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The role of processes in schools in producing different educational achievement among pupils from different social groups

Differential educational achievement is unquestionable affected by different social groups however this is not the only factor that affects the educational success of students. Members of working class place a lower value on education, they place less emphasis on formal education as a means to personal achievement, and they see less value in continuing school beyond the minimum leaving age. They place a lower value on achieving higher occupational status, when evaluating jobs they place emphasis on stability, security and immediate economic benefits and tend to reject the risks and investments involved in aiming for high status occupations.

Job horizons tend therefore to be limited to a good trade. Manual and non-manual jobs account for differences in outlook and attitude, middle-class occupations provide an opportunity for continuous advancement in income and status but this is not the case for manual workers. They reach full earning capacity relatively quickly and are provided fewer opportunities for promotion. This would therefore affect the attitude of parents and this attitude and outlook on life would be passed on to the next generation. Pupils from working class origins would be socialized in certain situations, e. fatalism, immediate gratification, present time orientation and collectivism.

Parental interests in their children education effects school achievement, middle class parents express interest in their children progress, they are more likely to want their children to do well and stay at school beyond the minimum leaving age level and so will encourage them to do so. Middle class children also tend to receive greater stimulus from their parents in the early years, which forms a basis for high achievement in the educational system.

Different social groups have different life experiences and chances, the habitats of each group will be different and will lead individuals to make certain choices regarding behaviour. Through up bringing and education, people learn to be able to express good taste; those with legitimate taste can mix in the most culturally advantaged circles. This gives students with higher-class backgrounds more chance of success in education. Social inequality is reproduced in the educational system and as a result is legitimated, and is particularly effective in maintaining the power of the dominant classes.

Social class is not the only thing that affects educational achievement. Ethnicity has been seen to affect the educational attainment of pupils; research by Drew (1995) found that Afro-Caribbean males were at the bottom of each class group in terms of attainment. West Indian females, suffered from initial disadvantages at school but tend to do better than white students when the time comes to take GCSEs. Fuller suggests that the reason for this is that they may wish to present a cool’ positive self image to boys and friends but realise the importance of getting good qualifications.

Indian, Chinese and African-Asian students tend to do very well in the educational system, there is strong emphasis on self-improvement through education within these cultures and many of the children have professional backgrounds, providing support, appropriate role models and material advantages. Teachers perceive their culture more positively than West Indian males, as they tend to take fewer GCSEs and get poorer grades than any other group, are over represented in special schools for children who have behavioral or learning difficulties.

These students tend to get expelled or suspended up to four times more often than their white counterparts. The length of time immigrants spend in Britain affects their educational attainment, older siblings educated here, are able to help their younger brothers and sisters. Material deprivation has been used as a reason for differential educational achievement; certain groups have less money than others and so are not able to make the most of their educational opportunities.

These students may lack time or space at home to do schoolwork, may be unable to raise the funds for educational trips and may not have access to essential educational materials like books, computers and the Internet. They may experience ill health and have to work part-time to support their studies, or have to care for younger siblings. As most ethnic minorities tend to be working-class, these material disadvantages translate in to educational disadvantages in the same way as they do for working class pupils.

Governments have attempted to reduce the material disadvantages faced by working class pupils through positive discrimination; this takes the form of programs of compensatory education, which plough more resources into poorer areas. Cultural disadvantages may affect educational achievement; middle class people, many of whom are white, mostly control the education system. Those that share these characteristics may be viewed in a more positive light and are more likely to succeed in the tests and exams created to Asses their abilities. The 11+ tests was criticised for middle-class bias.

Being able to unscramble an anagram such as ZOMRAT’ to form the name of a famous composer MOZART’ is much easier for a child familiar with anagrams (because their parents do crosswords) and classical composers (because they have seen the names on CD covers in their parents music collection. ). Many working class and ethnic minority pupils may feel undervalued and demotivated by an educational system that does not recognize their qualities, which are based on their class or ethnic culture. West Indian underachievement has been blamed on the high numbers of one-parent families in Afro-Caribbean communities.

Some politicians have suggested that due to the fact that many of these families are female headed, West Indian boys, in particular lack the discipline of a father figure and this is used to account for the high number of west-Indian boys in special schools. On the flip side for girls in such families, the role model provided by a strong independent single mother is a motivating influence and this helps to explain their success in education. Much research into language has identified class difference in spoken and written language, which disadvantages working class pupils.

The middle class succeed not because of a greater intelligence but because the language they use is the preferred mod of communication. Working class pupils normally use restricted code and this restricts their communications skills, whereas the middle class normally uses elaborated code and its meanings tend to be universalistic, and are not tied down to a specific context. Formal education is conducted in terms of an elaborated code and so places working class pupils at a disadvantage because they are limited to restricted code. Middle class pupils therefore have a higher success rate, as their subculture is closer to the dominant culture.

Working class pupils are unable to grasp the concepts and meanings that are embedded in the grammar, accent, tone, and delivery of teachers, and so working class students have an in-built barrier to learning in schools. Language has also been seen as a problem for West Indian children as they are more likely to speak with different dialects of English, and children from other ethnic groups may come from a home where a language other than English is spoken. This language difference may cause a problem when doing schoolwork and when communicating with the teachers, leading to disadvantages at school.

The idea of cultural capital is used by Marxists to explain cultural influences on educational success. Bordieu suggests that middle-class culture is as valuable in educational terms as material wealth. Schools are middle-class institutions run by the middle class and so obviously will favour students who come from middle-class backgrounds. The forms of knowledge, values, ways of interacting and communicating ideas that middle class children possess are developed further and rewarded by the education system.

Working class and ethnic minority children may lack these qualities and so do not have the same chances to succeed. Ball et al 1994 showed how middle class parents are able to use their cultural capital to play the system as to ensure that their children are accepted into the schools of their choice. The strategies they use include attempting to make a good impression with the head-teacher on open days, and knowing how to mount an appeal if their child’s application is unsuccessful at a particular school.

Ball also shows how ethnic minority parents are at a disadvantage when trying to get their children into better schools, especially if the parents are born abroad as they may not have only little if any knowledge of how the British education system. They may not be confident in their English skills to negotiate the system. Interactionists however use the theory of labeling’ as the main reason for differential educational achievement. Labeling theories suggest that teachers judge pupils not by their ability or intelligence but by the characteristics that relate to class, gender and ethnicity, such as attitude, appearance and behaviour.

Becker showed how teachers saw the ideal pupil’ as someone who conforms to middle-class standards of behaviour. Rosenthal and Jacobsen reported on pupils’ results’ in intelligence tests to their teachers, the names of the high flyers were in fact picked at random and bore no relation to any test results. However the pupils success at the end of the year equated to their fake test results, teachers had some how communicated their expectations to the pupils and they had responded, creating a self-fulfilling prophecy.

The teachers perceived these students as happier and better adjusted than the rest of the class. Those students that had not been named high flyers but had improved in performance against their expectations were described as showing undesirable behaviour. Afro- Caribbean boys often have the label of unruly, disrespectful and difficult to control applied to them, Gillborn found that these pupils were more likely to be given detention than other pupils.

The teachers interpreted the dress and manner of speech of afro-Caribbean pupils as representing a challenge to authority, in perceiving they were being treated unfairly the pupils responded according to their labels. Wright found that there is considerable racism in the classroom, teachers also seemed to lack sensitivity towards aspects of culture and displayed open disapproval of their customs and traditions. This affected the students involved and made them feel less positive towards the school, and also attracted hostility from other pupils who picked up on the teachers’ comments and attitude towards the Asian pupils.

Teachers made little effort to ensure they pronounced names correctly, causing embarrassment and unnecessary ridicule; finally Asian and Afro Caribbean pupils were victims of racism from white pupils. Some sociologists argue that the content of what is taught in school, the curriculum, actually disadvantages working class pupils, the knowledge that they encounter at school does not connects with their own cultural experience. Working – class experience is almost invisible in the school curriculum.

History tends to deal with ruling classes, such as kings, queens and politicians rather than the vast majority of ordinary people. Coard showed how the content of education largely ignored black people; the people who are acclaimed tend to be white people, whilst black culture, music and art are largely ignored. He argued that this led to low self-esteem among black pupils, this suggestion was criticised by both Swann Report and Stone who noted that despite feeling discriminated against by some teachers, West – Indian children have been able to sustain an extremely high positive self image.

Multicultural education has been brought in to address this problem, but has been criticised for focusing too much on the external factors and not enough on the real problem of racism. Ethnic minority languages still do not have the same status as European languages and schools are still required to hold Christian services. The curriculum has been criticised for being ethnocentric, emphasizing white middle-class culture at the expense of others. There is no doubt that sociologists have identified a full range of social influences on educational attainment.

No educationalist now relates achievement purely to individual’s intelligence or attitude, however the relative importance of these social influences is unclear. There are many other factors that influence the educational achievement of students, ethnicity, gender, the curriculum, labeling, however all these will link in with the social class of the students. This overwhelmingly shows that social groups impact tremendously on educational attainment.

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