Topic 1 Class differences in achievement Education

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  • Created on: 18-05-19 19:39
Cultural deprivation
Class differences in children's development and achievement appear very early in life. For example a nationwide study by the centre for longitudinal studies (2007) found that by the age of three children from disadvantaged backgrounds are already up
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Cultural deprivation (2)
to one year behind those from more privileged homes and the gap widens with age. Some sociologists claim that this is the result of cultural deprivation. They argue that most of us begin to acquire the basic values, attitudes and skills that are
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Cultural deprivation (3)
needed for educational success through primary socialisation in the family. The basic cultural equipment includes things such as language, self-discipline and reasoning skills. However according to cultural deprivation theorists many working class
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Cultural deprivation (4)
families fail to socialise their children. These children grow up culturally deprived. That is they lack the cultural equipment needed to do well at school so they underachieve. There are 3 main aspects of cultural deprivation: language, parents'
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Cultural deprivation (5)
education and working class subculture.
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Language is an essential part of the process of education and the way in which parents communicate with their children affects their cognitive development and their ability to benefit from the process of schooling.
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Language (2)
For example Hubbs Tait et al (2002) found that where parents use language that challenges their children to evaluate their own understanding or abilities cognitive performance improves. Leon Feinstein (2008) found that educated parents are more
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Language (3)
likely to use language in this way.By contrast less educated parents tend to use language in ways that only require children to make simple descriptive statements. This results in lower performance.
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Language (4)
Feinstein also found that educated parents are more likely to use praise. This encourages their children to develop a sense of their own competence. Cultural deprivation theorists see these differences in how parents use language as linked to social
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Language (5)
class. Carl Bereiter and Siegfried Engelmann (1966) claim that the language used in lower-class homes is deficient. They describe lower-class families as communicating by gestures, single words or disjointed phrases. As a result their children fail
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Language (6)
to develop the necessary language skills. They grow up incapable of abstract thinking and unable to use language to explain, describe, enquire or compare. Because of this they are unable to take advantage of the opportunities that school offers.
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Speech codes
Basil Bernstein (1975) also identifies differences between working-class and middle class language that influence achievement. He distinguishes between two types of speech codes: restricted and elaborated.
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The restricted code
Is the speech code typically used by the working class. It has limited vocabulary and is based on the use of short, often unfinished, grammatically simple sentences. Speech is predictable and may involve only a single word or even a gesture instead
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The restricted code (2)
It is descriptive not analytic. It is context-bound: that is the speaker assumes that the listener shares the same set of experiences.
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The elaborated code
Is typically used by the middle class. It has wider vocabulary and is based on longer, grammatically more complex sentences. Speech is more varied and communicates abstract ideas. The elaborated code is context free- the speaker does not assume that
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The elaborated code (2)
the listener shares the same experiences and so they use language to spell out their meanings explicitly for the listener.
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Speech codes (2)
These differences in speech codes give middle class children an advantage at school and put working class children at a disadvantage. This is because the elaborated code is the language used by teachers, textbooks and exams. Not only is it taken as
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Speech codes (3)
the correct way to speak and write but in Bernstein's view it is also a more effective tool for analysing and reasoning and for expressing thoughts clearly and effectively. Early socialisation into the The elaborated code means that middle class
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Speech codes (4)
children are already fluent users of the code when they start school. Thus they feel at home in school and are more likely to succeed. By contrast working class children lacking the code in which schooling takes place are likely to feel excluded.
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Speech codes (5)
Critics argue that Bernstein is a cultural deprivation theorist because he describes working class speech as inadequate. However unlike most cultural deprivation theorists Bernstein recognises that the school influences children's achievement.
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Speech codes (6)
Bernstein argues that working class pupils fail not because they are culturally deprived but because schools fail to teach them how to use the elaborated code.
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Parents' education
Cultural deprivation theorists argue that parents' attitudes to education are a key factor affecting children's achievement. For example a major study by Douglas (1964) found that working class parents placed less value on education.
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Parents' education (2)
As a result they were less ambitious for their children, gave them less encouragement and took less interest in their education. They visited schools less often and were less likely to discuss their children's progress with teachers.
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Parents' education (3)
Leon Feinstein (2008) reaches similar conclusions. He argues that parents' own education is the most important factor affecting children's achievement and since middle class parents tend to be better educated they are able to give their children an
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Parents' education (4)
advantage by how they socialise them. This occurs in a number of ways: parenting style, parents' educational behaviour, use of income and class, income and parental education.
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Parenting style
Educated parents' parenting style emphasises consistent discipline and high expectations of their children and this supports achievement by encouraging active learning and exploration. By contrast less educated parents' parenting style is marked by
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Parenting style (2)
harsh or inconsistent discipline that emphasises doing as your told and behaving yourself. This prevents the child from learning independence and self-control. leading to poorer motivation at school and problems interacting with teachers.
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Parents' educational behaviours
Educated parents are more aware of what is needed to assist their children's educational progress. As a result they engage in behaviour such as reading to their children, teaching them letters, numbers, songs, poems and nursery rhymes, painting and
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Parents' educational behaviours (2)
drawing, helping with homework and being actively involved in their schooling. Educated parents are also better able to get expert advice on childrearing, more successful in establishing good relationships with teachers and better at guiding their
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Parents' educational behaviours (3)
children's interactions with school. These parents also recognise the educational value of activities such as visits to museums and libraries.
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Use of income
Better educated parents not only tend to have higher incomes. They also spend their income in ways that promote their children's educational success. For example as Bernstein and Young (1967) found middle class mothers are more likely to buy
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Use of income (2)
educational toys, books and activities that encourage reasoning skills and stimulate intellectual development. Working class homes are more likely to lack these resources and this means children from such homes start school without the intellectual
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Use of income (3)
skills needed to progress. Educated parents also have a better understanding of nutrition and its importance in child development and a higher income with which to buy more nutritious food.
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Class, income and parental education
While better paid middle class parents tend to be better educated than lower paid working class parents Feinstein notes that parental education has an influence on children's achievement in its own right regardless of class or income.
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Class, income and parental education (2)
Thus even without a given social class better educated parents tend to have children who are more successful at school. This may help to explain why not all children of working class parents do equally bad.
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Working class subculture
Cultural deprivation theorists argue that lack of parental interest in their children's education reflects the subcultural values of the working class. A subculture is a group whose attitudes and values differ from those of the mainstream culture.
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Working class subculture (2)
According to cultural deprivation theorists large sections of the working class have different goals, beliefs, attitudes and values from the rest of society and this is why their children fail at school. Barry Sugarman (1970) takes this view.
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Working class subculture (3)
Barry argues that working class subculture has four key features that act as a barrier to educational achievement: fatalism, collectivism, immediate gratification and present time orientation.
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A belief in fate-that whatever will be will be and there is nothing you can do to change your status. This contrasts with middle class values which emphasise that you can change your position through your own efforts.
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Valuing being part of a group more than succeeding as an individual. This contrasts with the middle class view that an individual should not be held back by group loyalties.
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Immediate gratification
Seeking pleasure now rather than making sacrifices in order to get rewards in the future. By contrast middle class values emphasise deferred gratification making sacrifices now for greater rewards later.
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Present time orientation
Seeing the present as more important than the future and so not having long term goals or plans. By contrast middle class culture has a future time orientation that sees planning for the future as important.
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Working class subculture (4)
Working class children internalise the beliefs and values of their subculture through the socialisation process and this results in them underachieving in school. But why do these differences in values exist? Sugarman argues that they stem from the
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Working class subculture (5)
fact that middle class jobs are secure careers offering prospects for continuous individual advancement. This encourages ambition, long term planning and a willingness to invest time and effort in gaining qualifications.
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Working class subculture (6)
By contrast working class jobs are less secure and have no career structure though which individuals can advance. There are few promotion opportunities and earnings peak at an early age. Cultural deprivation theorists argue that parents pass on the
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Working class subculture (7)
values of their class to their children through primary socialisation. Middle class values equip children for success whereas working class values fail to do so.
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Compensatory education
Compensatory education programmes aim to tackle the problem of cultural deprivation by providing extra resources to schools and communities in deprived areas.They intervene early in the socialisation process to compensate children for the deprivation
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Compensatory education (2)
The best known example is Operation Head Start in the United States a multi-billion dollar scheme of pre-school education in poorer areas introduced in the 1960s. Its aim was planned enrichment of the deprived children's environment to develop skills
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Compensatory education (3)
and instil achievement motivation. It including improving parenting skills, setting up nursery classes and home visits by educational psychologists.
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Compensatory education (4)
The well known TV programme Sesame Street was initially part of Head Start providing a means of transmitting values, attitudes and skills needed for educational success such as the importance of punctuality, numeracy and literacy.
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Compensatory education (5)
In Britain there have been several compensatory education programmes such as Educational Priority Areas, Education Action Zones and Sure Start a nationwide programme aimed at pre-school children and their parents.
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The myth of cultural deprivation?
Although it draws our attention to the role of the child's social background cultural deprivation theory has been widely criticised as an explanation of class differences in achievement. Neil Keddie (1973) describes cultural deprivation as a myth and
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The myth of cultural deprivation? (2)
sees it as a victim blaming explanation. She dismisses the idea that failure at school can be blamed on a culturally deprived home background. She points out that a child cannot be deprived of its own culture and argues that working class children
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The myth of cultural deprivation? (3)
are simply culturally different not culturally deprived. They fail because they are put at a disadvantage by an education system that is dominated by middle class values. Keddie argues that rather than seeing working class culture as deficient
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The myth of cultural deprivation? (4)
schools should recognise and build on its strengths and should challenge teacher's anti working class prejudices. Likewise Barry Troyna and Jenny Williams (1986) argue that the problem is not the child's language but the school's attitude towards it.
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The myth of cultural deprivation? (5)
Teachers have a speech hierarchy they label middle class speech highest followed by working class speech and finally black speech. Other critics reject the view that working class parents are not interested in their children's education.
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The myth of cultural deprivation? (6)
According to Tessa Blackstone and Jo Mortimore (1994) they attend fewer parents evenings not because of a lack of interest but because they work longer or less regular hours or are put off by the schools middle class atmosphere. They may want to help
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The myth of cultural deprivation? (7)
their child progress but they lack knowledge and education to do so. There is also evidence that schools with mainly working class pupils have less effective systems of parent school contacts.
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Material deprivation
Unlike cultural deprivation theorists who blame educational failure on the inadequacy of working class subculture many other sociologists see material deprivation as the main cause of underachievement. The term material deprivation refers to poverty
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Material deprivation (2)
and a lack of material necessities such as adequate housing and income. Poverty is closely linked to educational achievement. For example according to the Department for Education (2012) barely a third of pupils eligible for free school meals achieve
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Material deprivation (3)
five or more GCSEs at A*-C including English and Maths. According to Jan Flaherty (2004) money problems in the family are a significant factor in younger children's non-attendance at school. Exclusion and truancy are more likely for children from
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Material deprivation (4)
poorer families. Children excluded from school are unlikely to return to mainstream education while a third of all persistent truants leave school with no qualifications. Nearly 90% of failing schools are located in deprived areas.
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Material deprivation (5)
There is a close link between poverty and social class. Working class families are much more likely to have low incomes or inadequate housing. Factors such as these can affect their children's education in several ways.
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Poor housing can affect pupil's achievement both directly and indirectly. For example overcrowding can have a direct effect by making it harder for the child to study. Overcrowding means less room for educational activities, nowhere to do homework.
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Housing (2)
For young children especially development can be impaired through lack of space for safe play and exploration. Families living in temporary accommodation may find themselves having to move frequently resulting in constant changes of school.
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Housing (3)
Poor housing can also have indirect effects, notably on the child's health and welfare. For example children in crowded homes run a greater risk of accidents. Cold or damp housing can also cause ill health. Families in temporary accommodation suffer
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Housing (4)
more psychological distress, infections and accidents. Such health problems mean more absences from school.
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Diet and health
Marilyn Howard (2001) notes that young people from poorer homes have lower intakes of energy, vitamins and minerals. Poor nutrition affects health for example by weakening the immune system and lowering children's energy levels.
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Diet and health (2)
This may result in more absences from school due to illnesses and difficulties concentrating in class. Children from poorer homes are also more likely to have emotional or behavioural problems. According to Richard Wilkinson (1996) among ten year old
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Diet and health (3)
the lower the social class the higher the rate of hyperactivity, anxiety and conduct disorders all of which are likely to have a negative effect on the child's education. Jo Blanden and Stephen Machin (2007) found that children from low income
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Diet and health (4)
families were more likely to engage in externalising behaviour which are likely to disrupt their schooling.
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Financial support and the costs of education
Lack of financial support means that children from poor families have to do without equipment and miss out on experiences that would enhance their educational achievement. David Bull (1980) refers to this as the costs of free schooling.
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Financial support and the costs of education (2)
A study in the Oxford area by Emily Tanner et al (2003) found that the cost of items such as transport, uniforms, books, computers, calculators and sports, music and art equipment places a heavy burden on poor families.
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Financial support and the costs of education (3)
As a result poor children may have to make do with hand-me downs and cheaper but unfashionable equipment and this may result in being isolated, stigmatised or bullied by peers. Yet for many children suitable clothes are essential for self-esteem.
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Financial support and the costs of education (4)
According to Flaherty fear of stigmatisation may also help to explain why 20% of those eligible for free school meals do not take up their entitlement. Teresa Smith and Micheal Noble (1995) add that poverty acts as a barrier to learning in other ways
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Financial support and the costs of education (5)
such as inability to afford private schooling or tuition and poorer quality local schools. Lack of funds also means that children from low-income families often need to work. Ridge found that children in poverty take on jobs such as baby sitting,
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Financial support and the costs of education (6)
cleaning and paper rounds and that this often had a negative impact on their schoolwork.
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Fear of debt
Going to university usually involved getting into debt to cover the cost tuition fees, books and living expenses. Attitudes towards debt may deter working class students from going to university. Using data from a nationwide questionnaire survey of
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Fear of debt (2)
nearly 2,000 prospective students Claire Callender and Jon Jackson (2005) found that working class students are more debt averse- that is they saw debt negatively as something to be avoided. They also saw more costs than benefits in going to uni.
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Fear of debt (3)
Callender and Jackson found that attitudes to debt was important in deciding whether to apply to university. The most debt averse students were five times less likely to apply then the most debt tolerant students.
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Fear of debt (4)
Increases in tuition fees from 2012 to a maximum of £9,000 per year may mean that the increased debt burden will deter even more working class students from applying to university. For example according to UCAS (2012) the number of UK applicants fell
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Fear of debt (5)
by 8.6% in 2012 compared with the previous year. Furthermore working class students who do go to university are likely to receive less financial support from their families. A National Union of students (2010) online survey of 3,863 university
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Fear of debt (6)
students found that 81% of those from the highest social class received help from home, as against 43% of those from the lowest class. Fear of debt and more limited financial support help to explain why only 30% of university students come from
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Fear of debt (7)
working class backgrounds despite the fact that this group accounts for 50% of the population. Financial factors restrict working class students' choice of university and chances of success. Diane Reay (2005) found that working class students were
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Fear of debt (8)
less likely to apply to local universities so they could live at home and save on travel costs, but that this gave them less opportunity to go to the highest status universities. They were also more likely to work part time to fund their studies
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Fear of debt (9)
making it difficult for them to gain higher class degrees. Dropout rates are also higher for universities with a large proportion of poor students for example 16.6% drop out at London Metropolitan a university with large working class intake but only
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Fear of debt (10)
1.5% at Oxford where nearly half the students come from private schools.
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Cultural or material factors?
While material factors clearly play a part in achievement the fact that some children from poor families do succeed suggests that material deprivation is only part of the explanation. For example the cultural, religious or political values of the
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Cultural or material factors? (2)
family may play a part in creating and sustaining the child's motivation even despite poverty. Feinstein shows that educated parents make a positive contribution to a child's achievement regardless of their income level.
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Cultural or material factors? (3)
Nevertheless Peter Mortimore and Geoff Whitty (1997) argue that material inequalities have the greatest effect on achievement. For this reason Peter Robinson (1997) argues that tackling child poverty would be the effective way to boost achievement.
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Bourdieu: three types of capital
Pierre Bourdieu (1984) argues that both cultural and material factors contribute to educational achievement and are not separate but interrelated. He uses the concept of capital to explain why the middle class are more successful.
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Bourdieu: three types of capital (2)
The term capital usually refers to wealth but in addition to this economic capital Bourdieu identifies two further types. These are educational capital or qualifications and cultural capital.
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Cultural capital
Bourdieu uses the term cultural capital to refer to the knowledge, attitudes, values, language, tastes and abilities of the middle class. He sees middle class culture as a type of capital as like wealth it gives an advantage to those who possess it.
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Cultural capital (2)
Like Bernstein he argues that through their socialisation middle class children acquire the ability to grasp, analyse and express abstract ideas. They are more likely to develop intellectual interests and an understanding of what the education system
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Cultural capital (3)
requires for success. This gives middle class children an advantage in school where such abilities and interests are highly valued and rewarded with qualifications. This is because the education system in not neutral but favours and transmits the
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Cultural capital (4)
dominant middle class culture. By contrast working class children find that school devalues their culture as rough and inferior. Their lack of cultural capital leads to exam failure. Many working class pupils also get the message that education is
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Cultural capital (5)
not meant for them and respond by truanting, early leaving or just not trying.
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Educational and economic capital
Bourdieu argues that educational, economic and cultural capital can be converted into one another. For example middle class children with cultural capital are better equipped to meet the demands of the school curriculum and gain qualifications.
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Educational and economic capital (2)
Wealthier parents can convert their economic capital into educational capital by sending their children to private schools and paying for extra tuition. As Dennis Leech and Erick Campos' (2003) study of Coventry shows middle class parents are also
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Educational and economic capital (3)
more likely to be able to afford a house in the catchment area of a school that is highly placed in the exam league tables. This has become known as selection by mortgage because it drives up the cost of houses near to successful schools.
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A test of Bourdieu's ideas
Alice Sullivan (2001) used questionnaires to conduct a survey of 465 pupils in four schools. To assess their cultural capital she asked them about a range of activities such as reading and TV viewing habits and whether they visited art galleries,
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A test of Bourdieu's ideas (2)
museums and theaters. She also tested their vocabulary and knowledge of cultural figures. She found that those who read complex fiction and watched serious TV documentaries developed a wider vocabulary and cultural knowledge indicating greater
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A test of Bourdieu's ideas (3)
cultural capital. The pupils with the greatest cultural capital were children of graduates. These pupils were more likely to be successful at GCSE. However although successful pupils with greater cultural capital were more likely to be middle class.
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A test of Bourdieu's ideas (4)
Sullivan found that cultural capital accounted for part of the class difference in achievement. Where pupils of different classes had the same level of cultural capital middle class pupils still did better.
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A test of Bourdieu's ideas (5)
Sullivan concludes that the greater resources and aspirations of middle class families explain the remainder of the class gap in achievement.
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Cultural deprivation (2)


to one year behind those from more privileged homes and the gap widens with age. Some sociologists claim that this is the result of cultural deprivation. They argue that most of us begin to acquire the basic values, attitudes and skills that are

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Cultural deprivation (3)


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