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Social Class and Educational Achievement Contents: 24 slides. Data IQ Theory Cultural Deprivation Material Circumstances Cultural Difference School Organisation: Symbolic Interactionism School Organisation: Schools Effectiveness School Organisation: Government policies Private Education

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social class and educational achievement contents 24 slides
Social Class and Educational Achievement Contents: 24 slides
  • Data
  • IQ Theory
  • Cultural Deprivation
  • Material Circumstances
  • Cultural Difference
  • School Organisation: Symbolic Interactionism
  • School Organisation: Schools Effectiveness
  • School Organisation: Government policies
  • Private Education

Click here for more information on the Sociology of Education.

2 sources of relevant data
2Sources of Relevant Data
  • Youth Cohort Studies
  • Students Eligible and Ineligible for Free School Meals
  • Social Class and Participation in Higher Education
  • Educational Achievement and Type of School
  • All of these sources show very clearly that upper and middle class students are on average more successful at all levels of the UK education system.
  • Click here for links to discussion of these sources
3 explanations 1 iq intelligence quotient theory
3Explanations [1]: IQ [Intelligence Quotient] Theory
  • Key Theorists: Jensen, Herrnstein, Eysenck, Burt, Murray. The key assumptions of IQ theory are listed below.
  • Intelligence can be defined clearly
  • It can be measured accurately via IQ tests
  • Data indicate clear social class differences in intelligence
  • Research on identical twins suggests that up to 80% of the variation in intelligence among individuals can be explained by genetic factors
  • Environmental factors , therefore, are less important than inherited IQ as determinants of intelligence
4 explanations 1 criticisms of iq theory
4Explanations[1]: Criticisms of IQ Theory
  • Intelligence cannot be defined clearly or accurately measured by IQ tests.
  • IQ tests may be culturally biased
  • Some students may not be at their best when they take the tests
  • Others may not take the tests seriously
  • Student IQ test scores can improve with practice, suggesting that they do not measure fundamental intelligence
  • The relative importance of genetic and environmental factors in determining intelligence is unknown but genetic factors are unlikely to be as significant as suggested by IQ theorists
  • Some studies suggest working class students with high IQ scores are still more likely to leave school at an early age, thus suggesting environmental factors are important
  • Return to contents page if required
5 explanation 2 cultural deprivation
5Explanation [2]: Cultural Deprivation
  • Relevant theorists: Hyman, Douglas, Sugarman and, [possibly] Bernstein. [Bernstein, however denied that his theories implied working class cultural deprivation.]
  • The relative educational underachievement of working class students is explained by their cultural deprivation.
  • Key elements of cultural deprivation: fatalism, strong present time orientation, unwillingness to plan for the future, unwillingness to defer gratification, linguistic deprivation.
  • Click here for further information on Basil Bernstein’s theory.
  • Refer to detailed class notes and/or to essay format materials for further details of the relevant studies.
  • Note also the possible criticisms of theories based upon cultural deprivation. [see next slide]
6 explanation 2 cultural deprivation some criticisms
6Explanation 2: Cultural Deprivation: Some Criticisms
  • Sugarman’ data was derived from interviews: insufficient to assess social class differences in attitudes and values.
  • Douglas’ data on parental interest derived from teachers’ opinions and attendance at parents’ evenings: invalid for many reasons which you might consider for yourselves!
  • Working class parental ambitions may have declined as a result of inaccurate and/or unfair setting processes and/or inaccurate negative school reports.
  • It may be lack of material resources which force working class parents and pupils to be oriented to the present and make them unable to “defer gratification”
  • In any case many working class parents are keen to give their children a better chance than they had.
7 explanation 2 cultural deprivation some further criticisms
7Explanation 2: Cultural Deprivation: Some Further Criticisms
  • It may be that many middle class students do not have to defer gratification to achieve educational success. They may be well supported financially and, for example,is University life not rather pleasant?
  • Theories based upon cultural deprivation may present inaccurate stereotypes of both working class and middle class life.
  • These theories detract attention from other explanations based upon material circumstances, cultural difference and the organisation of the schools themselves
  • The importance of social class differences in material circumstances will be considered next.
  • Return to contents page if required
8 explanation 3 adverse material circumstances
8 Explanation 3: Adverse Material Circumstances
  • Working class students may experience a range of adverse material circumstances such as:
  • Low birth weight
  • Fewer pre-school play groups and nurseries in working class areas
  • Greater risk of poor diet, under-nourishment, tiredness, sickness and absence from school
  • Absence may be caused by the need to care for sick siblings because parents cannot afford to take time off work
  • W/C Pupils may feel forced to take part-time paid work which interferes with studies: for M/C pupils this is optional rather than necessary.
9 explanation 3 adverse material circumstances continued
9Explanation 3: Adverse Material Circumstances {continued}
  • No quiet room for study
  • Parents unable to afford relevant books, trips or personal computers
  • Parents unable to afford part-time private tuition or full time private education
  • Parents unable to afford housing in catchment areas of most effective schools
  • Parents and students fearful of debts associated with higher education
  • Return to Contents Page if required
10 raymond boudon positional theory 1974
: 10:Raymond Boudon: Positional Theory [1974]
  • Distinction between primary and secondary effects of social stratification on equality of educational opportunity.
  • Primary Effects = the possible class subcultural effects in attitudes and values deriving from unequal social class stratification system.
  • Secondary effects derive from the class different positions of individual pupils within the social class stratification system. Secondary effects seen by Boudon as stronger than primary effects
  • Even if there were no primary effects i.e. working and middle class pupils were equally ambitious there would still be inequality of education al opportunity because working class pupils opting for A levels and Higher Education would lose contact with family and friends, face greater material sacrifices, enter a new and unknown social environment and face greater difficulties in the event of failure which can less easily be absorbed by working class families.
  • Middle class students face none of these difficulties.
  • Therefore inequalities of educational opportunity derive mainly from different positions of pupils within unequal patterns of social class stratification
  • Boudon’s solutions are a common curriculum for all pupils and the abolition of social class stratification The first solution seems unlikely and the second even more so…rightly or wrongly.
  • An interesting study which nevertheless seems to be disappearing from then textbooks. A pity? Slide added August 2011
11 explanation 4 theories based on cultural difference
11Explanation 4: Theories based on Cultural Difference
  • Some sociologists argue that working class students may be at an educational disadvantage not because their culture is deprived or inferior but because it is different
  • Here , for example, we may consider the studies of Willis and Bourdieu which are outlined in the following slides.
paul willis learning to labour how working class kids get working class jobs 1977
Paul Willis: Learning to Labour: How Working Class Kids Get Working Class Jobs [1977]
  • Willis’ study focuses mainly on 12 male working class non-examination students in a midlands secondary modern school in the 1970s
  • The study has been said to be based on a combination of structure and agency in Sociology.
  • Willis argues that the main reason for the relative educational under-achievement of these pupils is that they have actively chosen a future involving hard , unskilled manual work as a means of confirming their masculinity. This is the “agency” aspect of Willis’ theory.
  • The boys have realised that CSE examination passes would in any case not improve their employment prospects substantially but they have not realised the long term disadvantages of unskilled manual work. Here their behaviour is influenced by the structure of society.
  • For Willis, their culture is different to middle class culture but this does not mean that the boys are culturally deprived.
criticisms of paul willis study
Criticisms of Paul Willis’ Study
  • Willis conducts a very small scale study on 12 non-examination “lads” who are, to say the least, rebellious and unlikely to be representative of working class pupils as a whole , who may be much more “conventional” as suggested by P. Browne.
  • The attitudes and values of the lads’ parents may also be unrepresentative of working class parental attitudes in general.
  • In the mid 1970s ,unskilled manual work was widely available but the mass unemployment of the 1980s and early 1990s and the decline of manufacturing industry will have changed attitudes to employment for many, if not all, working class boys.
  • Paul Willis was himself a young researcher at the time and this may have helped him to gain the boys trust but it is also possible that Willis may have accepted some of the boys stories rather too readily. Willis had little to say about working class girls but at the time neither did hardly anyone else.
explanation 4 theories based on cultural difference continued pierre bourdieu
Explanation 4: Theories based on Cultural difference continued: Pierre Bourdieu
  • Pierre Bourdieu’s educational theories are complex and wide ranging and perhaps do not lend themselves easily to PowerPoint presentation! Please consult teaching notes and your teachers for additional detail.
  • He is concerned not only with inequality of educational opportunity but with the overall functions of formal education systems .
  • Pierre Bourdieu has himself stated that he has been influenced by Marx, Weber and Durkheim but his educational theories do perhaps seem to have been influenced especially by Marx, [although some modern Marxists would dispute this!]
  • Capitalist societies are seen as class societies in which the dominant classes use their power to maintain their class advantages
bourdieu continued
Bourdieu Continued
  • Objectively speaking we can say only that class cultures are different and that working class children even if they are culturally different from middle and upper class children are culturally different rather than culturally deprived.
  • Nevertheless the dominant class have the social power to ensure that their culture is defined as THE culture which is superior to other class cultures
  • The dominant classes have the power also to ensure that schools and colleges evaluate students in terms of the culture [knowledge, attitudes and skills] possessed by most of the dominant class children but only rarely by subservient class [i.e. working class] children
  • The dominant class culture can be learned only in dominant class families because schools and colleges do not teach this culture although they do assess students in terms of it.
bourdieu continued16
Bourdieu Continued
  • Working class students are put at an educational disadvantage because they are assessed in terms of a dominant culture which they cannot learn at home or at school
  • Bourdieu calls the knowledge attitudes and skills available to the dominant class children “cultural capital” because its transmission from parents to children helps to perpetuate class advantages across the generations in the same way as would the transmission of wealth [=economic capital] and useful social connections [= social capital]
  • It is widely believed that advanced capitalist education systems are fair and meritocratic but for Bourdieu this is merely a convenient myth which hides the roles of education systems in the reproduction of capitalist class structures. Note the overlap with the theories of Althusser and Bowles and Gintis.
  • Discuss with your teachers connections between Bourdieu and Ball, Bowe and Gerwitz
  • Return to contents page if required
explanation 5 the schools
Explanation 5: The Schools
  • The Interactionist Approach
  • Schools Effectiveness Research
  • Private Education
  • The impact of recent changes in government education policies
the interactionist approach
The Interactionist Approach
  • Small scale, qualitative research based primarily on observation.
  • Emphasis on effects of within-school factors on pupil achievement although pupils’ social class background may well affect teachers’ perceptions of them.
  • Emphasis on the effects of pupil-teacher interaction.
  • Importance of streaming, banding, setting and mixed ability teaching.
  • Positive and negative labelling and their effects
  • Self-fulfilling prophecies
  • It is working class and some ethic minority students who are most likely to be negatively labelled.
  • Relationships between gender and labelling are considered elsewhere
slide19
The Interactionist Approach: Some Important Studies [Please consult the teaching notes for further details]
  • Hargreaves[1967]: streaming in a boys’ secondary modern school resulted in the development of “academic” and “delinquescent” subcultures
  • Rosenthal and Jacobson[1968]: when teachers were provided with intentionally inaccurate assessments of pupils abilities this had a significant impact on pupil- teacher interactions.
  • Keddie[1970]: Banding and the “differentiation of an undifferentiated Humanities curriculum.” Important information withheld from lower band pupils because teachers believe they will not understand it
  • Ball[1980]: Vicious negative labelling of lower band pupils but informal ability grouping within “mixed ability” classes is also likely so that mixed ability teaching does not remove the problem of negative labelling.
newly written slide nov 2010
Newly Written Slide: Nov 2010
  • Please click here to follow a link to the following article.
  • The Zombie Stalking English Schools: Social Class and Educational Inequality by Dianne Reay [2006].
  • This is a detailed academic paper but I do believe that with a little help from their teachers AS and A2 Sociology students will be able to follow the arguments which are very clearly expressed.
  • Not necessarily an easy task but one that could help you enormously!
  • Also click here and then on the relevant link for another very interesting recent paper by Diane Reay
the interactionist approach some criticisms
The Interactionist Approach: Some Criticisms
  • Small scale studies based mainly on observation may be unreliable, unrepresentative and invalid.
  • The previously mentioned studies are now rather dated
  • Some later studies suggest [e.g. O’Donnell and Sharpe] suggest negative labelling now less frequent but other sociologists disagree
  • The interactionists tend to argue that negative labels will be passively accepted but in practice negatively labelled students may not automatically accept the negative labels applied
  • Interactionists do not explain why teachers apply negative labels to some pupils but not others. They fail to consider the importance of broader structural factors.
  • Return to contents page if required
schools effectiveness research
Schools Effectiveness Research
  • Researchers such as Sammons, Thomas and Mortimore[1995] have demonstrated that there are considerable variations in examination results as among schools with similar socio-economic intakes.
  • They have also suggested a wide range of factors which influence school’s effectiveness.
  • Working class students may be relatively unsuccessful in education partly because they are more likely than middle class students to attend ineffective schools.
  • Critics of schools effectiveness research argue that it detracts attention from factors external to the schools which affect educational achievement.
  • The critics argue that school improvements alone “cannot compensate for society” an argument emphasised by Basil Bernstein as early as the 1970s
government education policies 1979 2010
Government Education Policies 1979-2010
  • There are important arguments that educational reforms introduced by successive Conservative and Labour governments have operated to the relative advantage of upper and middle class students and to the relative disadvantage of working class students
  • Perhaps the most significant study in this respects is “Markets, Choice and Equity [1994] by Ball, Bowe and Gerwitz.
  • They suggest that middle and upper class parents are more familiar than are working class parents with the relative merits of different schools and that they can use a range of strategies to ensure that their children are accepted at the better schools
  • The relative decline of schools in working class areas harms working class pupils
recent research new slide added april 2012
Recent Research [ New slide added April 2012]
  • [UN]SATISFACTORY? Enhancing life chances by improving “satisfactory” schools. [Professor Becky Francis Dec 2011]
  • In 2010 OFSTED inspections 14% of secondary schools were judged outstanding, 36% good, 40% satisfactory and 9% inadequate
  • However there are concerns that the standard of education provided in satisfactory schools may be significantly lower than in outstanding and good schools.
  • Children from disadvantaged backgrounds are disproportionately likely to attend satisfactory schools and disproportionately unlikely to attend outstanding or good schools by comparison with children from affluent backgrounds.
  • Many socially disadvantaged pupils are therefore doubly disadvantaged: they may face cultural and material disadvantages deriving from their social background and they are also more likely to attend relatively ineffective schools.
  • Click here to access Professor Francis’ detailed research study
more information on labour government education policies
More Information On Labour Government Education Policies
  • It is possible, however, that Labour governments have also introduced policies likely to benefit working class students. Examples include:
  • The Sure Start Programme
  • Reduced Infant Class sizes
  • The Literacy and Numeracy Hours
  • The Education Action Zones programme
  • The Excellence in Cities programme
  • The Aim Higher Programme
  • The Education Maintenance Allowance
  • The Government claims also that the Specialised Schools and Academies programmes can have beneficial effects on working class educational achievement but critics dispute this
  • Some further details on these policies can be found elsewhere on the site.
  • Return to contents page if required
private education
Private Education
  • There is considerable variation in the quality of private schools just as there is in the quality of state schools.
  • However the most successful private schools help many students to gain especially good examination results.
  • This is partly because students at such schools must have the ability to pass difficult entrance examinations. Also they are likely to possess a range of social class advantages already discussed.
  • However these schools often have smaller classes, better teaching resources and on average better qualified teachers
  • Fees at these schools are high especially for boarding students and can be afforded only by upper and middle class parents [and possibly some working class parents ready to make great financial sacrifices.]
  • Is the existence of private education is fair? It may be if you believe that individuals have the right to high incomes received for hard work and to freedom to spend as they wish .Or, alternatively?
  • See also relevant teaching notes. Added 10/01/10
and finally
And Finally
  • I have tried in this presentation to summarise the extent of and possible explanations for social class differences in educational achievement.
  • I hope that you will find the presentation useful as a guide to more detailed study of textbook materials and, if you wish, of my teaching notes.
  • Also , once you have your detailed knowledge perhaps this presentation may be useful as a revision guide.
  • You may ,of course, choose to edit the original slides and to add additional slides of your own
  • Good Luck.