Is working class underachievement better explained by factors inside or outside the school?
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IS WORKING CLASS UNDERACHIEVEMENT BETTER EXPLAINED BY FACTORS INSIDE OR OUTSIDE THE SCHOOL? The extent of working class underachievement in the British Educational System has been a very important subject for discussion in sociology research. Working class children underachieve considerably compared to the achievement attained by a middle class child at every level of education including SAT's, GCSE's, A-levels and degrees. Early research focused on reasons outside the school such as a child's background, neighbourhood and class values. The results of the research developed the idea that the working classes were maybe culturally deprived. In the 1960's and 1970's opinions changed and it suggested that factors within the school such as streaming and setting, labelling and the hidden curriculum was to blame for a child's underachievement. In the last ten years sociologists have returned to the idea that external factors are the reason for differential attainment. Barry Sugarman argues that one of the reasons for underachievement in a working class child's education is the child's attitude, which is brought into the school and is already an established part of the working class subculture. Therefore, they are already socialised in terms of this, he feels that this attributes to their low level of achievement. Herbert H Hyman (1960's) studied the "value system" of the working classes. He argues that this system creates a self-imposed barrier to an improved position. He felt that the working classes placed a lower value on achieving a higher occupational status, they may often follow by example such as following in their father's footsteps or heading towards a trade rather than taking a risk in further education in order to apply for a higher status job.
This will affect the attitude of both the teacher and the pupil in the way that they interact with each other. Rosenthal and Jacobson have illustrated that a teachers perception of a pupil's ability will strongly affect that pupil's progress. Howard Becker was one of the first to study the reasons why teachers classify pupils in a certain way. He interviewed sixty Chicago teachers and found that they all shared the same picture of an "ideal" pupil. This pupil was to be highly motivated, intelligent and well behaved. This criteria fits a middle class pupil. As a result the working class pupil was labelled unlikely to succeed. This interpretive approach was seen as narrow-minded, it was thought that a wider society should have been analysed. If social structure and social action had been studied, a comparison of the two could have been used. Basil Bernstein states that a working class pupil could be placed at a distinct disadvantage because the teacher is more likely to view a middle class pupil's ability as higher. For the middle class pupil there is a progressive development towards verbalising and making explicit, subjective content, whilst this is not the case for the working class pupil. This is not necessarily the result of a deficiency of intelligence but comes from a consequence of the social relationship acting through the linguistic medium. This is enhanced due to many working class children only being able to use the "restricted" code, which makes it harder to explain themselves clearly. Therefore, speech is inhibited and vague of expression and repetition is promoted.
Dawn Garget - Tutor Group 4.1 1/ Emile Durkheim strongly believes that the school is an essential part of a child's life as it provides a function that is not provided by the family or peer groups. Durkheim states that he believes school rules should be strictly obeyed as this helps to reinforce self-discipline, self-control and restraint. He feels that the educational system teaches individual specific skills to prepare for the future. David Hargreaves took on board Durkheim's views but he criticises today's modern comprehensive schools. He feels that the working class pupil does not benefit from this system of education, as there is too much emphasis placed on individual success in competitive examinations. In some cases this will cause rebellion, which may lead to pupils forming sub-cultures of their own which will reject the values of the school. 2/ Talcott Parsons argues that the school takes over as the focal socialising agency after primary socialisation within the family. He feels that within the home a child is not regarded as an individual but as "their" child. Within a family a child's status is fixed at birth but within the school conduct is assessed against school regulations, regardless of ascribed characteristics such as sex, race or family background. The educational system places individuals in the same situation so therefore allowing them to compete on equal terms in examinations. He feels the school is seen as the major mechanism for role allocation. Durkheim and Parsons both fail to give consideration to society as a whole. They take on board the values of a ruling minority. 3/ Both Durkheim and Hargreaves strongly criticise education based on individual competition, even though other functionalists see this as a vital aspect in modern education. 1
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