How does Social Class Affect Educational Attainment

There is a very close relationship between social class and educational performance, this has been the case throughout the 20th century regardless of how the education system has been organised.

Pupils from professional backgrounds are significantly more likely to enter higher education than those from unskilled backgrounds.

Pupils from middle class are more likely to study for A levels(If your American A levels are qualifications that students study for between ages of 16-18 in college) Where as working class students are more likely to study vocational subjects this is because some working class parents place less emphasis on education as a means to get on in life. The undervaluing of education by adults combined with more limited career aspiration results in working class pupils viewing schooling as merely a prelude to getting a manual job.

Moreover, pupils from disadvantage backgrounds are more likely to leave school at 16, some sociologists believe that this is because working class culture is fatalistic- parents passed on the idea that their lower status was relatively fixed. the impact of this was working class children don’t see much point in investing time and effort into something which will have no effect on their lives, working class children were also more likely to start school unable to read as working class parents seem to put less emphasis on education and the importance of it this could also be the reason why pupils from unskilled backgrounds on average achieve lower scores IN EXAMS and are more likely to be put into lower streams or bands.

A sociologist called Bourdieu stated that: Middle class are at an advantage because they have right kind of cultural capital- the right language, skills, knowledge and attitudes. So basically the more cultural capital you have, the more successful you’ll be in education- working class don’t have access to cultural capital so they have less chance of becoming successful in education.

Middle class families pass on culture and expectations from parents to children this is called cultural reproduction, and due to this because the parents from a middle class family have high expectations this pushes their children to work hard at school and to carry on onto further education as they emphasise that you need education in order to succeed.

There are other factors to do with social class that affect educational attainment such as material deprivation.

Some working class families are material deprived they have poor housing, often in temporary accommodation or move a lot which can lead to a poorer educational experience.

Some working class families struggle a lot financially and this can lead their children to have a poor diet because they haven’t got enough money to buy necessary nutrition this can weaken the immune system which results in a lower stamina.

Also, lack of income means children from poor families loses out on educational visits, access to internet, fewer books etc.

Other factors of how social class affect educational attainment are labelling.

Teachers tend to evaluate pupils in terms of an ideal student by looking at personal factors: speech, appearance and social class. Teachers have an image of the ideal pupil who is courteous, hard working and academically able.

Teachers tend to judge against this image of an ideal pupil and middle class kids are far more likely to fit this model of a pupil than a working class pupil.

Negative labelling can mean students get put into lower streams or bands.

Teachers seem to have higher expectations of middle class students than working class students so they are taught in different ways.

Keddie a sociologist found that Teachers allowed pupils in top streams to access to higher levels of knowledge. Working class students didn’t get access to this knowledge.

Because of negative labelling pupils formed subcultures in respond to their experience of labelling in a collective manner. A subculture is a set of values, attitudes and behaviours employed by a group.

Generally this is often a counter school culture such as that found by Willis in his study learning to labour Willis found that the lads- group of working class boys developed behaviours to help them deal with school situation. E.g. having a laugh was important to them in order to handle the monotony of school.

The examples I have used don’t apply to all working class parents, it’s just a generalisation.

I know a lot of people from working class backgrounds and I know several people who have parents who have pushed their children to do well at school and this determination their parents showed for their children to do well has resulted in achieving a great degree.

So in conclusion there are many factors of social class that affect educational attainment, the basis of why most working class children don’t go onto further education is because their parents place less emphasise onto education from the start however some working class parents do see the importance of education and have the same expectations of their children as most middle class parents.