Class Differences in Achievement - Sociology AS Education

Class differences in achievement 

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External Factors - Cultural Factors

Cultural Deprivation Theory - culture refers to all the norms, values, beliefs, skills and knowledge that a socety group regards as important. Transmitted through socialisation. Different classes socialite differently, affecting achievement.

  • WC parents fail to socialise the correct norms and values, so they don't have the 'right' culture to achieve in education.

Three important factors for WC under achievement:

  • Intellectual stimulation - WC parents less likely to give educational tous and activities to stimulate thinking. Less likely to read to them. Thus affecting their intellectual development so when they begin school they are at a disadvantage to MC children. 
  • Speech codes - WC class use the restricted code, MC use elaborate code. Elaborated code is that which is used in education, WC disadvantage.
  • Working class subculture - immediate gratification, rewards now instead of sacrificing for later. Fatalism, 'whatever will be, will be' don't believe they can improve. Low value on education, Hyman argues that WC do not value educations. WC parents don't show as much interest and give less support. 

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External Factors - Cultural Factors (Criticisms)

Criticisms of cultural deprivation:

  • ignores material factors such as poverty
  • ignores school factors
  • blames the working class for their failure
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External Factors - Material Factors

  • Poor housing  - overcrowding or cold/damp rooms  can cause children to become ill causing their absence, it could also mean they have nowhere quiet at home to do homework. Being homeless or living in temporary accomodation means they may have disruptive moves and changes of school.
  • Poor diet - leads to illness, absence from school and a lack of concentration in class due to hunger.
  • Low income - lack of educational materials such as books and computers, lack of the correct uniform and fashion items which could cause bullying, not being able to afford university fees.

Cultural capital theory 

Marxist Bourdieu argues that MC pupils are more successful than WC pupils as their parents possess more capital and assets. Coming in both

  • Economic capital - wealth that middle-class families own
  • Cultural capital - attitudes, values, skills of middle class

Educational capital - qualifications causing better jobs, passed from generation to generation. Usually in the MC as they are at an advantage to obtaining education capital. 

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Internal Factors - School Factors

  • Labelling theory - labels that are given to someone, MC class pupils named as 'bright', WC as 'stupid'. Becker labels middle class as ideal pupils and prefer to teach them rather than working class children.


  • Streaming - extreme and institutionalised form of labelling , puts all pupils of a similar ability together into the same 'stream' for all subjects. 'bright pupils' are grouped together and 'thick' ones are in the bottom set. Usually the WC in the bottom set and MC in the top sets. 


  • Self-fulfilling prophecy - prediction made about someone, WC usually 'he's stupid' - 'he's bound to fail' meaning that he usually does fail. They usually label MC as bright therefore they succeed. 'what teachers believe, pupils achieve'

Douglas found the IQ of people in the bottom stream fell over time, the top stream increased. 

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Internal Factors - School Factors continued...

Pupil subcultures - pupils usually form subcultures due to the labels they are given:

  • Pro-school subcultures, formed by higher streams. accept school values. work hard and enjoy school, intend to continue in education.
  • Anti-school subcultures are formed by lower streams, reject school values. Fight school rules, disrespect teachers and avoid schoolwork.

Educational policies - marketisation policies have increased streaming in schools. Policies such as grants, fees, maintenance allowances, school leaving age, compensatory education all have an impact on home background factors such as material or cultural deprivation.

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