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.However narrowing this gap not been completed but increasing the numbers gaining five or more GCSE’s has occurred. In 2000, the percentage of pupils from professional backgrounds gained an increase to 69% gaining five or more GCSE’s and pupils from unskilled manual jobs increased from 12% to 30%; these increases are still overshadowed by the huge gap created between classes and I will look onto how this gap may of occurred. Certain groups have less money than others and so are not able to make the most of their educational opportunities.This may not have the time and space at home to do schoolwork; they may not be able to raise money for educational trips; and they may not have access to educational materials such as books, computers and the internet. They may experience ill health, have to work part time to support their studies, or have to care for young siblings.
Governments have attempted to reduce the material disadvantages faced by working class pupils through positive discrimination. This takes the form of programmes of compensatory education, which plough more resources into poorer areas.This conservative government in the 1990’s allocated up to 25 per cent more money to local authorities in poor areas; and the introduction of educational action zones by the Labour government in the late 1990’s was also an attempt to raise standards by compensating for deprivation.
Mainly the middle class, many of whom are white, controls the education system. Those who share these characteristics may well be viewed more positively and be more likely to succeed in the tests and exams created to access their abilities.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.
Ball et al. showed how middle class parents are able to use their cultural capital to play the system so as to ensure that their children are accepted into the schools of their choice. Their strategies could include attempting to impress the head teacher on an open day, and knowing how to amount an appeal if their child is unsuccessful in their application to a particular school.Interactionists explain differences in educational attainment by the labelling theory, meaning they look at in depth issues within schools ad in particular teacher-pupil relationships. The labelling theory suggests that teachers judge pupils not by their success but by the there class values, gender and ethnicity, such as attitude, appearance and behaviour.
Becker showed how teachers perceive the ideal pupil, as been those who conform to middle class values.Some sociologists argue that what is taught in schools, is a disadvantage to working class pupils and ethnic minorities. Working class experience is invisible within a school curriculum. For example, the subject History usually involves teachings of Kings, Queens and politicians rather than the ordinary working class. Another situation arose where it is believed that different language codes could cause problems for working class pupils within school. Berstein believes that there are two different codes: the elaborated and restricted code.It is believed that the restricted code is spoken by teachers within school, which is a more formal way of speaking, used by the middle classes that is found hard for working class pupils to relate to; while working class pupils speak the elaborated code.
This type of language involves more slang, shorter sentences and can only be understood by those who also speak this code. 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.