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Underachievement

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Introduction

Underachievement (Page 81) 1. Underachievement is the term used to describe the relative failure of an individual to reach their potential as dictated by observers. For example, a student who had been predicted by a teacher to obtain a C grade at GCSE and actually achieved an E grade may be said by that teacher to have underachieved. 4. Two possible explanations for the failure of students from ethnic minorities to achieve similar numbers of post-16 qualifications as whites despite greater staying-on rates, are: * Labelling. Students from ethnic minorities may experience labelling by teachers in schools. The teacher may unconsciously judge them and apply a negative label, for example "unruly", "disruptive" or "difficult to control". They would then reinforce this by acting upon it perhaps by regularly disciplining them in an attempt to regain the control that they perceive is threatened by the presence of the student, or by giving them detentions. The student may then react to their perceived mistreatment in such a way that is in accordance to the original label, thus creating a self fulfilling prophecy. This may cause underachievement and mean that the student achieves fewer qualifications than whites as they may become demoralised by this and refuse to work hard. Labelling may have a more significant effect after compulsory education as previous peer groups and subcultures that may have been used as coping mechanisms may have disintegrated due to the range of options available to students at this time. * Cultural deprivation. Students from ethnic minorities may experience cultural deprivation as schools act as institutions of white middle class norms and values and so there may be conflict between the culture that the student was socialised into and the requirements of the school and the education system as a whole. For example, research suggests that those who are of ethnic origin are more likely to use the restricted code of language, particularly those who's first language is not English, and this restricts their academic success as the school would give higher status to the middle classes who would tend to use the elaborated code. ...read more.

Middle

Ball et al [1994] conducted a study in order to determine the effect of recent governmental reforms of education that encouraged parental choice by publishing national league tables and therefore insisting that schools compete for students. Ball et al found that the publication of such league tables meant that schools were increasingly keen to attract academically able students and so devoted a larger amount of time to develop marketing strategies and produce prospectuses. Also, this had negative implications for students who were less able and particularly those with learning difficulties as they were viewed by the majority of schools as undesirable. The educational reforms also had significant effect upon parental choice in that middle class parents tended to exploit the educational market ensuring that their child went to the best school. They were able to do this because unlike working class parents they were more likely to possess the knowledge and contacts to manipulate the system as well as more cultural capital. Also, Ball et al found that many working class parents preferred for their child to go to a local school because of complex structural limitations as well as a great amount of value placed on community and the continuation of early friendships through the education system. This limits the educational success of working class children as schools in working class areas are most likely to lack funding due to an apparent lack of success in the national league tables. It also may limit their academic success later as a great deal of value being placed on these early friendships may lead to an over dependency on peer groups and so this may mean that students may value the status they gain from their peer group higher than that which they may achieve through school. Also, within a peer group where members are interdependent may mean that manipulation could occur more easily and so this could lead to the development of an anti-school subculture that would limit the achievement of those individuals involved. ...read more.

Conclusion

They highlight that the British education system despite outwardly displaying an image that it is free, tends to harbour a number of hidden costs that will help to determine success or failure. For example, the importance placed upon coursework at GCSE level to achieve the higher grades means that a computer with access to the internet is essential to meet those needs and for many of those from ethnic minorities and the working classes this is too much of a strain on a low income. Therefore, it can be argued that underachievement is made more likely for those who are on low incomes, namely those of ethnic or working class origin, as they are likely to experience material deprivation in that it is much more difficult for them to achieve an educational advantage, for example with revision guides, school trips and tutors than their white middle class counterparts. However, this view is limited by the fact that the government has attempted to reduce such material deprivation of particularly working class students through schemes such as Education Action Zones and positive discrimination in the form of compensatory education. Much more money has been recently given to local authorities in poorer areas in an attempt to raise standards. For example, the Conservative government in the 1990s allocated up to 25% more money to these areas. This therefore limits material deprivation as an explanation of the underachievement of these social groups. Although, the effectiveness of such schemes has been disputed by Item B, which was written approximately 9 years later than such action was taken, and states that "despite efforts from many sides, social class still dictates educational prospects", thus suggesting that attempts have so far been failures in their strive to raise standards of working class students. In conclusion, there remains much debate as to whether it is the home experience and culture of the student that increases the likelihood of underachievement or whether it is in fact the school that does this. ...read more.

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