower class homes is deficient, using disjointed phrases.

2. Speech codes

Bernstein (1975) distinguised between 2 different types of speech code:

  • Restricted code - typically used by the working class. The use of short and grammatically simple language. Is context bound
  • Elaborated code - typically used by the middle class. The use of complex and wide language. Is context free.
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External Factors - Cultural Deprivation

3. Parents' Education

Douglas (1964) found that working class parents placed less value on education, so were less interested in their children's education and progress

Fernstein (2008) argues that parents' own education is the most important factor affecting children's achievement so middle class parents tend to be better educated. This can occur in a number of ways:

  • Parenting style - The parenting style of the educated emphasises consistent discipline and high expectations of their children so encourages high achievement. By contrast the less educated parenting style is marked by harsh discipline which leads to poor motivation in school
  • Parents' educational behaviours - Educated parents engage in behaviour such as reading to their children and helping with homework
  • Use of income - Bernstein & Young (1967) found middle class mothers are more likely to use their income to buy educational books and toys which the working class homes lack
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External Factors - Cultural Deprivation

4. Working class subculture

Sugarman (1970) takes the view that the working class have different goals and beliefs to the rest of society which is why their children fail at school. The 4 key features are:

  • Fatalism - a belief that 'whatever will be, will be' and you can't change your status
  • Collectivism - valuing being part of a group more than succeeding as an individual
  • Immediate gratification - seeking pleasure now rather than making sacrifices in order to get rewards in the future
  • Present time orientation - seeing the present as more important than the future so not having long term goals

Compensatory education - Aim to tackle the problem of cultural deprivation by providing extra resources to deprived communities. Operation Head Start in the US developed the skills of the children by bringing in 'planned enrichment'

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External Factors - Cultural Deprivation

5. The myth of cultural deprivation?

Keddie (1973) describes cultural deprivation as a myth and that working class children are simply culturally different not deprived. Therefore they fail because they're dominated by a middle class

Troyna & Williams (1986) argue that the problem is not the child's language but the school's attitude towards it. Teachers have a 'speech hierachy' where they label the working class speech as 'bad'

Blackstone & Mortimore (1994) said that working class parents attend fewer parents evenings not because of lack of interest but because of work shifts and hours that prevent them from attending

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External Factors - Material Deprivation

Material Deprivation - Poverty and a lack of material necessities such as adequate housing

According to the DfE (2012) barely a third of pupils eligible for free school meals achieve 5 or more A*-C GCSEs against two thirds of other pupils

Flaherty (2004) claims money problems in the family are a significant factor in younger children's non attendance at school

1. Housing

Overcrowding means nowhere to do homework so the children can't study and concentrate. Cold and damp housing can also cause ill health

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External Factors - Material Deprivation

2. Diet and Health

Howard (2001) notes that poorer young people have a lower intake of vitamins so weakens the immune system increasing absences from school

Wilkinson (1996) found that among 10 year olds the working class had higher rates of hyperactivity and anxiety disorders affecting concentration in school

Blanden & Machin (2007) found that children from low income families were more likely to enage in fights and misbehave


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External Factors - Material Deprivation

3. Financial support and the cost of education

Tanner (2003) found that the costs of transport, books and resources places a heavy burden on poorer families

Smith & Noble (1995) add that poverty acts as a barrier to learning in other ways such as inabiity to afford private education

4. Fear of debt

Callendar & Jackson (2005) found that working class students are more debt averse. An increase to tuition fees in 2012 to £9,000 a year saw a 8.6% drop in applicants

Reay (2005) found that working class students were more likely to apply to local universities so they could live at home and reduce costs. However this meant they had less opportunity to go to the highest status universities

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External Factors - Cultural Capital

Cultural Capital - The knowledge, attitudes, values and skills of the middle class

Bourdieu (1984) argues that both cultural and material factors contribute to educational achievement. He uses the concept of 'capital' to explain why the middle class are more successful. He sees the middle class culture as a type of capital because like wealth, it gives an advantage to those who possess it so gives the middle class children an advantage in school

1. Educational and economic capital

Leech & Campos (2003) study of Coventry showed that middle class parents were more likely to be able to afford a house in a good school's catchment area. This then drives up house prices excluding the working class families

2.  A test of Bourdieu's ideas

Sullivan (2008) used questionnaires to find out that those who read complex fiction had a greater cultural capital. 

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Internal Factors - Labelling

Labelling - To attach a meaning or definition to someone

Becker (1971) interviewed 60 Chicago high school teachers and found out they judged pupils according to how closely they fitted the image of an 'ideal pupil'

Hempel-Jorgensen (2009) found that different schools have different ideas of what the 'ideal pupil' is. In the working class Aspen primary they were quiet and obedient whereas in the middle class Rowan primary they were academic

1. Labelling in secondary schools

Dunne & Gazeley (2008) argue that 'schools normalise the underachievement of working class pupils and don't think they can overcome this unlike middle class pupils

2. Labelling in primary schools

Rist (1970) showed that teachers used information about children's home background and appearance to place them in seperate groups

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Internal Factors - Self-fulfilling prophecy

Self-fulfilling prophecy - A prediction that comes true simply by virtue of it having been made

Rosenthal & Jacobson (1968) created a fake test where they randomly selected 20% of pupils at Oak community school and labelled them as 'spurters'. The teachers thought it was real so spent more time encouraging those students and they made greater progress highlighting a teacher's belief about a child can make a child into that

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Internal Factors - Streaming

Streaming - Seperating children into different ability groups and taught seperately

1. A to C economy

Gillborn & Youdell (2001) studied 2 London secondary schools and found that teachers are less likely to see the working class as having ability so place them in lower sets

2. Educational triage

Schools categorise pupils into 3 types:

  • Those who will pass anyway so get on with it
  • Those with potential so are helped to get a grade C
  • Hopeless cases who are doomed to fail
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Internal Factors -Pupil subcultures

Pupil subcultures - A group of pupils who share similiar values and behaviour patterns. They often emerge as a response to the way they have been labelled

Lacey (1970) created a concept to how pupil subcultures develop:

  • Differentation - The process of teachers categorising pupils according to how they perceive their ability.  Streaming is a form of this
  • Polarisation - The process in which pupils respond to streaming by moving towards one of two opposite 'poles'

1. The pro school subculture

Pupils placed in higher streams (mainly the middle class) tend to remain committed to the values of the school. They gain their status in an approved manner such as academic success

2.  The anti school subculture

Pupils placed in lower streams (mainly the working class) suffer a loss of self esteem so form an anti school subculture such as truanting, misbehaving etc

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Internal Factors -Pupil subcultures

3. Abolishing streaming

Ball (1981) studied Beachside, a school that abolished streaming in favour of mixed ability classes. The influence of anti school subcultures declined but teachers still categorised pupils

4. The variety of pupil responses

Woods (1979) argues other pupil responses are possible:

  • Ingratiation - being the 'teacher's pet'
  • Ritualism - going through the motions and staying out of trouble
  • Retreatism - daydreaming and mucking about
  • Rebellion - outright rejection of the school

Furlong (1984) observes that many pupils are not committed permanently to any one response but may act differently with different teachers and classes

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Internal Factors -Pupils' class identities & the s

1. Habitus

Habitus refers to the 'dispositions' taken for granted ways of thinking and being that are shared by a particular social class. It includes their preferences about lifestyles, their outlook on life etc. The middle class has the power to define its habitus as superior, linking in with Bourdieu's concept of cultural capital

2. Symbolic capital and symbolic violence

Middle class pupils will gain a 'symbolic capital' as schools have a middle class habitus. By contrast the school will devalue the working class' habitus, this is 'symbolic violence'. Archer found that working class pupils would change their speech/dress if they were educationally successful

3. Nike identities

Pupils seek alternative ways of creating self worth by investing in styles to construct meaningful class identities. Schools find Nike dress as 'scruffy' so plays a part in the rejection of higher education as being unrealistic (for the more richer, posher) and undesirable (wouldn't suit preferred habitus)

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Internal Factors -Pupils' class identities & the s

4. Working class identities and educational success

Ingram (2009) studied 2 groups of working class boys in Belfast. One group passed their 11 plus and went to grammar school whereas the other group failed and went to secondary school. Street culture was a big part of the boys' habitus and the grammar school boys found it hard to fit in, a boy was ridiculed for wearing a tracksuit, a form of symbolic violence

5. Class identity and self exclusion

Evans (2009) studied a group of working class girls doing their A levels, and found they were reluctant to apply for elite universities over fears of not fitting in

Bourdieu (1984) says that the working class believe Oxbridge aren't for the likes of them because of their habitus

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