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Daily Academic Sociology Questions and Answers with Mwiinde Laison

21 Oct 2017 at 06:55hrs | Views
Mwiinde Laison (Author, Sociologist and Mentor)
Question
Assess the extent to which home based, rather than school based factors account for social class based differences in educational achievement (25)

Comment Overview

The questions demand learners to show the link between homes based factors and school based factors in ascertaining educational achievement. In doing so learners should firstly support how educational achievement is highly affected by home factors. Factors like type of socialization, family type, family structure, family level of education all can be used to define the relationship between education achievement and home factors. Critical students will also highlight that school based factors has a part to play in determining educational achievement.

Suggested Answer

The effects of home background on child's education, can be best explained on how material and cultural factors has a correlation to educational achievement. Though largely the home has been seen as the biggest factor that either promote or hinder one's educational achievement, the impact of school drawn factors cannot be ignored if one has to study educational achievement in depth. Thus this essay shall explore much debate surrounding the impact of the home and school on educational achievement and give a clear judgment on which factor has a huge bearing on educational achievement.

The lower classes are more likely to suffer from material deprivation at home which can hold children back in education because of a lack access to resources such as computers, or living in a smaller house means they would be less likely to have a quiet, personal study space. In extreme situations, children may have a worse diet and a colder house, which could mean illness and time off school. According to Gibson and Asthana, the effects of material deprivation are cumulative, creating a cycle of deprivation. This would suggest that home background influences a child's education.

Also, the amount of money one has and the type of area one lives in affects the type of school a child can get to. Richer parents have more choice of school because they are more likely to have two cars or be able to afford public transport to get their children to a wider range of schools. Also, house prices in the catchment areas of the best schools can be up to 20% higher than similar houses in other areas – richer parents are more able to afford to move to these better schools. At the other end of the social class spectrum, those going to school in the most deprived areas may suffer disruptions in school due to gang related violence. All of this suggests that location, which is clearly part of your ‘home background' in the broader sense of the word, is a major factor in educational achievement.

Cultural deprivation also has a negative effect on children at home. Bernstein pointed out that working class children are more likely to be socialised into the restricted speech code and so are less able to understand teachers at school compared to their middle class peers who speak in the elaborated speech code. The classes are also taught the value of immediate rather than deferred gratification, and so are less likely to see the value of higher education. In these theories, home background influences children all the way through school.

Although the concept of cultural deprivation is decades old, more recent research suggests it is still of relevance. Fenstein' s (2003) research found that lower income is strongly correlated with a lack of ability to communicate, while research by Conor et al (2001) found that being socialised into poverty means working class students are less likely to want to go to university than middle class students because they are more debt conscious.

Cultural Capital Theory also suggests that home background matters to an extent – this theory argues that middle class parents have the skills to research the best schools and the ability to help children with homework – and to intervene in schools if a child falls behind (as Diana's research into the role of mothers in primary school education suggested). However, cultural capital only advantages a child because it gets them into a good school –suggesting that it is the school that matters at least as much as home background. There wouldn't be such a fuss over, and such competition between parents over schools if the school a child went to didn't have a major impact on a child's education!

In fact, one could argue that probably the most significant advantage a parent can give to their child is getting them into a private school. To take an extreme case, Dominican Coventry in Bulawayo cost more than $3000/ year, a boarding school which confers enormous advantage on these children and provides personalised access via private trips to elite secondary schools Eton and Harrow. In such examples, it is not really home background that is advantaging such children, it is simply access to wealth that allows some parents to get their children into these elite boarding schools and the schools that then hothouse their children through a high ethos of expectation smaller class sizes and superb resources.

Similarly, the case of Mossborn Academy and Tony Sewell's Generating Genius programme show that schools can overcome disadvantage at home if they provide strict discipline and high expectation.

Although all of the above are just case studies and thus of limited use in generating a universal theory of what the major cause of differences in educational achievement by social class might be, many similar studies have suggested that schools in poorer areas have a lower ethos of expectation (from Willis' classic 1977 research on the lads to Swain's research in 2006). It is thus reasonable to hypothesis that the type of school and in school factors such as teacher labelling and peer groups might work to disadvantage the lower classes as Becker's theory of the ideal pupil being middle class and Willis' work on working class counter school cultures would suggest, although in this later case, Willis argues that the lads brought with them an anti-educational working class masculinity, so home factors still matter here.

Finally Social Capital theory also suggests that home background is not the only factor influencing a child's education rather it is the contacts parents have with schools and later on schools with universities and business that are crucial to getting children a good education, and making that education translate into a good job.

So is it home background or school factors that matter? The essay above suggests home background does have a role to play, however, one cannot certainly disregard in-school factors in explaining class differences in educational achievement. One would argue that the two work together, middle class advantage at home translating into better schooling, and vice versa for the working classes.

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Source - Mwiinde Laison (Author, Sociologist and Mentor)
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