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Education and Social Mobility Essay

Historically, due to our post-colonial background, that of the plantation society, education was only afforded to the white, upper class individuals. In order to establish and reinforce a hierarchy of power and ownership, wealthy capitalists ensured first-rate education for their children, while actively excluding members of the lower classes from this luxury.

Due to the caste system, students or individuals are stratified, where individuals from non- traditional school have less opportunity for social mobility, solely due to fact that students or individuals from traditional schools are of such social class, that their opportunity is based on their ascribed characteristics, which influences them in a profound way. Nonetheless, it is my view that this is a fact, due to the differences in class and culture, students will have varied access to resources with regard to education, and therefore, there will be different opportunity for education and social mobility within our society.

Firstly, while conducting the research on this thesis, it was found that the functionalist theory was not applicable, as the functionalist view studies the ways in which education aids society, as such, this sociological perspective did not support any of my points being made within this research paper. However, this research proved that the main views are supported by the Marxist conflict theory, which studies the ways in which education manages the imbalance of power in our society.

Due to socioeconomic background of individuals, those from low-income backgrounds are less likely to graduate from high school, less likely to go to university and even if Comment [A1]: Very good they do graduate, they are less likely to complete university if they enrol. Consequently, the gap between children from the lower socioeconomic strata and those from the middle and upper strata tends to increase with the level of school.

This relates to social class; where the higher the social class, the more likely parents are to hold high expectations, and positively influence the child to attain a high degree of education. This suggests that schools contribute to educational inequality, where children who are deprived by their social background when they enter school become even more disadvantaged as they progress through school, and as such at a greater difficulty for social mobility. Comment [A2]: Good

This is supported by an article taken from the Jamaica Gleaner, by contributor Michael Waul, who agrees with this notion. Students from marginalised socio-economic backgrounds, giving rise to disparate educational experiences is greatly evident in the preparatory/primary and traditional/ non-traditional high-school divide. Where access to quality education remains largely determined by societal class, a fact evident not only in the differential resources available to schools but also the background of students entering better-resourced institutions.

Comment [A3]: What does a conflict perspective say about this issue? This helps to perpetuates historical societal divisions, that of our post-colonial plantation society, where rewarding those from higher social classes while placing those from lower classes at an increasing disadvantage. This results in low CXC pass rates, increasing number of high-school dropouts in regards to non-traditional high schools, therefore leading to a decrease in the number of students attending university for tertiary education.

Subsequently, with regard to primary and/or preparatory schools, a great majority of students are passing the GSAT examination; however with the majority of the passes, students are being placed into non-traditional high school, where only a minority of students are being placed in traditional high schools. This only proves to further the division between the upper class and the lower class, while other students are placed into non- traditional schools solely because of the environment in which they live.

Even though some students may excel in their examinations, due to where they reside, they are placed in schools that are close to their homes, and as a result their chance for social mobility diminishes, as they are not able to have access to resources Comment [A4]: Issue of screening and facilities, that are available at traditional schools, and as such greatly disadvantage from the start of their education, and as such there is social inequality. This is supported from an article from the Jamaican Gleaner, by Michael Waul, noting that access to tertiary education is a difficult option for the poor.

As such, poverty prevents economic freedom and choice, and so despite ones willingness, this circumvents many realities of their experience, where the poor is held in the vicious cycle of continuous poverty, and as such at a great disadvantage for social mobility for those students from non-traditional schools which are mostly individuals from the lower socioeconomic background. Another element which affects the social mobility of students from traditional school versus students from non-traditional schools is that of the neo-Marxist reproduction theory, which involves what is known as “tracking”.

This involves the assignment of students according to class and basic work roles. This grouping by ability, or tracking of students, has been common in non-traditional schools. In fact, as students progress through school, they tend to take classes that ensure they will remain in the same track, where they are at a disadvantage for social mobility. So instead of promoting democracy, social mobility and equality, schools reproduce the ideology of the dominant groups in society.

This is supported by theorist Pierre Bourdieu, where each individual occupies a position in a social space, by his or her habit, which include beliefs or mannerism and also by cultural capital, where belief and mannerism are in some cultural settings, however, not in some. This is evident between the cultures of traditional schools and non-traditional school. Similarly, another aspect which affects, and illustrates my notion of the inequality of traditional school versus non-traditional schools is referred to as the hidden curriculum.

This system includes values and beliefs that support the status quo, thus reinforcing the existing social hierarchy, which include the books we read and various classroom activities that we participate in. On the other hand, theorist and other individuals will disagree with my argument, and contest that students from non-traditional schools do have a great opportunity for social mobility. Others believe tracking systems does allow for some mobility, and the effects of tracking depend upon the way the tracking is organised according to Gamoran.

This view is supported by an article in the Jamaica Gleaner, by Micheal Waul where students in traditional schools, such as preparatory schools are not inherently more intelligent than the other students from non-traditional school. However, due to disparity in performance, what differentiates them is largely a matter of economics. This suggests that wealthier parents are better able to fund the private schooling of their children in institutions which are better equipped to meet the students’ learning needs.

Likewise, parents who lack financial support are more likely to enrol their children in the non-traditional schools, which is limited to government-provided resources. However, this is not sufficient in allowing student from non-traditional school to acquire the necessary resources needed to be best able to perform at their maximum capacity. Contrary to this perspective, there are the rare occasions that occur when students from non-traditional schools strive against all the odds, and actually excel in their examination.

Thus allowing them to be placed in traditional schools, which in turn provides them with the necessary resources needed to move upward on the social ladder. This is evident as I have read in the Jamaica Observer, that the top performing boy and girl in the GSAT examination in 2013, are from non-traditional schools, and as such are the rare cases. Another view, contrary to my belief, is from an article from the Jamaica Gleaner, by Robert Buddan, in which individuals from poorer or less-advantaged communities and households can achieve and while poverty hinders, as previously stated.

Also individuals from lower class society and single-parent families can achieve given good personal and institutional guidance. However, the students have to be dedicated and committed, and teachers who have confidence in each other can make up for the lack of financial support and other disadvantages which may arise. This is evident in the case of traditional schools such as St. Georges College and Kingston College. The founders of the institutions could have established the school ‘uptown’ instead of ‘downtown’, as other institutions such as Campion and Ardenne High School have done.

However, they built their school downtown, and as such the founders did the opposite in all respects. The schools were established downtown, and as such opportunities were offered to great numbers from all classes in order to make education affordable. However, contrary to the beliefs of the conflict theory, the interactionist theorists believe that students from non-traditional schools can achieve social mobility. This is possible through social interaction with peers. Due to the fact that not all upper class students are placed in traditional schools, there are the few that are placed non-traditional school.

This allows a mix of social class, and as such, some children will push themselves to achieve more, to that of the standards of the upper class. This outcomes allow students from traditional school to be able to interact with other students from upper class society, thus the student would be shaped in such a manner. This intern allows the student to gather and grasps the different cultures and values from that of the elites of society, on how to behave in our modern society, and thus becoming more affluent in relating

to individual from the upper class of society. This will allow them increased opportunity for social mobility, due the fact that student would interact with their peers from their school, allowing them the opportunity to different aspects of the social world, and thus have a different view from that of student from non-traditional school This is evident as students from a lower socioeconomic background, when placed in a traditional school, due to interaction with other students from that school, there attitude and values gradually tend to start changing.

Due to this interaction, these individual strive to be similar to those higher economic background, and as such are at a greater position for social mobility. Nonetheless, it is evident that students from non-traditional school have increasing opportunity for social mobility, as our society is gradually changing, where the need for skilled labourer are becoming more necessary. It is in non-traditional school, where the more technical skills are being offered such as mechanical engineering and technical drawing.

As such, these students from non-traditional schools are being offered more opportunities for social mobility, as the employment sector has become more diverse, and has changed from the past, where mostly teachers and government employees, had prominent positions for social mobility. However this has not bridged the gap in social classes in entering top level positions. In conclusion, with regards to my thesis statement, the most important sociological perspectives of this research are both the Conflict theory and Interactionist theory.

The Functionalist theory did not support the points being made in this research, as the functionalist believe that education is equal, where my belief completely contradict this view. After detailed reading and research I found that the gap between social mobility between students from traditional school versus non-traditional school have greatly decrease over the last 40 years, and now traditional school, does not necessarily ensure social mobility of it students.

However, there is still a great gap present, but it is gradually becoming closer. 12/15 While the functionalist theory does not support your point, it would have been good for you to mention some of their key issues and how education reinforces social norms and then you can then refute some claims. Very good attempt overall – very astute in your thinking and writing.

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