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Where Should We Look to Find the Causes of Educational Inequalities Essay

In this essay, I will be attempting to explain where I believe the causes of educational inequality lie. I will be focusing on 3 of the reasons that I believe there are such deep rooted inequalities in the education system. I believe that gender, ethnicity and class have the biggest impact on inequality in education. These are the issues which I will be discussing. The statistics are daunting, as Asthana, A (2010) states: boys are falling behind girls in 11 out of 13 learning categories by the age of five and Caribbean pupils are three times more likely to be excluded than any other ethnic group.

I have chosen to focus on gender, ethnicity and social class in my essay, though these are by no means the only problems within the education system. I will start by discussing gender and educational inequality. Gender inequalities in education – The impact on child attainment Women have always been allowed formal education, though formal education for all children has only been an ideal since about the mid-19th century. There were always a large proportion of people of both sexes who could not read or write, and many for whom formal education never went beyond basic reading and writing and simple arithmetic.

Practical skills were more important for most people. Girls in ancient Greece and Rome for example, were educated, it was normal for women to be able to read and write, though most would not have had the same degree of education as boys. For girls, learning the practical skills to run a household would have been the most important part of their education. But some women did manage to make their mark as writers; Sappho’s poetry was admired more than any other poet in ancient Greece except for Homer.

Girls were often educated at home, though in medieval times for instance there were schools that educated children of both sexes. And upper-class girls sometimes went as boarders to nunneries. Among the upper classes it was commonplace for girls to be more literate than boys, because reading and writing were usually regarded as effeminate pursuits, a boy’s proper occupation was warfare. Grammar schools were normally only for boys, and in England, universities were open only to male students, though the proportion of boys who went there was tiny compared to the number who go today.

Education for girls was of a fairly low standard during the 17th and 18th centuries, but from the early 19th century in America, and the mid-19th century in the UK, it was increasingly the case that all children were expected to attend school. Although boys and girls went to the same schools, they were not in the same classes and certainly were not taught the same subjects. Girls learnt subjects such as embroidery, needlework, music and writing as it was thought more important for them to study ‘accomplishments’ rather than academic subjects.

Although a lot has changed regarding the differences between boys’ and girls’ education, there are still some issues that concerns us; the gender gap for example. The gender gap is the difference in attainment with boys and girls. In recent years, there has been a lot of worrying about the growing gap in attainment between boys and girls. By the age of 5, 53% of boys had reached the expected writing level compared with 72% of girls. They then underachieve at GCSE and not as many go on to university. Even once there, they are less likely to achieve a 2:1 or a first (Asthana, A 2010).

Some contribute boys’ lower attainment to the changing notions of masculinity and differing attitudes to schoolwork. As Renold, E (2001) stated, many boys learnt the hard way early in their school careers that studiousness and academic success conflict with conventional forms of hegemonic masculinity. Renold (2001) then goes on to argue that as a result of the contradictory masculinities produced by the school, the boys invented an array of strategies and techniques to avoid what were perceived as ‘non-masculine’/ or ‘feminine’ classroom behaviours and to disguise both their desire for and the achievement of, academic success.

As Connell (1996, cited in Renold, E 2001) claims, when he discusses ‘gender strategies for schools’, existing patterns of gender relation can only be altered or changed by paying close attention to the ‘dynamics of masculinity’, especially the means by which alternative masculinities are construed (peer support/ collectivity) and resisted (gender and sexualised bullying). Another issue is, of course the same sex school debate. I believe that Co-educational schools are better for children as it teaches them things that are not on the curriculum. It teaches kids maturity with members of the opposite sex.

We can logically conclude that members from a coeducational school are generally more understanding of their opposing sex than those who are in a single-sex school. This doesn’t apply to students who have no siblings or are in relationships. It applies to the vast majority of students with any form of schooling. A sibling only has one personality, a girlfriend or a boyfriend only possess one personality. One must be able to understand and cope with members with different personality types to be counted as mature. Also, in a co-ed school, pupils form more diverse relationships.

More diverse friendship types would supposedly lead to a bigger and better social life, which is important to have for school students as they progress in life. The logic behind this reasoning is that once you are in the working force, you must be able to deal with anyone that you work with, work for and assign work to. In the real world, we are not separated from the opposite sex so why are we separated in schools? Ethnicity and Inequality in education Ethnicity and inequality of education has always been, in my opinion, a delicate subject. There’s always the possibility of appearing racist or as though discriminating in some way.

Rob Meyers (1994) when talking of educational inequality states; “with the passing of slavery, equality of education was one of the rights formerly held back that was now for Black people to take advantage of. With this equal starting ground, social integration would be a realizable dream. Yet after over 120 years, equality of education had been denied to Black children, thus preventing them from the amount of financial success white children have in life after school. Through “benign neglect” and the goal of some to find a genetic link to race and intelligence, Black students have been railroaded into low end jobs and inescapable poverty.

As Bowles and Gintis have stated, the purpose of education is to preserve the existing class structure. Since the abolition of slavery, racist whites have used the educational system to keep their thrones and to keep blacks poor. Ideas of minority inferiority are spread, and the misinformed fall into the trap of believing that race determines intelligence, using skewed test data to help support their ideas. ” Although I’m sure Meyers work has some implications of truth, I don’t believe that this is all about racism and it certainly isn’t all about black children.

There are ethnic minorities from all over the globe who experience educational inequality and discrimination. For example, while some ethnicities like Caribbean boys receive negative discrimination I. e. teachers thinking that they won’t perform to as high a standard as the other children, thus creating a self-fulfilling prophecy, other ethnicities such as Chinese girls receive positive discrimination; teachers thinking that they will be able to perform naturally higher than other students for example, thus putting added stress and pressure on the students.

Though one could argue that the fact Asian girls excel is not due to positive discrimination but because their families, friends and societies value hard work, discipline and educational achievement. It is however, very important to maintain high expectations for all students, no matter the race, social background or ability. In the UK, there is evidence that points toward black Caribbean pupils being excessively moved into for lower tier maths and science exams at age 14.

Strand (in press, cited in Twining 2012) has shown that black Caribbean students are the only ethnic group to be regularly under represented, relative to white students in entry to higher maths and science test tiers. Furthermore, this under-representation is not a by-product of their lower prior attainment; nor of variances in gender, social class, and a wide range of contextual variables. Strand concludes it is possible that teachers’ conclusions of black Caribbean students’ academic possibility may be distorted by observations of their behaviour as more challenging than it actually is.

This may, in turn, lead to a inclination to miscalculate their academic capability (Twining 2012). While black Caribbean children (especially the males) have been consistently labelled as being the underachievers in secondary level education, research has shown that white working class males actually make up around half of the number of low achieving school leavers (Kingdom and Cassen, 2007; Cassen and Kingdom 2007, cited in Twining, 2012).

As Asthana (2010) convincingly states, “Once it was a story of black and white, in which racial discrimination was a major driving force. But in tomorrow’s report, the story of ethnicity is a complicated one – in which poor black boys underachieve, as do those from Irish Traveller families, but poor Chinese girls overachieve; Pakistani and Bangladeshi communities see different outcomes to Indian ones; and there is a growing group of mixed race children who in themselves have complex outcomes. Other issues students from other cultures face is the need to conform to British culture. I believe that the classroom would be a more efficient place to learn if students were allowed to incorporate knowledge from their cultures into it. Or perhaps teachers should be trained to understand other cultures and to try to teach students by referring to things they may have learnt in their communities.


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