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There are major social class, gender and ethnic differences in how well people do in school. There has been much debate about the reasons for these differences, such as; labelling, ethnocentric curriculum , restricted code and self fulfilling prophecy leads to the differences in educational achievement of different social groups.
Cicourel and Kitsuse's study of educational counsellors in an American high school shows how much labelling can disadvantage working - class students; this is done by both students and teachers. Pupils will be labelled based on social class; a working class child is more likely to be labelled as ‘stupid’, and other degrading names. This labelling can lead to the self-fulfilling prophecy therefore disadvantages them because the teacher is favouring other students. This factor and process within the school causes differences in the educational achievement of different social groups, by causing a negative impact to the student being labelled.
Working-class students were seated away from the class and read lower-level books, therefore gave them fewer opportunities to display their abilities. Labelling would be one factor within the school that caused main differences in the educational achievement between working class and middle class students as it deprived the working class students to demonstrate the abilities they actually obtained. Similarly, Rist established during his study of an American kindergarten that students would often be labelled due to the information the teachers gathered from the children's home background. Middle class students were found to be associated to the label, 'tigers' as they would appear to be neat and of clean appearance, this refers to Howard Becker study of labelling, which is based on interviews with sixty Chicago high school teachers, he found that they judged pupils according to how closely they fitted an image of ideal pupils, a middle class student would often be associated as an 'ideal pupil' Whereas, a working class students as, 'clowns' or 'cardinals', and would often be placed in 'clowns' or 'cardinals' groups.
Bernstein uses and then explain why this leads to the unequal education educational achievement of social classes. He claims that language used in lower class homes is deficient, as a working class children fail to develop the necessary language skills and thus grow incapable of abstract thinking and are unable to use language to explain, describe and compare, due to this they are unable to take advantage in school. The working class would use the restricted code, which consists of limited vocabulary and is based on the unfinished and single word sentences
Bereinstein does realise that working class do not only fail because of cultural deprivation but instead the school fails to teach them how to use the elaborative code. This therefore causes a differences in the educational achievement between the different because teachers should have the audacity to help the working class students who are failing due to the 'restricted code' instead of leaving them perplexed in class of what the teacher is talking about.
Fuller observed black pupils in London who focused on their anger and did not seek approval of teachers regarded as racist. They would ignore what teachers stated about them and therefore conformed to the self negating prophecy. One example is when students arrived on results day and realised they did well, as they placed in the effort of studying hard and not taking aboard on board any racist comments from teachers.
However, teachers themselves may be the reason for the difference in achievement levels of social classes. Mirza studied ambitious black pupils but were not able to achieve anything due to racist comments of the teachers, which discouraged from professional careers, the girls in Mirza's study failed to achieve their ambitions because their coping strategies restricted their opportunities and resulted in under achievement. Some girls would avoid teachers negative attitudes and would be selective about which teachers to ask. Therefore allowed them to focus on education optimistically, without the unconstructive comments from teachers in mind.
Some Black students believed what the teacher stated about them would draw a 'true picture' of them, thus students conformed to the self fulfilling prophecy and adapted to the label 'failures'. They would simply not place any effort and believed this label was with them all the time.
Stephen Ball (1994) criticises the National Curriculum for ignoring cultural and ethnic diversity and for promoting an attitude of ‘little Englandism’. For example, the history curriculum tries to recreate a ‘mythical age of empire and past glories’, while ignoring the history of black and Asian people.
Bernard Coard (2005) explains how the ethnocentric curriculum may produce underachievement.
for example, in history the British are presented as bringing civilisation to the ‘primitive’ peoples they colonised. This image of black people as inferior undermines black children’s self-esteem and leads to their failure. However, it is not clear what impact the ethnocentric curriculum has. For example, while it may ignore Asian culture.
Overall, the main cause for the difference in educational achievement is labelling and the self fulfilling prophecy, when teachers label it deprived the working class students to demonstrate the abilities they actually obtain, and they soon believe in this label, e.g. 'failure' they this is who they actually are and later conform to it thus fulfil the self fulfilling prophecy.