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Class differences in achievement (external factors)

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  • Created by: Jessica W
  • Created on: 04-05-12 08:20

Explaining Class Differences

Children from middle class families on average perform better than working class children. Children from middle class families are also likely to do better at GCSE and stay longer in full time education, then taking the places at University.

A popular explanation of the class differences in achievement is down to the parents being able to afford to send their children to private schools, which supposedly has a higher standard of education due to the smaller class size.

Andrew Adonis and Stephen Pollard (1998) see private education as a major way in which class priviledges are transmitted from generation to generation.


Internal Factors: Internal Factors are within schools and the education system, such as interactions between pupils and teachers. Also inequalitties between schools.

External Factors: External factors are outside the education system, this includes the influence of home, mily background and the wider society.

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Cultural Deprivation

Cultural Deprivation: Cultural Deprivation is the theory that many working-class and black children are inadequately socialised and therefore lack the 'right' culture needed for educational success.

Cultural Theorists say that we need to aquire the basic values, attitudes and skills for educational success through primary socialisation in the family. Cultural Equipment includes things such as language, self-discipline and reasoning skills.

It is believed that many working class families fail to socialise their children, making their children grow up culturally deprived. Meaning they lack the cultural equipment needed to help them do well in school.

The three main aspects of Cultural Deprivation are:

  • Intellectual Development
  • Language
  • Attitudes and Values
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Cultural Deprivation Aspects (Intellectual Develop

Intellectual Development refers to the thinking and resoning skills i.e being able to solve problems. Cultural Deprivation theorists argue that many working class homes lack books, educational toys and activites that would stimulate a childs intellectual development. Children who don't have these, start school without the intellectual skills they need to progress.

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 down to less support by the working class parents. Meaning they don't read with their child or do educational activites.

Basil Bernstein and Douglas young (1967) found the similar conclusion. They discovered that the way mothers think and choose the toys has an influence on their childs intellectual development. Middle-class mothers are more likely to choose toys that encourage thinking and reasoning skills which will help them prepare for school.

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Cultural Deprivation Aspects (Language)

Carl Bereiter and Siegfried Engelmann (1966) highlight the importance of language or educational achievement. They say that lower-class families communicate by using gestures, single words and disjointed phrases. This means that they fail to develop the necessary language skills and they grow up incapable of abstract thinking and unable to use their language to explain, describe, asquire, enquire and compare.

Like Bereiter and Engelmann, Basil Bernstein (1975) identifies the differences between working-class and middle-class language that influences achievement. He says that there is two types of speech code.

The restricted code: This is the speech that is typically used by the working-class. This is because they have a limited vocabulary and short sentences with simple grammar. Their speech is predictable and they sometimes just use a gesture.

The elaborated code: This is the speech that is typically used by the middle-class. This is because they have a wider vocabulary and long sentences with more complex gramar.

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Cultural Deprivation Aspects (Attitudes and Values

Cultural Deprivation theorists argues that parents' attitudes and values are a key factor for affecting educational achievement. Douglas found that working-class parents placed less value on education, less ambitious for their children, gave them less encouragement and took less interest in their education. When they visited their schools which wasn't very often, they were less likely to discuss their childs progress with teachers. This means their child is likely to have lower level of achievemnt motivation.

Leon Fernstein (1998) found that working-class parents' lack of interest was the main reason for their childs under-achievement. He argues that middle-class are more successful because their parents provide them with the necessary motivation, discipline and support.

Herbert Hyman (1967) takes the same view. He says that values and beliefs of lower-class subculture are a 'self imposed barrier' to educational and career success. He says that the lower-class are less likely to stay on at school and they leave early to take manual work. Their subcultural beliefs and values ensure that they neither want educational success, nor know how to get it.

Fatalism: A belief in fate 'whatever will be, will be'. This contrasts with the middle-class view.

Collectivism: Valuing being part of a group more than being successful as an individual. This contrasts with the middle-class view.

Immediate gratification: Seeking pleasure now rather than making sacrifices in order to get rewards in the future. Middle-class values emphasise deferred gratification.

Present-time Orientation: Seeing the present as more important than the future and not having any lifetime goals or plans. The Middle-class seek the opposite and see the future as important, therefore planning ahead.

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Material Deprivation

Material Deprivation: Material Deprivation is poverty; a lack of basic necessities such as an adequate diet, housing, clothing or the money to buy these things. In education, material deprivation theory explains working-class underachievemnt as the result of the lack of resources; e.g. parents are unable to afford educational aids. The main factors of material deprivation is things such as Housing, Diet and Health and financial support and the costs of education.

Marilyn Howard (2001) notes that young people from poorer homes have lower intakes of energy, vitamins and minerals.

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Cultural Capital

Bourdieu: Three types of Capital.                                                                       Pierre Bourdieu (1984) argues that both cultural and material factors contribute to educational achievement and are not separated but interrelated.

Cultural Capital                                                                                                    Bourdieu uses the term cultural capital to refer to the knowledge, attitudes, values, language, tastses and abilities of the middle class. Like Bernstein he argues that during their socialisation, middle-class children acquirethe ability to grasp, analyse and express abstract ideas. This gives the middle class children an advantage in school.

Educational and Economic Capital                                                                     Bourdieu argues that the educational, economic and cultural capital can be converted into one another. Middle-class children with cultural capital are better equipped to meet the demands of the school curriculum and gain qualifications.

A test of Bourdie's ideas

Alice Sullivan (2001) used questionairres to conduct a survey 465 pupils in four schools. To assess their cultural capital, she asked them about a range of activites, such as reading and tv viewing habbits, and whether they visited art galleries, museums and theatres.

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Gewirtz: Marketisation and Parental Choice

Since the creation of an 'education market' by the 1988 Education Reform Act, sociologists have been interested in parental choice of secondary schools.

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