Social classes and education - Assignment Example

There are considered to be three social classes: upper class, middle class and working class. Many scientists believe that social class differences influence educational achievement. The Bourdieu’s theory of class distinction is one of the improvements of this idea. It was described in his book “La Distinction” and translated into English by Richard Nice in 1984. Bourdieu claims that aesthetic choices both create class-based social groups or “class fractions”, and actively distance people from one class to another.

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He argues that dominant groups have more affluent cultural capital, which is personified in schools. So, students with such cultural capital use it to increase educational resources in the form of qualifications. Whereas, students from the lower classes are consequently disadvantaged and they have to increase their cultural capital to get a good job. So, all advantages and disadvantages below will show how social class influence educational achievement.

Cultural Deprivation

Cultural deprivation is a popular theme to argue between scientists. It only can be decided that somebody “culturally deprived” by having a clear idea of what is normal in society. Generally, it contains a lack of access to different cultural aspects and social values. This suggests that children of the middle and work class are deprived of the attitudes, skills and values which children from the upper class have. One of the major factors of cultural deprivation is speech patterns. This idea derives from the sociologist Basil Bernstein.

He argued that the way people communicate the linguistic code they use, reflect their position in society and control their access to power, privilege and knowledge. Bernstein divided middle-class speech patterns and working class. He revealed two kinds of them: 1) Restricted code tends to contain short grammatically simple sentences with a lack of formal vocabulary. It is also full of different gestures and verbal contact. This speech pattern is usually ordinary between people who have many belongings in common, shared knowledge and close relationships such as friends and family.

2) Elaborated code is more grammatically precise, has a correct structure of sentences, wide and formal vocabulary and more complicated language. It is also universalistic and can be understood by everybody.

All these differences between habits of conversation were confirmed by Bernstein’s experiment. He chose two five year olds boys. One was from work class and another from middle class background. They were shown four pictures. Bernstein asked them to tell a story of what they were seeing. The boy from the middle class background was talking easily and quickly, using elaborated code. While a child from the working class was describing pictures slowly, without any details and using simple sentences and gestures. According to the presented results it can be concluded that the speech patterns of the boy from the working class could reduce his educational achievements. Whereas the boy from the middle class it would be easier to accomplish. So, speech patterns are one of the differences between social classes which influence educational achievements.

Material Deprivation

Material deprivation refers to lack of financial issues and inability to afford high-quality materials. Usually it concerns families from middle and working class. The evidence of longitudinal research suggests that working class underachievement is linked to poverty and social exclusion. Living in scarcity often affects children and make them leave school earlier to earn money. Due to part-time jobs, children have less time to study and their achievements can be reduced.

One more factor that can influence educational achievements is that their parents cannot afford study materials for their kids. Also according to a report by Babb (2004), children who are most likely to be low educational achievers in England are from a low socio-economic background. Middle class parents also have the choice of moving house to the catchment area of a school they have chosen for their children – a good school with high examination results. (John Barrey, 2012)


The termination “Racism” has two definitions:

1) “The belief that race accounts for differences in human character or ability and that a particular race is superior to others.”

2) “Discrimination or prejudice based on race.”

Both of them refer to encroach on the person’s rights. This also includes negative stereotypes that members of a certain group are aggressive or appalling. Usually it causes by non-acceptance of cultural differences. One Britain study revealed that in the majority of school white people were more likely to be put in GCSEs than Asian or African offspring. While children from the work background were put to the lower sets. David Gillborn’s research (1990) proves it. He spent two years studying comprehensive school and interviewing teachers as well as students. Gillborn revealed that the majority of teachers perceived students differently. For instance, African-Carribean students are always evaluated worse than others. Consequently, they know teachers’ attitude towards them in advance and achieve not as well as other pupils. They were often aggressive and out of control.

“Boys are often in the lower sets due to the behavior, not because of knowledge and it is unfair”,-telling Mac an Ghail. One more substantial problem which children facing are understated grades. Rest upon Wright (1996) the settings are not based only on exam results. In the majority of cases offspring are distributed to settings and streaming by their nationality and labeling. As a result, even if an African-Caribbean child has good grades he will not be placed to the setting of A-level.

There is a good example of racism. Wright made an observation of a nursery class of four-year-olds. There were English children and one, Marcus, African-Caribbean. Teacher suggested children to sing “An Autumn song” before home time. Thus she was asking them the line of the song and they had to pronounce it. The rule was not to shout and always keep your hand up. Therefore, Marcus always knew the next line and would always raise his hand. However, he was always ignored by the teacher. As it can be seen, children are treated unfairly from a young age. As a result, children who encounter racism are often less likely to be placed in honor classes, even when justified by test scores.

Social and Cultural capital

The meaning of cultural capital is made up of any skills or knowledge a person has which could help him get a high position in society. Therefore, children from middle class and working class will study worse than children from the upper class. It would happen due to a lack of cultural capital and a shortage of necessary skills. The concept of cultural capital was developed by Pierre Bourdieu in the 1960s. Usually it was considered to be taught by parents to their children. It is significant for a child’s educational and social success. In addition, Bourdieu debates that there is a dominant culture in each society. So, ‘Having more of this culture means having more money and more success”. As a result, it can be converted into high-quality jobs. Therefore, he measured that the main aim of the education is reproducing each class in successive generation.

One more scientist enclosed a noteworthy contribution to the developing of the meaning of ‘cultural capital’. Diane Reay revealed that working or middle class mothers play more main role in the child’s education then fathers. She comes to this point by making a data and asking 33 mothers and students in different primary schools.

In contrast with upper class, parents from the middle background had more educational qualifications and knew how the educational system worked, so they were able to prepare their children for school and assist them during the whole school experience. If their children have problems at school they would talk with the teachers. Also, Reay concludes that social class affects levels of cultural capital and this in turn affects levels of educational success.

The following Annette Lareau’s studying is a good explanation of different manifestations of the cultural capital. She asked different families from upper, middle and working classes. Hence, children from the poorer families are less sociable during lessons and less encouraged by parents. Moreover, working class parents do not see a difference between a child and an adult so their children begin to earn money early.

Whereas middle class students are more social, have better speech patterns and are active in their studies. School for them is considered as a “second home” because they were prepared at home by their parents and have a solid school foundation. Middle class parents are more interested in their children’s education and are more likely to be involved in their way of thinking.

Upper class parents essentially do not involve themselves in their children’s school life. Reay argues this is due to the fact that they have enough money to afford personal tutors or private education for their offspring.


In conclusion, there are many effects of social classes on children’s educational achievements. As it can be seen, middle class families have the most involved parents. They are always trying to take care of their children; to make their school life easier and enjoyable. Whereas parents from the upper class are slightly different and do not pay deep attention to the achievements of their children. Due to these different backgrounds, social classes and cultural capitals children face a lot of difficulties in education. Nevertheless, it is doubtful that society will be changed, but governments should try to prevent evaluating children by their nationalities and treat everybody as an equal individual.