Social Class and Educational Achievement

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  • Created by: BWards18
  • Created on: 07-06-17 16:04

The working class statistically underachieve in comparsion to middle class students, which can be explained by three key factors: External, home factors - Material and Cultural Deprivation  and Internal - Classroom factors and educational policy

External Factors:

Material Deprivation/Factors:

The workig class experience more poverty, poor housing, poor health etc. and aren't able to provide the small educational oppurtunites as middle class parents, e.g. books, tuition, private schools and study place.

Howard - Poor diet among the working class caused educational underachievement as the children experince more illness, absence from school and are more liekly to be placed on the child protection registe.

Reay - W/C students were more likely to go to local universities to save costs and were more likely to get part-time jobs to fund their studies.

Cultural Factors:

Working class are seen as a lesser culture and blames a child's family, neighbourhood and the W/C culture for underachievement. The socialisation W/C children recieve is inadequate and leads to underachievement.

Barry Sugarman -  Identifys 4 characteristics of working class culture that act a a barrier to educational achievement:

  • Fatalism - what will be, will be.
  • Collectivism - value being in a group more than succeeding as an individual.
  • Immediate gratification - seeking pleasure now rather than later.
  • Present-time orientation - see the present as more important than the future.

Criticisms - Plays on differences between classes not on similarities, over generalised to suggest all working class hold these values, also has a bias towards middle class culture as sees these thing as bad.

Douglas - Conducted a longitudinal study in 1946 om children and the value parents placed on education, follwoing the children till 1962. He found W/C parents placed less value on education so the kids were less ambitious. Middle class parents showed more interest through more frequent visist to school, more encouragement to stay in school and more stimulation at home.

Bernstein - W/C talk in 'restricted code' - short hand speech that isn't descriptive, whereas M/C use 'elaborated code' - descriptive and vivid and used within th education system. M/C do better as they match the elaborated code used by teachers and the work required, e.g. essays and exams.

Bourdieu - School tranfers the inequalities down generations as M/C student culture matches the dominant classes, and these dominant classes decide what subjects/topics are worthy of being taught within the system and what knowledge is. M/C have 'the right culture' due to their economic and cultural capital which then can be trnasferred to 'educational capital', e.g. private schooling and extra tuition.

Gerwitz - Identified three main types of parents following the marketisation of education:

  • Privileged Skiled Choosers - M/C, economic and cultural capital
  • Disconnected Local Choosers


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