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Topic 1 - Class Differences in Achievement (External Factors)

In a nutshell

Some sociologists believe that working class underachievement is due to factors outside the school. Such factors include material deprivation (the inability to afford basic resources, such as adequate housing, food and heating) and cultural deprivation (deficiencies in home and family backgrounds, such as inadequate socialisation, inadequate language skills and inappropriate attitudes/values). In addition, cultural capital (Knowledge, language, attitudes and values, and lifestyle) gives the middle-class an inbuilt advantage in a middle-class controlled education system.

Topic 2 - Class Differences in Achievement (Internal Factors)

In a nutshell

Some sociologists believe working class underachievement is the product of factors inside the school environment that hinder a pupils ability to achieve. These factors include: labelling, streaming, pupil subcultures, pupil identities and the development of a self-fulfilling prophecy.

Topic 3 - ETHNIC Differences in Achievement

In a nutshell

Trends in statistics have shown Chinese pupils to achieve the best in education, whereas black Caribbean and Gypsy Roma pupils have fallen behind. Some sociologists identify ethnic differences in achievement as the result of factors outside the school, such as language skills, family structure, attitudes and values, and material deprivation - which place minority ethnic groups at a disadvantage. However, some sociologists argue ethnic differences occur through factors inside the school environment - notably, the ethnocentric curriculum, labelling, pupil subcultures and institutional racism.

Topic 4 - GENDER Differences in Achievement

In a nutshell

In recent years, statistics have shown that girls now outperform boys in educational attainment. Sociologists suggest the increased achievement in girls educational performance is the result of external factors (girls changing ambitions, changes in the family, changes in women's employment) and internal factors (equal opportunities, teacher attention, coursework). In reverse, they also suggest reasons for boys underachievement - notably, the feminisation of schooling, the decline in manual labour, and ‘laddish’ subcultures. Sociologists also suggest reasons for the difference in gender subject choices and reflect on gendered identities.

topic 5 - the role of education

In a nutshell

Functionalists value education in the respect that it provides necessary functions for the rest of society. Similarly, the New Right determine in order to fulfil such functions, schools should be centred around the consumer and their choices. However, Marxists criticise both Functionalists and the New Right in arguing the education system merely serves the needs of capitalism, by ensuring the failure of working-class pupils. Feminists also reject the education system for producing gender inequalities.

topic 6 - educational policy

In a nutshell

Educational policy has had a profound impact on society. There has been a shift in policy from the 1940’s where the tripartite system existed, legitimising inequality in education, to the new system of comprehensive schooling introduced in 1965. Although the New Labour policies sought to reduce inequality, the conservative policies have reintroduced a system of inequality by encouraging privatisation and marketisation.