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Educational Achievement sample essay

Using material from Item A and elsewhere assess the view that social class differences in educational achievement are the result of school processes such as labelling.

Social class background has a powerful influence on a child’s chances of success in the educational system, a child is often labeled from the first year of school based on stereotyped assumptions about their class background, in the society there are significant social class, gender and ethnic inequalities of educational achievement. Differences in cultural and material circumstances operating outside the school environment and processes that take place between working class and middle class students within the schools themselves which involve negative and positive labeling. Some explanations of class differences in achievement focus on internal factors within school and the educational system. Interactionists have taken this approach further, they have examined the way in which labeling is linked to other processes within schools that result in class differences in achievement, these processes include the self-fulfilling prophecy, streaming and the polarization into anti and pro-school pupil subcultures as stated by Item A.

The self-fulfilling prophecy is a prediction that comes true simply by virtue of it having being made, which leads to a student’s underachievement. If teachers have low expectations of certain children and communicate these expectations in their interaction, these children may develop a negative self-concept. They may come to see themselves as failures and give up trying, thereby fulfilling their original prophecy and leads to one’s underachievement. Studies show that self-fulfilling prophecy is particularly less likely to occur when children are streamed. Streaming involves separating children into different ability groups or classes called ‘streams’. Each ability group is taught separately from the other for all subjects. Howard Becker carried out an study and found that teachers judged pupils according to how closely they fitted an image of the ‘ideal pupil, he found that teachers do not usually see working class children fit in that margin, they were often labelled as non-academic and ‘difficult’ they tend to see them as lacking ability and have low expectations of them.

As a result working class children are more likely to find themselves put in a lower stream. Children in lower streams ‘get the message’ that their teacher have written them of as no-hopers. Once a pupil is streamed it is much more difficult to move up into a higher stream. This creates a self-fulfilling prophecy in which a student lives up to their teachers’ low expectations. By contrast middle class students tend to benefit from streaming. They are likely to be based in higher streams, reflecting teachers’ view of them as the ideal pupil. As a result they develop a more positive self-concept, gain confidence, work harder and improve their grades. Item A mentions about David Gillborn and Deborah Youdell study that examined the role examined the role of educational policies in creating the context for such school processes to take place. Their study shows how schools use teachers’ notions of ability’ to decide which pupils have the potential to achieve five GCSE A*-C. They found that working class and black pupils are less likely to be perceived as having the potential, and are more likely to be placed in lover sets, and entered in lower GCSEs.

This denies them the knowledge and opportunity needed to gain good grades and so widens the class gap between working class and the middle class in achievement. Some people argue that the A*-C economy produces educational triage. However, Gillborn and Youdell put the labelling and streaming process into a wider context, they also link the triage system to the marketization policies within the educational system, such as league tables. As a result to the way that pupils have been labelled and streamed, students’ often appear into pupil subcultures. A number of studies have shown how pupil subcultures might play a part in creating class differences in achievement.

Colin Lacey’s study displays the concepts of differentiation and polarization to explain how pupil subcultures develop, He states that, differentiation is the process of teachers who categorise pupils according to how they perceive their ability attitude and behavior, differentiation is also a form of streaming, since it categorizes pupils into separate classes. Polarization, on the other hand is the process in which students respond by moving towards one of the two opposite poles’ or extremes. To conclude, there are many different situations that children/students have to undergo, may it have a positive or negative impact on them in the future. As different sociologists have come up with theories that prove these certain situations, I too believe that social class differences do have an impact on educational achievement, the reason being it could internally/emotionally cause damage that other people aren’t aware of. The way a teacher treats its pupil due to their different social class is very wrong, and it should never have to happen.

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