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Critically Examine The Explanations Offered For The Fact That Working Class Students Are Relative Failures In The Education System

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CRITICALLY EXAMINE THE EXPLANATIONS OFFERED FOR THE FACT THAT WORKING CLASS STUDENTS ARE RELATIVE FAILURES IN THE EDUCATION SYSTEM The fact that working class students are relative failures in the education system is a fact because there is statistical evidence to prove it. In an article by Ivan Reid "Education and inequality" (November 1996), Figure 1 shows the 'percentage of persons with higher or no educational qualifications by social class, Great Britain, 1992'. The graph clearly shows that as the social class changes from 'professional workers' to 'unskilled manual workers', the percentage of people with no qualifications increases sharply as the percentage of those with higher education decreases dramatically. Whereas 78% of people in class 1 have higher education, almost the same percentage - 74% - of class 6 have no education. These statistics are an almost direct translation of the fact. This essay is based on educational underachievement in education. I intend to discuss these reasons chronologically, that is in the order the ideas became the talk of sociologists. The first explanation that was offered for differential educational achievement in the late 1960s/early 70s was that intelligence is inherited and measurable. This is a view put forward by psychologists known as 'hereditarians'. They focus on children with parents of high occupational status, and claim that the children also eventually gain the same status, as they inherit a high level of intelligence. ...read more.


Working class students are less likely to continue to higher education because their parents simply cannot afford tuition fees and the extra necessities of university. All these negative aspects of material deprivation are why many sociologists argue that material factors are why working class students are relative failures in the education system. However, as with inheritance and heredity, and cultural deprivation, material factors have also been criticised. Those who do not believe in material deprivation focus more on 'in school factors' and how these affect performance. They argue it is more important to look at how the school can provide materialistically, but overriding this, culturally. For example, they look at the dominant culture and value system of teachers. In school, teachers have authority and students of working class, in particular, feel intimidated and do not want to do well. This often results in a case of teacher versus student values debate. Where the teacher may encourage the benefits of education, the student may feel that the teacher's authority and 'nagging' is discouraging. There are many other in school factors that sociologists have put forward, which became the next explanation - interpretivist arguments. The interpretivist explanation for working class underachievement focuses on in school factors. They believe there are many things that happen inside school which prevent working class students performing as well as middle class students. ...read more.


The sociologists who argue that material deprivation at home is the cause for working class underachievement have a strong argument. They claim that working class parents are unable to afford the materialistic requirements of school and that this forces their children to fall behind and perform badly. Though this is a very valid argument, it is important to look at other factors as well as materialistic factors at home. For example, material and cultural factors at school are equally important, and should all be taken into consideration. The interpretivist argument focused on in school factors and how these affected the performance of students. The sociologists looked at things such as anti-school subcultures and teacher labelling and streaming. Like the sociologists who agree with material factors, interpretivists fail to look at other factors. They see in school factors as the sole reason for working class underachievement, which is not correct. Though it is also a valid argument like material deprivation, it should not be forgotten that the home background of a student is equally important to look at as well as the state of the school. I think that inheritance and heredity do not cause working class underachievement, but that a combination of cultural and material factors both at home and at school cause working class students to be relative failures in the education system. Where each individual theory counts out the others as valid reasons, I think this is wrong and that all count equally towards working class underachievement. 2430 words ...read more.

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