Differences in the Educational Achievement of Different Social Groups

One example is that of gender within school; the level of success in a child’s education can vary greatly depending on how a boy or girl is treated throughout their school life compared to the other. For example, in the 1960’s/70’s, sociologists were concerned with the apparent underachievement of girls. It wasn’t simply due to a lack of ambition; back then it was the norm for women to marry, and it was almost socially unacceptable for women to reach higher education, thus girls may have felt pressured in lower education to have less of a strive towards educational success than boys did. Far fewer girls studied maths, physics and chemistry as boys as these were considered ‘male’ orientated subjects, in which mostly male teachers were tutors for the subjects.

If women did study such subjects they likely will have been ignored in the presence of so many male students. By the time boys were ready for university, girls were very likely to be considering family life, marriage and raising offspring.

Even if they wished to attent university, grade boundaries were inflated to make it far more difficult for them to attain entry than boys. However, by the 1990’s this state of female underachievemnt had gradually faded, and the concern then shifted towards that of boys’ achievement. The impression largely being given was that boys were failing in masses and girls were a way ahead of them.

Statistics commonly showed that girls had been achieving more successful results in GCSE grades A*-C, although the same statistics also tended to display that the rate of increase towards those same levels of success was greater in boys, indicating that eventually boys and girls would be more balanced in their levels of achievement. Also, presently there are more girls entering university than there are boys. This may indicate that females’ attitudes towards education, work and marriage have changed drastically. They are evidently more pro-education, career minded and prefer to delay marriage in order to persue their personal interests. It should be considered however that boys today have much less interest in academic paths than women and often prefer work routes that involve vocational qualities, such as industry like plumbimng or building. This is one example that could help indicate why girls more often attend university than boys do.

Sue Sharp compared the attitudes of working class girls in London in the early 70’s and 90’s. She found 90’s girls were more confident – perhaps due to media portrayal of women; more assertive – women’s rights had improved and support was much more widely available; more ambitious – perhaps due to role models within society; and were more committed to gender inequality resolve. By the 1990’s women were far more interested in supporting themselves; education was and still is seen as the main route towards a good job and financial independece has a large influence due to higher divorce rates, insufficient benefits and a stuggling economic situation globally. All of these reasons may indicate how school and education can influence the acheivement of either gender and how their personal interests can affect their success. Social class is another imporatnt element that can have a large impact upon a child’s educational achievement within school.

The Youth Cohort Study (2004) found 77% of children from a higher/proffesional background achieved 5 or more A*-C grades at GCSE, compared to only 33% of those from a routine/working class background. The Department of Education and Skills (2003) found that 79% of those participating in higher education were from a proffessional background whilst only 15% were from an unskilled background. Reasons for such statistics could include; Material Deprivation Theory (less income leading to the child having less access to materials which may aid their education), Cultural Deprivation Theory (differing attitudes towards education), Cultural Difference Theory (‘superior/inferior’ cultures – upper classes being better equipped for success in higher education that those of a lowe class) and Interactionist Theory (labelling and other types of treatment towards those of differing class).

In the 1960’s sociologists claimed that the low attauinment of working class pupils was due to the fact that they were deprived of material things such as money and the things money could buy. A child of higher class would generally have a higher family income. Being of a higher class van provide many advantages towards their education; such as having a comfotable, well heated home; spacious rooms with a work desk specifically for school work, a home PC, internet access, reference to revision books, extra home tuition and the possibility of private education. Those in poverty are often in more cramped, cold, draughty conditions which can lower a persons emotional state thus affecting their capacity to concentrate and motivate their study. A shortage of money can also mean that they are likely to have part time jobs and leave school at the minimum leaving age to help provide for their family.

Poverty can also increase the risk of illness due to increased stress or due to less sanitary living conditions,which in turn can lead to absence from school, tiredness and irritability which can greatly affect a person’s capacity to learn. Traditionally, many working class pupils leave school at the minimum leaving age as parents can no longer support them financially, however there have been some recent government policies and support structures in place to aid people in such a position by way of hardship funds like grants and Educational Maintanence Alloweance (EMA). However recent rises in tuition fees for university has prevented many working class students from progression into hoigher education.

Douglas (1964) conducted a large scale study of british children called ‘The Home and School’. He claimed that middle class children recieved more attention and encouragement from their parents in their early years which led to higher attainment in their later years. Based on 5000 questionnaires, Douglas concluded that the degree of parents interest in their children’s education was the most important factor affecting attainment. Middle class parent s are also more likely to visit their child’s school and also encourage their child to stay beyond the minimum leaving age, showing a good level of support towards their education.

Sugarman (1970) supports the material deprevation theory. He claims that there is a difference in social class subcultures; that working class subculture is ‘fatalistic’ – that of acceptance instead of improvement, and that it is present-time-orientated; living for the moment rather than planning for the future. This indicates that they would be more concerned with immediate gratification – taking pleasures now rather than making sacrifices in order to improve the future.