Inequalities in Education

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•  Some social scientists argue that some people are simply more

intelligent than others. •  This assumption results from IQ tests. •  However, IQ tests are a questionable tool to measure intelligence. •  Because: standards used in such tests are •  middle class standards, •  Western cultural context

Therefore: difficult to measure the Western standard IQ of a nonWestern culture •  And: difficult to measure the IQ of subcultures within the same society. •  THEREFORE: case of intelligence is largely discredited as a credible

explanation to describe why working class children fair worse than middle/upper class children in educational system.

Values, Class and Educational achievement
•  Herbert Hyman: emphasises the distinctive ‘norms’ and

‘values’ of social classes. •  Hyman states: the values system of lower classes creates “a self imposed barrier’ that keeps them from improving their position: •  This self imposed barrier includes values found in the

lower class:
•  Lower value on education •  Lower value on achieving higher status than previous generation •  A belief that they have less opportunity for personal advancement

than other groups in society.

Values continued..
•  Barry Sugarman: attitudes to work •  Manual workers consider their attitude to work with: •  1. FATALISM: workers accept their situation rather than feel

encouraged to improve it. •  2. IMMEDIATE GRATIFICATION: Most of the time, in manual work, a person is earning money at a young age. Yet, his/her wage does not improve much over time. •  3. PRESENT-TIME ORIENTATION: manual workers do not envisage long-term planning in their jobs, and long-term planning is not possible anyway. •  This attitude is reflected in their attitude to education: they do not envisage long-term planning for their own or their children’s education. •  4. COLLECTIVISM: great loyalty to fellow workers, moving up the social ladder is considered being disloyal to the group.

Cultural? or Material factors?
•  Family income: determines levels of educational attainment, if

there are greater financial resources, children are bound to enjoy: •  More educational toys •  Greater range of books •  A superior diet

•  More space in the home to concentrate on homework and studies •  Greater opportunities to travel •  Support for private tuition •  Private education/schools •  Therefore, the more affluent the parents, the better their position,

financially at least, to provide greater educational opportunities for their children BEFORE they go to school and DURING their school experience.

•  Halsey et al (1980) point out that both cultural and

material factors are important in influencing children’s educational attainment. •  England: family determines whether a child attends Comprehensive or private secondary education. •  On finishing Secondary education: more of a financial

issue whether an individual pursued further education or not. •  Tertiary level: material disadvantages become more


Gender & educational attainment
•  Research up to first part of 1980s: though girls performed

as well as boys, they fell behind later on in their educational careers. •  By mid 1990s, females had overtaken males in

qualifications up to age 18 in the UK.

•  Innate ability? •  Early socialisation? •  Material factors? •  Socialisation in schools? •  Self-Confidence?

Innate ability
•  Some believe there are innate differences between males

and females. •  Goldstein claims that at post-secondary level, boys are better at mathematics and reading, and girls do better than boys in reasoning tests. •  Still, the case of innate ability is considered rather weak as an explanation, and other explanations are...
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