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Assess the Claim That Class Differences in Educational Achievement Are Primarily the Result of External Factors

By ezrajames Oct 22, 2012 1540 Words
ASSESS THE CLAIM THAT CLASS DIFFERENCES IN EDUCATIONAL ACHIEVEMENT ARE PRIMARILY THE RESULT OF EXTERNAL FACTORS. In this essay external factors will be assessed. On average, children from middle-class families perform better than working class children. The gap between the grade percentages grow wider as children get older. It is proven that 77% of children from a higher professional background achieve five or more A*-C at GCSE. Whereas only 35% children from a routine background achieve five or more A*-C grades at GCSE. These statistics show that there is a persistent gap in the achievement levels of working class and middle class pupils. There are two factors related to home background that sociologists argue may lead to differences in a pupils educational achievement. The first is CULTURAL FACTORS. Some sociologists argue that most of us begin to acquire the basic values, attitudes and key skills that are needed for educational success through primary socialisation in the family. However, these sociologists also believe that many working class families fail to socialise their children in the right way. Therefore these children are ‘culturally deprived’. The three main areas of cultural deprivation are intellectual development, language, and attitudes and values. Intellectual development was discovered by a sociologist called Douglas. Douglas conducted a longitudinal study of 5362 children born in 1964. He followed them through primary and secondary school and found that children of the same measured ability at age 7 varied a great deal at age 11 depending on their social class. He basically found that working class did badly and middle class did well. Douglas also found that working class pupils were less likely to continue in further education after the age of 16. Douglas believed that middle class children receive more attention and stimulus from their parents in their early years. Douglas believed that working class parents took their children to parks in the day time, put them in front of the television, and gave them not very educational toys. He also believed that middle class parents gave their children a ‘head start’ by taking them to museums, libraries and bought them educational toys, like jigsaw puzzles and talking toys. Linguistic deprivation is a theory argued by Basil Bernstein. Bernstein believed there are two types of language used. Restricted code: Typically used by working class people, they use limited vocabulary, and use short simple sentences. The speech is predictable and context bound (which means the speaker assumes the listener shares same views/experiences) Elaborated code: Typically used by middle-class people, the speaker has a wider vocabulary and speech is varied. Context free (which means the speaker does not assume the listener shares same views/experiences and uses language to explain meanings) Bernstein believed that the success of a pupil depends heavily on language. The ability to read and understand books, to write clearly and to be able to explain yourself fully in both speech and writing are key language skills required for success in education. If these skills are not developed in the family, then a child will be at a disadvantage in education. Teachers in schools are more likely to use context free elaborated code, as it is more descriptive and explanatory. Also, the elaborated code is the typical way of speaking for the middle class, and not many working class people will become teachers. However, some pupils may not understand the elaborated code and may switch off preventing learning in the classroom. The elaborated code may benefit middle class students after school, for example in college, university and job interviews. Middle class students can express themselves better which then gives a better impression than maybe one of a working class background could not. Attitudes and values is the third area of cultural deprivation. Some sociologists argue that parents’ attitudes and values are a key factor affecting a pupils’ educational achievement. Douglas argued that working class parents’ attitudes prevent children from achieving in education. He believed that middle class parents were more interested in their children’s education. For example, visit the school more frequently, encourage their children to stay on in further education, and help their children with school work. He found that working class parents place less value on education, were less ambitious for their children, gave them less encouragement and took less interest in their education, they visited their schools less often, and were less likely to discuss their children’s progress with teachers. As a result of this, the children had lower levels of motivation. There are many reasons why working class parents may place less value on education, maybe they haven’t experienced the benefits of college and universities so they don’t value further education as much. Working class parents may be less ambitious because they have seen how their peers and family members have ‘turned out’ and think there is no point in focussing on education because none of their peers/family members achieved in education and they’re getting on with their lives. Working class parents may show less interest as they personally don’t enjoy their lives, there is no motivation to even get out of bed in the morning, let alone push for their child to do well in school. Sugarman (1970) believed lack of parental interest in their children’s education reflects the sub-cultural values of the working class. 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. Sugarman believes there are four key features:

Fatalism- The attitude of ‘what will be will be‘ (working class). The attitude of ‘to change through efforts’ (middle class).

Collectivism- Value being part of a group (working class)

Immediate gratification Vs Deferred gratification- Want reward as soon as possible ,leave school and go straight into work to make money (working class).

Present- time orientation- Seeing the present as more important (working class). Seeing planning for the future, more important (middle class). Cultural deprivation recognises the importance of social (not biological causes of class inequalities in educational attainment. Research has been conducted which supports these theories. However, it blames the individual for their failure, it ignores the influence of school and peer pressure by only focussing on the home. The theory is deterministic- it assumes that all working class will fail. It is very stereotypical and involves a judgement that the culture of one class is better than another. However, the cultural deprivation theory has been influential and did at one time influence the government to improve parenting skills by running a programme in the U.S called OPERATION HEAD START. This organisation helped working class families by health visitors and educational psychologists visiting their homes, and learning programmes for deprived children. In the U.K (2000) SURE START was launched. Sure start is a major element in the British governments policy to tackle poverty and social exclusion. The second factor related to home background is MATERIAL DEPRIVATION. According to the ‘Halifax building society’ (2006). A private education for a child between the ages of three to 18, will cost £326,000. This shows that middle-class parents take great care and money into providing a better education for their child. Some sociologists see material deprivation as the main cause of underachievement. This argument states that working class children are disadvantaged because they are more likely to lack material factors that are necessary to create a good educational environment. For example, good housing, clothes, healthy food, space to study, lack of educational books and educational equipment. Facts show that exclusion and truancy are more likely for children from poorer families. Nearly 90% of ‘failing’ schools are located in deprived areas.

Jesson & Gray’s 1991 Nottinghamshire study revealed that half of the pupils receiving free school meals had low GCSE scores as opposed to one sixth of pupils. This fact proves that material deprivation is a massive reason for pupils under achieving in education. Children that do not have the books and writing equipment are less likely to succeed because they are getting further and further behind.

There are many factors that impact on the educational attainment of working class children. Pupils may not have the time to do school work at home, due to maybe a sick parent or a busy household. Working class families are less likely to own their own home, rented accommodation is less stable as they could be asked to leave. This means the child will fall behind, get in trouble with the teachers’ , creating a reputation for themselves. Pupils may not have the space at home to do homework, due to bigger working class families, smaller houses. The parents of working class pupils may not be able to raise money for educational trips, resulting in lack of understanding of a subject, looked lower by peers at school. They may not have access to educational materials like computers and software. There are so many important facts that as a sociologist you have to remember and take into consideration.

However, both middle class and working class are affected by economic down turn recently (the recession). Family break- down in both classes can affect the child’s upbringing or emotional well being, regardless of class.

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