Social Class Differences in Education Essay

The claim that social class differences in education through school factors is supported by the interactionists such as George H. Mead. They believe that labelling theory encourages the educational achievement in different social classes. The labelling theory is when the teacher identifies major characteristics of a student. Research shows that teachers are more likely to label middle class children as ‘bright and well behaved’ but working class children as ‘naughty and disruptive’.

Following the label being attached on the child is self fulfilling prophecy, this is when the child will respond and act according to the label being placed on them, so a middle class student will act well behaved and complete the work that is set whereas the working class student will disrupt and not complete the work set and therefore not do well in exams.

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This shows that labelling working and middle class students affects the educational achievements because of their social class. However George H. Mead can be criticised by material/cultural deprivation.

Material deprivation is when the child doesn’t have the right equipment for school e. g. books, and cultural deprivation is when the children haven’t been given the correct norms and values for attitudes to education. This shows that it is not only school factors that affect the differences in education achievement but it is also home factors. Marxists such as Willis would argue that counter school subcultures are the reason why different social class are achieving and underachieving.

He claims that working class boys reject the whole idea of school and see school as a place of laughs and a matter of amusement because they do not have the correct norms and values, the see schools as boring so the disrupt lessons and breaking school rules. This behaviour will lead to low grades and therefore low pay jobs in the future. This shows that difference in social class results to different educational achievement.

It can be argued that the working class children do not think about the uture also known as cultural capital, working class children only see how they should enjoy themselves in the present time and not what the rewards of education will be later on in life, this could be due to the rise in lone parent mothers and boys do not see a role model father and therefore do not value education, this shows that it is not only school factors that affect the educational achievement but it is home factors as well.

Gillborn and Youdell argued that examination sets are split into two tiers, foundation and higher. Pupils that are entered for the foundation paper can not achieve higher than a C, pupils who are entered in for the higher paper are able to achieve A*. middle class students are more likely to be entered in the higher paper and working class are placed in the foundation. This shows that educational achievement is because of school factors and that working class pupils are not given a fair opportunity to education.

However Sugarman would argue that educational achievement is not only because of school factors it is also home factors this could be due to class subcultures. He describes working class pupils as fatalistic and that they accept their position rather than trying to improve this. Pupils are not given the motivation for parents to try and improve. Evidence shows that there are may reasons why difference in social class leads to different educational achievements so therefore evidence remains inconclusive.

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