Class differences in achievement

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Intellectual Development

  • Intellectual development- The delevopment of thinking and reasoning skills e.g. 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 childs intellectual development,
  • Douglas 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 childrens intellectual development e.g. reading to them.
  • Bernstein and Young reached similar conclusions to this, they found that mothers choose toys to influence their childs intellectual development, middle class mothers are more likely to choose toys that encourage skills which will prepare their children for school.
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Bernstein identifies differences between working-class and middle-class language that influence achievment, he distinguishes two types of speech code: The restricted code which is typically used by the working-class it is based on the use of short often unfinished grammatically simple sentences and The elaborated code which is typically used by the middle-class it is based on longer gramatically more complex sentences. Speech is also more varied and communicates abstract ideas.

These differences in speech code give the middle-class the advantage as this code is used more in schools, this will also help them feel more 'at home' at school as they are used to code.


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Attitudes and Values

Parents attitudes and values are a key factor affecting educational achievment. Douglas found that working-class parents placed less value on education so were therefore less ambitious for them and as a result gave them less encouragment.

Sugarman argues that working-class subculture(a group of people who share norms and values which are opposed to mainstream cultures) has four key features that act as a barrier to educational achievment: Fatalism- a belief in fate and that there is nothing you can do to change your status. Collectivism- valuing being part of a group more than succeding 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 and so not having long term goals or plans.

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Compensatory Education

Compensatory education is a policy designed to tackle the problem of cultural deprivation by providing extra resources to schools and communities in deprived areas.

Sure start- A policy to Tackle poverty and social exclusion in Britian, the centres provide intergrated education, care, family support, health services and support with parental employment. The aim of sure start is to work with parents to promote physical, intellectual and social development of babies and young children, particularly the disadvantaged.

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The myth of cultural deprivation

Keddie- describes cultural deprivation as a myth and sees it as a victim-blaming explanation, she dismisses the idea that failure at school can be blamed on a culturally deprived home background. Keddie argues that working-class children are simply culturally different, not culturally deprived.

Troyna and Williams argue that the problem is not the child's language but the school's attitude towards it. Teachers have 'speech-hierarchy' labelling middle-class the highest.

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Cultural capital

Bourdieu talked about the three types of capital(wealth)- Cultural capital- this refers to the knowledge, attitudes, values, language, tastes and abilities of the middle class. He sees this as a type of capital because like wealth it gives an advantage to those who possess it. This gives middle class children an advantage in school. Educational and economic capital- Bourdieu argues that educational, economic and cultural capital can be converted into one another. e.g. middle class children with cultural capital are better equipped to meet the demands of school. A test of Bourdieu's ideas- Sullivan used questionnaires to conduct a survey of pupils in 4 schools to assess their cultural capital. She found that pupils with a greater capital were more likely to be middle class and also more succesful at GCSE's.

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Gewirtz:Marketisation and parental choice

Has greater parental choice of school benefited one social class more than the other? Gewirtz examines this question in a study of 14 London schools. Gewirtz found that differences in economic and cultural capital lead to class differences. She identifies three main types of parents; Privileged-skilled choosers- mainly middle-class parents who used their economic and cultural capital to gain educational capital for their children. e.g. better schools, tutors, cultural capital. Disconnected-local choosers- mainly working class parents whose choices were restricted by their lack of economic and cultural capital, they also find it difficult to understand school admission procedures. Semi-skilled choosers- mainly working-class however unlike disconnected local choosers, they are ambitious for their children, however they lack cultural capital, and find it difficult to understand the education market.

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