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How might Social class, Ethnicity and Gender affect someone’s Educational Attainment? Free essay! Download now

Home > A Level > Sociology > How might Social class, Ethnicity and Gender affect someone’s Educational Attainment?

How might Social class, Ethnicity and Gender affect someone’s Educational Attainment?

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How might Social class, Ethnicity and Gender affect someone’s Educational Attainment?


Equal opportunity in education is what many believe thus a high achievement in education should be based on merit and ability not social background, ethnicity or gender.(Haralambos et,al 1997). This work will attempt to discuss issues on why some groups do better than others. Achievement depends on the innate ability of a child according to psychologists. On the other hand sociologists argue that this only explains the performance of an individual child but not of a social groups (Harris 2003). This work will focus on the sociological explanation of factors affecting educational achievement. The first section will look at how social class affects educational achievement, then how ethnicity and gender affect the education achievement.

Social class:

Social class is one of the most important concepts that sociologists discuss and yet its definition is often illusive. Sociologist Karl Marx (1818-83) describes the system we live in as ‘capitalism’ this system is made up of two classes the people in charge and the labourers.. Marxists believe that social organizations such as the education system, the media, the legal system and religion are instruments of capitalism which make the ruling class feel in power. For example, the education system socialises the working class into believing that their education failure is due to lack of ability and effort when in reality the capitalist system deliberately fails them in order to continue to be factory workers. According to (Moore,, 2001) high performance in educational achievement is influenced by social class, sociologists considered this as a sole issue.
(Lawson,, 2000) points out that children from middle-class families got more places at grammar schools as a result of 11+ tests, this clearly shows that the tests provided were in favour of those who can afford for the private coaching. (moore,, 2001) Agrees with this by terming it ‘material deprivation’; stating that people with ‘less money’ are unable to make the most of there educational opportunities. And also lack of space at home for doing there work acts as a hindrance to making good progress, after all if one can not revise or do there home work how are they expected to retain what they’ve learnt.
Further more the education system is geared towards middle-class people, the majority of them being white. For example if we looked at how some of the questions that are posed in the 11+ tests, students are asked to ‘unscramble an anagram’ such as ‘zomrat’ to form the name of a famous composer (Mozart). These kinds of anagrams will be much easier to unscramble for a children who have been exposed to anagrams and classical composers. Many working-class and ethnic minority pupils may feel under valued and demotivated by an educational system that does not recognise their qualities, which are based on their class and ethnic culture. (Haralambos, et,al 1997) suggest that according empirical evidence the higher your social class i.e. the class into which you were born, the greater your chance of achieving high educational qualifications. See appendix diagram one.

Primary socialisation plays major role in the socialisation process, this is a foundation that may last through a person’s life. Sociologists and psychologists suggest that there is a significant difference in how middle class children are brought up compared to the working class. For example; middle class parents expect their children to excel in various areas ‘ranging from childhood games to table manners’ (Haralambos et,al 1997). Study by (J.W.B. Douglas 1971) shows that middle class parents view education differently to working class parents. They middle class place a great value on education as compared to the working class.
Douglas therefore states that the most important factor for educational attainment is down to the interest of the parents’ in their children’s education. Given these conditions, he states that middle class children have a decided advantage over working class children.

In the ONS report population trends examined the data of men and women of all social classes in England and Wales from childhood into their 30s. It found that among men aged 23-26 living in a two-parent family ( professional and managerial) in 1981, 43% with a parent of the highest social classes achieved a higher educational achievement.
And of those with a parent from the two lowest classes( semi-skilled and unskilled), only 14% achieved the same level of education.( on line bbc)

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