Differential Educational Achievement
AS Sociology 2010/2011
Over the years, there has been a gradual improvement in educational attainment for all social classes. However, statistics show that the higher a person’s social class, the more likely they are to achieve a higher level of education. This means that it is still the case that middle class students get better results than working class students and are more likely to do A Levels and then go on to university. Statistics also show, however, that this situation has nothing to do with levels of intelligence (as measured by IQ tests).
One explanation put forward by Marxist sociologists is material deprivation. The higher a person’s social class, the higher their income is likely to be. This means that middle class parents are able to afford better housing with good heating, space for children to study and resources to help them, eg computers, books, school trips. Also, they are more likely to have a better diet, which will contribute to better health, so they seldom miss school through illness and are generally more able to concentrate on their studies. On the other hand, working class children may have to get part-time jobs to help the family out, meaning they have less time to spend on their homework and are more tired at school, making it harder to concentrate.
Another possible advantage that middle class parents may give their children is private education, which, if not better in terms of quality of teaching, definitely gives students more resources and status. The introduction of tuition fees and student loans instead of grants has also meant that less working class students feel able and willing to go on to higher education, for fear of ending up in too much debt.
There is, however, another explanation of the differential achievement of middle and working class children, which is much more controversial. This is referred to...