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Social factors effecting educational attainment Essay

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This essay will attempt to examine the extent to which home factors may affect social class differences in educational attainment, looking at factors such as culture, income and the nature of the curriculum with reference to sociological theories. The essay will consider these factors, mainly focusing on home factors, and attempt to conclude which if any factors have the largest impact on educational achievement.

The first part of this essay will look at the home factors and how they affect educational attainment, home factors essentially define our social class, aspects like income, space per person and effective money earned per year all amount to our class in society.

For the purpose of this essay we define class as “A set or category of things having some property or attribute in common and differentiated from others by kind, type, or quality” and in reference to how this is being used in this essay we have three classes in the UK, the upper class which has the highest net worth and will often contain a family legacy of money, the middleclass who are people with higher level jobs such as managerial positions in company’s and the working class which consists of people working manual, often unskilled jobs which results in the lowest net worth of the three.

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Highlighting the difference in terms of educational attainment when it comes to social class is important as it allows us to focus on the working class and what affects their children in school. The Youth Cohort Study found that in 1998 children who had parents working in a managerial or professional position on average would achieve a 69% rate of 5 or more GCSE’s at A*-C level compared to children with parents working unskilled manual jobs only achieving a 20% rate.

(Youth Cohort Study 2002, 2006, 2008). From this figure we can see how your class affects your level of educational attainment. This essay will now look at the home factors effecting social class and thus educational attainment. Feinstein conducted research into how educational attainment was based around parental attitude and support; this was often times measured by teacher’s assessments of how much interest the parents showed.

This would mean that working class children would receive less help , support and encouragement with their school work when compared to a middle class child, Feinstein argued this was a major factor in educational attainment and pointed out that working class people who are earning less in unskilled manual jobs may have to work more hours and because of the physical nature of the job may be more tired and thus not have the time or energy to attend which would give the teachers a negative perception of the parents.

Douglas, Gerwitz and Halsey all argued that home factors such as poor diet, lack of privacy and lack of school resources could all play a role in determining what social class a family would be classified as and thus how it would effect educational attainment. Douglas believed that a number of factors such as size of the family which would mean less space to work in, students health; which would be affected by the diet they could afford which would be poorer in working class family’s and the amount of support they could afford would all effect educational attainment.

These are all areas which will be worse off when comparing working class family’s to middle class family. Bourdieu’s cultural capital theory builds upon this idea of class effecting educational attainment and states that the education system is systematically based on the culture of the most dominant social class and thus values knowledge and ideology’s that middle class parents may enforce upon their kids and devalue the skill sets and values which a working class child might have.

Bourdieu argues that the major role of education is cultural reproduction of the dominant classes which would mean that the things that a working class child brings to the education system would not be of as much value as that of a middle class child and thus they are indirectly discriminated against in terms of how teachers see their skills. This could result in students preforming poorer simply because home factors determine their social class and thus their educational attainment.

We can see how home factors can radically change the educational attainment of a child when we look at Hymen’s theory that even when IQ is held constant throughout the class, the working class children will do worse than the middle class children. Hyman theorizes that this is down to the values and morals of the different classes and they would be dictated these classes by the home factors mentioned earlier so there is a strong argument that home factors drastically change the level of educational attainment that a child might get.

When comparing one sphere of influence to another, for example out and in school factors to home factors we can see that they all influence students educational attainment based on class. When looking at in school factors Hallum theorized that the curriculum was written by middle class people for middle class people, this obviously leaves the working class people, who have different values and morals, at a disadvantage.

When the curriculum favors a certain skill set both in terms of values, morals and general ideology’s the group which don’t have this set of skills are going to lag behind and not be valued as much, as an example this could result in a working class child who performs academically in a set which can only achieve a max grade of D at GCSE when the child is perfectly capable of attaining a B+ grade.

In this example we would see the middle class child be kept in a higher set because of the values and morals in place and the lack of recognition of the strengths of the working class child. Another in school factor would be speech codes. Bernstein thought that different classes had different modes of speaking which were valued differently in a middle class school environment. Bernstein said that working class children were limited to restricted speech codes which were characterized by shorthand speech, grammatically simple structure, meaning often conveyed by gesture and slang.

This is in stark comparison to middle class children who have command over both elaborate and restricted speech codes which gives me a massive advantage as they can use the restricted speech code when necessary but also use the elaborate in situations such as exams or writing practices which are looking for the elaborate speech code usage. To conclude we can see that home factors affect social class massively and thus affect educational attainment and success massively as well.

Theory’s such as cultural deprivation, parental attitude and speech codes have critics but they have elements of truth which highlights how a middle class curriculum and often times middle class teachers favor middle class students and their moral and value systems they have in place, this can lead to working class children who have to deal with a home environment which isn’t as well suited to learning and education also having to cope with being given less opportunity’s despite a similar level of IQ which can result in a lower level of educational attainment.

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