Differential educational achievement
This refers to the variations in educational achievement between students according to their social class background, gender, ethnicity etc..
There are patterns that sociologists have noticed:
- In general, students from some minority backgrounds tend to achieve better results in public examinations than those from working class backgrounds
- Generally, students from some minority ethnic groups (like Chinese, Indian and Irish heritage students) tend to perform better than others (such as African, Carribean, Pakistani and Bangladeshi heritage students)
- During the 1970s and 1980s, subject choice was gendered with girls tending to specialise in some secondary school subjects and boys in others. In the sciences, girls tending to choose biology, and boys chose physics.
- Traditionally, boys got better results at A - Level than girls. However, towards the end of the 1980s this began to narrow, and by the early 2000s, girls started doing better than boys.
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What factors affect educational achievement?:
- Parental values and expectations: Parents in professional occupations of have high expectations of their children and expect them to do well at school. They are more likely than other parents to monitor their childrens performance.
- Parents educational backgrounds: If parents have high level educational qualifications (for example a degree), they are more able to help with homework and monitor progress
- Economic circumstances: Students from relatively well off backgrounds are more likely to have access to facilities (Like PC's, books and quiet space) to help them study at home. Students from minority ethnic backgrounds are far more likely than British students to attend the most deprived schools.
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- Cultural Background: Research suggests that British Chinese parents value education and that in Chinese culture, children respect older people. So British Chinese pupils develop high educational ambitions and get positive self-esteem from being 'good pupils'
- School based resources: School factors include how well resourced the school is. Fee charging private schools, for example, often have better resources and facilities than most state schools
- The school curriculum: The school curriculum can be seen as biased towards the White European cultures. Critics argue that African Carribean cultures, histories and experiences should be more included in the curriculum.
- Teacher expectations and labelling: Some teachers may have lower expectations of students from working class or minority ethnic backgrounds. This may affect how much attention such teachers give to these students during lessons. If particular students are not expected to succeed, they may become demotivated. Negative labelling of working class or black students can lead to a self fulfilling prophecy. In this case, students perform as badly or as well as teachers expect them to.
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- Pupil cultures and school ethos: Some pupils may experience peer pressure to conform to the norms of an urban or street culture that does not value education. Laddish cultures may emphasise that its uncool to work hard. This informal peer culture may encourage anti learning attitudes and affect the progress of particular boys (and girls) in some schools. Among schools in middle class neighbourhoods, boys may not see school as uncool. They may achieve status among peers by displaying academic abilities. School ethos refers to the character or culture of the school. Some schools have an academic ethos that promotes exam success and progression to university.
- Institutional racism: This occurs when an organisation fails to provide an appropriate service to people because of their ethnic origin, culture or colour. Institutional racism is an unintended consequence of the way institutions such as schools are organised. For example, the relatively high rate of exclusion of students from African Carribean backgrounds has been linked to institutional racism.
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- The specialist schools programme: Research suggests that some government policies such as the specialist schools programme have helped to tackle low achievement and raise standards in schools.
- Schools admissions policies: Some policies can work against students from disadvantaged backgrounds. For example, if a schools admissions policy gives it scope to select its intake, this can work against students from disadvantaged backgrounds.
- Marketisation, competition and league tables: The emphasis on parental choice and competition between schools to raise standards may have made life more difficult for some urban schools that have an intake of working class or minority ethnic students. National league tables were introduced to help raise standards in schools. However, they can have negative effects for low achievers from disadvantaged backgrounds if schools focus their resources on the better performers rather than on those who are not entered for GCSE exams.
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- EMAs: Educational Maintenance Allowances were introduced so that students from low income backgrounds could get financial help if they stayed on within education and training after GCSE's
- Equal opportunities policies and legislation: Equal opportunities policies and anti discrimination legislation (for example the sex discrimination act) made it illegal for schools to discriminate on the basis of gender or ethnicity