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Sociology and Pupils

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  • Pages: 5
  • Word count: 1215
  • Category: Sociology

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Outline some of the ways in which labelling process may lead to educational under-achievement for some people The explanations of differential educational achievement that have been examined so far suggest that pupils’ progress is influenced by factors over which they have little control. Yet the most obvious place to look for explanations is within the education system. Schools play an important role in determining the success of failure of an individual’s education. There are many factors which lead to the under achievement for some people, these fall under three main categories Genetic, External and Internal. The focus of my essay will be to outline factors leading to under achievement through internal factors. Interactionists have researched the day to day life in schools. They do not think individuals are influenced by things outside their control, but according to Interactionists you need to look at how teachers and pupils interact and how this affects the pupils self concept. Teachers are seen as very significant as they make initial judgments of pupils, labelling them which consequently leads to pupils acquiring an identity for themselves.

Hence internal factors are seen as crucial in determining the educational attainment of pupils and the inequalities between them. The internal factors include Labelling, The self-fulfilling prophecy, Pupil subcultures and Marketisation and Selection policies. All these factors can be seen as having a knock-on effect on each other. To label someone is to attach a meaning and definition to them. Teachers may label a pupil as bright or thick, hardworking or troublemaker. Studies show that teachers often attach such labels regardless of pupil’s actual ability or attitude. Labels are attached on the basis of stereotyped assumptions about their class background. Working class pupils are labelled negatively and middle class positively. Interactionists’ sociologists have carried out studies of labelling. Interactionists study small-scale face-to-face interactions between individuals, such as in the classroom or playground. They are interested in how people attach labels and the effects this has on those who are labelled. Becker (1971) based on interviews with 60 Chicago high school teachers it was found that they judged pupils according to how closely they fitted the image of the ideal pupil.

Pupils work conduct and appearances were key factors influencing teachers’ judgements, those from Middle Class backgrounds were closer to the ideal pupil than Working Class. In relation to this Keddies study reflected how Labelling can be applied not just to pupils but also to the knowledge they are taught. Classes are streamed by ability and Keddy found that although teachers believed they were teaching all pupils in the same way, the higher streams were given more abstract, theoretical and high status knowledge. The less able streams were given descriptive common sense knowledge which created differences in educational attainment. Labelling then leads on to Self fulfilling prophecies, it is a prediction that comes true simply by being labelled as much. Interactionists argue that labelling can affect pupils’ achievement by creating a self-fulfilling prophecy. Hargreaves used an example to illustrate the self-fulfilling prophecy. Firstly he speculated how the teacher labels a pupil and on the basis of this label they make predictions about them. The teacher then treats the pupil accordingly, acting as if the prediction is already true.

The step is Stabilisation; the pupil internalises the teacher’s expectations, which becomes part of their self-concept or self image. The pupil now becomes the kind of pupil the teacher believed them to be in the first place, the prediction is fulfilled. Once a pupil finds a self concept for themselves this then leads onto developing a subculture; a pupil subculture is a group of pupils who share similar values and behaviour patterns. Pupil subcultures often emerge as a response to the way pupils have been labelled, and in particular as a reaction to streaming. (Separating pupils into different ability groups. Each group is then taught separately for all subjects.) A number of studies have shown how pupil subcultures may play a part in creating class differences in achievement. Lacey (1970) found that those placed in lower streams suffer from low self esteem, this label of failure pushes them to search for alternative ways of giving status and this usually involves rejecting the school system.

Some form of anti-subculture was found as a means of gaining status among their pupils for example truanting, smoking and not doing homework. Joining an anti-subculture is likely to become a self fulfilling prophecy of educational failure. Willis study of the Lads also reflected how pupils had their own sub culture within school. Marketisation and Selection policies are the fourth Internal factor. Policies such as streaming within schools add inequalities between schools, though processes such as ‘the funding formula’ and ‘exam league tables’ this disadvantages the working class pupils. These changes explain why schools are under pressure to stream and select pupils. Schools need to achieve a good league table position if they are to attract pupils for funding. This can be seen as widening the class gap in achievement within a school. The Labelling theory however can also be criticised, too much focus can be put on labelling, not everyone lives up to a label and this is not the only cause of education failure. It is also assumed that all labelling leads to sub cultures. Interactionists fail to recognise there are other factors such as External and Genetic which may cause under achievement.

External factors would include: Cultural Deprivation, Material Deprivation and Cultural Capital. Cultural Deprivation consists of things of parental encouragement and involvement. Theorists argue that most of us begin to acquire the basic values, attitudes and skills that are needed for educational success through primary socialisation. This basic cultural equipment includes things like language, self discipline and reasoning skills. However, according to cultural deprivation theorists many working class families fail to socialise their children adequately. These children are therefore ‘culturally deprived’. They do not possess the skills, attitudes to do well and so they under-achieve. Material Deprivation; unlike cultural deprivation theorists who blame educational failure on the inadequacy of working class subculture, many other sociologists see material deprivation as the main cause of under-achievement. ‘Material Deprivation’ refers to poverty and lack of material necessities like adequate housing and income.

Poverty is seen to be closely linked to educational under-achievement, as statistics show a higher rate of exclusion and truancy amongst children from poorer families and nearly 90% of ‘failing’ schools are located in deprived areas. Looking closer it consists of the type of house the child lives in and the diet they have, as it may limit the time and space they have to study and not allow them to perform their best due to insufficient nutrition. Lastly Cultural Capital; both cultural and material factors are seen to contribute to educational achievement and therefore are not separate, but interrelated. The term ‘Capital’ is used to explain why the middle classes are more successful, ‘Capital’ usually refers to wealth but in this case ‘educational capital’ (qualifications) and ‘cultural capital’ are also identified. The Middle class are seen to posses all three typed of capital and therefore to do better in education. In conclusion there are many factors which contribute towards the under-achievement of pupils, which vary from Genetic to Internal and External.

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