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In What Ways Do Social Class, Gender And Race Effect Educational Achievement

The evidence suggests that social class originsethnicity and gender continue to have an influence on how well people do in educationthese factors appear to be more important than innate ability in effecting educational achievement. (Browne, 1998, Page 317) In this essay the writer shall be considering the ways in which, and the extent that, social class, gender and race influences a persons progress and achievement in education. Turning now to class and looking at Bernsteins theory of cultural reproduction where he states that schools along with other social institutions are helping against social and economic inequalities.

Saying that schools influence the learning of values and that these values in turn effect the individuals ability to obtain secure employment. Bernstein believed that schools were necessary in preparation for the work place, in that schools work on a delayed gratification principle. Schools teach the quality of future work in the way uniform and punctuality regulations and the rules are applied by authority (Browne, 1998, Pg 336). Bernstein also stated that language played a large part in the schooling process.

Saying that some children may not be able to communicate with the middle class teachers, this in turn influences their educational achievement (Giddens, 2001). He said that teachers think working class pupils are lacking in ability because they dont understand the language used in the classroom. And that the language used by middle class children is better, hence the middle class children are more able than working class children.

He stated in Browne (1998) that middle class children are already tuned into the atmosphere of the school, and also said in Browne (1998) that for the working class child there is a culture clash, coming from an apparently less able background. Bernstein states that there are different types of language, and that children have difficulties depending which one they have been taught, middle class children use the elaborated code in the home and so are at an advantage when in school (Browne, 1998, Pg 335). He came up with a theory of two language codes, elaborated code and restricted code (Giddens, 2001, Pg 512).

Saying that those associated with using the restricted code were predominantly from working class backgrounds, and that those associated with using the elaborated code were predominantly from middle class backgrounds, Bernstein described the difference in codes by saying that the elaborated code was a style of speaking in which the meanings of words can be individualised to suit the demands of particular situations (Giddens, 2001, Pg 513). And delicately described the restricted code as a way of using language containing many un-stated assumptions which speakers expect others to know (Giddens, 2001, Pg 513).

Bernsteins theory can be justified because our thinking is influenced by our language and our language in turn is influenced by the thought process used. However Douglas (P. Taylor et al, 2002, Pg 295) argues that the parents interpretation of the importance of the childs education relates to the childs educational achievement. Douglas believed that the relationship between the amount of interest the parents have in their son/daughters education reflected the childs ability and so Douglas measured interest by how often the parents visited the school.

If the parents attend the school a lot it showed an interest in education. In contrast other sociologists argue that Douglass theory is flawed due to the fact that some parents may find themselves otherwise committed at the workplace, it may be hard for a parent working night shifts to attend the childs school (P. Taylor et al, Pg 295). The progress made at school is a result of peoples perception of the child. The language used effects the child. Labelling in education is a good example of this and plays a large part in the childs educational achievement, it is also closely associated with class.

A label in educational terms could be clever or dumb. In P . Taylor et al (2002) it is stated that A label is a major identifying characteristic. If, for example, a pupil is labelled as bright, others will respond to her and interpret her actions in terms of this label. There is a tendency for a self-fulfilling prophecy to result. The pupil will act in terms of the label and see herself as bright (so fulfilling the prophecy others have made). The child responds to the language used towards it, saying the child is clever will urge the child to work well.

Rosenthal and Jacobson both did studies to prove this. They randomly selected a number of pupils and identified them as bright to the teachers. The notion behind this was that the teachers would act upon this label thus positively influencing the childs progress. Given a year for this to materialize Rosenthal and Jacobson returned to the establishment and found each of the randomly selected children had exceeded in their classes, although each child was neither specifically bright in comparison to the other pupils.

This study shows that labelling is important and that self fulfilling prophecy is real and explains to some extent why there are class differences in educational achievement (P . Taylor, et al 2002, Pg 299). Sociologists have questioned the IQ tests used to measure the childs abilities, and also question whether or not the children were in fact just exceptionally bright. Having looked at how class effects educational achievement the writer will now consider how gender has an effect on educational achievement.

Up to approximately the early nineties females were recognised to achieve higher grades up to GCSE level. It had been observed that females did not continue with education, eliminating the possibility of higher, non compulsory education. Now females out perform males at all levels, females achieve higher GCSE levels and are encouraged to further their education. Many females doing this often exceed in the academic felid. The feminist movement has been seen by some to have influenced females ambition to succeed in the educational field.

It has changed womens and girls perception thus raising the educational achievement of females. The movement has also highlighted to teachers the gender discrimination found in schools and educational establishments alike (Browne, 1998, Pg 321). There is a noticeable difference between males and females educational achievement. In the era of John Bowlby females were instructed to stay at home and the (male dominated) government urged women of the family to become more or less house bound. Males were expected to be in the top jobs, with women as their secretaries.

Unfortunately at present regardless of the various equal opportunities laws set in pace this is still often the case. An increasing worry is that today gender still effects educational achievement, as statistics clearly show that boys underachieve. It is argued that teachers label boys as being disruptive and that boys are seen to gain social status by not complying with the schools system (Mac and Ghaill, Giddens, 2001, Pg 514). From teacher expectations and peer pressure sociologists argue that there are a range of reasons explaining why it is that boys underachieve.

Above is a few reasons how gender effects educational achievement. It is important to recognise that although boys will be boys some sociologists argue that it isnt primarily gender which causes this underachievement but also that class and race determine whether or not a male or female will achieve admirable grades at school. There has been a great deal or research into the educational achievement of ethnic minorities, the governments 1985 Swann report concluded that there were large differences in the educational achievement of children from different ethnic backgrounds.

At the bottom of the scale are children from West Indian families, Asian children produced the same results as white children, despite the obvious economic problems (P. Taylor et al, 2002, Pg 308). It was concluded in Browne (1998) that those of Pakistani, Bangladeshi and particularly Afro-Caribbean homes fall behind or have a tendency to underachieve and find themselves at the lowest rung of the educational ladder by the time they reach GCSE level.

Male Afro-Caribbeans are over-representedin special schools for those with learning difficultiesAfro-Caribbean pupils are between three and six times more likely to be permanently excluded from schools than whites of the same sexthey are more likely then other groups to leave school with out any qualifications. (Browne, 1998, Pg 318) According to Browne (1998) there are three main reasons why Pakistani, Bangladeshi and Afro-Caribbeans underachieve. The first is because they come from a poor economic background.

The prejudice found in teachers, some teachers expect Afro-Caribbeans to be trouble makers where as they expect Asians to display quite different behaviours. This could be due to the widely knowledgeable stereotype associated with Asians. Another reason why race effects educational achievement is the ethnocentric curriculum present in the British schooling system. This is because school subjects do not, or did not recognise or value the cultures of different ethnic groups.

This contributed to the low self esteem of Afro-Caribbeans and leads to underachievement. It should also be noted that the concept of the English language used by ethnic people differs from those of English people. In conclusion this paper has demonstrated how social class, gender and race effects educational achievement more than ones innate ability. Frequently it can be seen that each of these factors contribute to educational achievement, although distinguishing which is the principle factor is hard to determine.

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