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Outline and assess sociological explanations of social class inequalities in educational attainment

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Outline and assess sociological explanations of social class inequalities in educational attainment Until the late twentieth century, most people's identities and interests were part and parcel of the type of work they did and the work based communities they lived in. Virtually all aspects of their lives including gender roles, family life, political views and leisure were a product of their working class identity. The education system is one of the most influential institutions in society. It takes individuals from the age of 4 or 5, for six or so hours a day, over a period of at least eleven years. It bombards them with a vast amount of knowledge, attitudes and skills. These are acquired through formal lessons or informally by what is known as the Hidden Curriculum. In general, the higher a person's social class of origin (the class they were born into) the higher their educational qualifications; this has been shown time and time again over the past 50 years by sociological research and government statistics. It was revealed that in 1989, children born into families of professional careers obtained five or more GCSE's at nearly 50% whereas pupils born into families with unskilled manual jobs were only at 12% obtaining five or more GCSE's. ...read more.


Many working class and ethnic groups may feel undervalued and demotivated by an education system that does not conform to their interests and qualities. Much research into language has identified a lot of difference between classes by their spoken and writing skills, which disadvantage working class pupils. The middle class pupil succeeds not by more intelligence but by understanding the language communications better. This is a particular problem to those from a ethnic minority and may not be able to speak good English or have more than one language spoken in their families. The idea of cultural capital is used by Marxists to explain cultural influences on educational success. Bordieu suggested that middle class culture is as valuable in educational terms as material wealth. Schools are middle class institutions run by the middle class. The forms of knowledge, values, ways of interacting and communicating ideas that middle class children possess are developed further and rewarded by the educational system. Working class and ethnic minority groups may not value this system and so do not have the same chance to succeed. ...read more.


In my conclusion it is still diverse on why working class pupils achieve far less than there middle class counterparts but it is clear that material and cultural deprivation plays a major part on a pupil's success. For example, if a middle class child comes home after school and announces 'I did badly in my maths test' then there a number of ways a middle class parent would respond, either by saying, we'll buy you a revision guide, we'll complain to the head teacher; he's a personal friend, lets go through the questions; I was good at maths or we'll hire a personal tutor. All these response are easily available to a middle class pupil but not to a working class pupil as economic and social issues will block this response. Governments have addressed these issues on many attempts, to narrow the gap between working and middle class achievement, with some success. Government initiatives such as Sure Start programme, aims to help a child from birth to target for success by helping with social and economical problems for working class families. However, there still exists a gap between class success so maybe there are different issues to compare such as gender, how pupils respond to education or the educational system itself. ...read more.

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