CSOC 203 Social Class And Inequality

CSOC 203 Social Class And Inequality

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CSOC 203 Social Class And Inequality

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CSOC 203 Social Class And Inequality

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Course Code: CSOC 203
University: Ryerson University

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Country: Canada


It is debated whether social class and inequality (SES) is visible in schools and if it is a factor that affects a student’s academic achievement and learning. This critical analysis delves into the notion that a student from a lower socio-economic status experiences negative impacts and effects on their educational attainment. It also explores how social theories have further perpetuated this inequality, for example the notion of being ‘time-poor’, meaning they have difficulty balancing their work life, studying and attending classes. Another factor that will be explored is the economic status of a school, for example, the school’s resources, level of funding and teaching quality all of which may hinder a student’s outcomes and achievements. Another factor that explores the relationship between social class and a students achievements is that teachers have less expectations of their students. However, it is also argued that students from lower SES background perform just as well and, in some cases, better. This paper further explores whether schools and government have placed policies to decrease this issue.
Students that are born into families who are from a low socioeconomic background are more than often ‘time poor’ which has implications on a student’s learning. These students are under significant time constraints in comparison to students who are from a higher economic status. This has resulted in an increase of balancing financial pressures, responsibilities (study, family and work) and/or substantial hours of employment and study (Devlin, Kift, Nelson, Smith & McKay, 2012). In a study conducted by Devlin and McKay, 2017, found that students from a lower socioeconomic background often found themselves under enormous pressures trying to prioritise their education and work life. However, due to this financial struggle, it was almost impossible for students not to work. One student explained “…but I can definitely see that it jeopardises a lot of people’s grades. Even just their – the level of seriousness … for their education and their studies. Because if you start having to focus more so on financial side of things and working, then you’re obviously not going to be able to focus on having your head in university…”. In another study conducted by Devlin, Kift, Nelson, Smith and McKay, 2012, one student explains that “it is really quite difficult” to balance the commitment of attendance, work and the overload of exams and assignments. This explores the negative impact of being ‘time-poor’ on a student’s learning as these students more than often may neglect their studying and learning opportunities. These students are found to be getting lower grades in their assessments and exams because of the pressures of funding for themselves due to financial stress. One statistic showed that “children from low-SES families enter high school with average literacy skills five years behind those of high-income students” (Education and Socioeconomic Status, 2018). This socio-cultural issue also has implications on teaching as teachers have to accommodate, modify and understand each student’s needs. These teachers have to engage and scaffold their teaching pedagogy to accommodate and excel these students. However, this accommodation may be in an excessive manner; an overload of work which therefore, results in stress (Devlin, et al., 2012).
The theory which underpins this notion can be explored in the functionalist social theory as teachers and schools have to maintain a positive and beneficial environment to maximise students learning, engagement and pedagogy teaching approaches (EDFX140 topic 3, 2018). These teachers are empathetic and understanding of their students who come from a disadvantaged background. This is explored through the study conducted by Devlin, et al., 2012 which states, “… use as much diversity as possible in your pedagogical practices, because there’s all sorts of different learners. Don’t presume that groups all learn in certain ways, watch out for generalisations”. This pursues the common good and encourages equal opportunity amongst all students and comments on how schools and teachers have responded on this issue (Nolan & Raban, 2015); by promoting student-centered curricular and assessment practices, modified pedagogy and assessments to monitor child’s development.
Identify and analyse the issue clearly. Draw on social and cultural theory to identify the implications for teaching and learning


Many of the scholars have been debated on the topic whether inequality and social class is visible in the schools and if they are the factors which influence the academic achievements of the students.  This paper would elaborate on the notion that a student belonging from the lower socio-economic status undergoes poor educational attainments. With the same, it would also shed light on various social theories and how they assisted in perpetuating this inequality. Furthermore, it shall also explore the impact of economic status of the schools such as its resources, the funding level and the quality of its teaching that might hinder the achievements and learning of the students. Along with these, this paper would explore on the relationship in between the students and the social class. It would argue that the students belonging from the lower SES background performs better in some cases. Finally, this paper is going to focus on whether the government institutions and schools have placed any policies for decreasing this issue.
It is to note that the student who belong from the lower socio-economic family background are more than often “time poor” and this has a great implications on their learning process. Such students are under more time constraints as compared to the one who are from the higher economic status (Devlin, Kift, Nelson, Smith & McKay, 2012). It further results in increased balanced financial pressures, duties and responsibilities towards their family or substantial working hours. Devlin and McKay (2017) in their study has found that the students from the lower economic status or background often find themselves under high pressures and they constantly try to prioritise their work life and education more than anything. Notwithstanding this fact, because of high financial struggle, it is next to impossible for the students to avoid working during their study years. As per one of the student involved in the research interview session- “…but I can definitely see that it jeopardises a lot of people’s grades. Even just their – the level of seriousness … for their education and their studies. Because if you start having to focus more so on financial side of things and working, then you’re obviously not going to be able to focus on having your head in university…”. Furthermore, as per Devlin et al. (2012), it is difficult for the students to maintain a balance in between their school attendance, work, school assignments and workload. Hence, this depicts the negative influence of being “time-poor” on the learning and academic career of the students. These students are often seen to be neglecting their studies and the other learning opportunities present for them. With the same, it is also seen that these students get lower grades as compared to the other students in their academic exams and assessments as they have immense pressure of raising funds and collecting money for themselves because of the financial issues that their families undergo. As per one of the statistics, the “children from low-SES families enter high school with average literacy skills five years behind those of high-income students” (Education and Socioeconomic Status, 2018). Such a socio-cultural issue also affects the teaching process of the teachers as they have to modify, understand and accommodate the needs of each and every students. It is these teachers who have to scaffold and engage their teaching pedagogy for accommodating and helping these children to excel in their academic career (Devlin, et al., 2012).
The theory that underpins this very notion could be explained by means of the functionalist social theory as the schools and the teachers have to maintain a beneficial and positive environment in order to increase the learning of the students and the pedagogy teaching approaches (EDFX140 topic 3, 2018). As per Devlin et al. (2012), it is suggested to the teachers to “use as much diversity as possible in your pedagogical practices, because there’s all sorts of different learners. Don’t presume that groups all learn in certain ways, watch out for generalisations”. Such statements pursue the common good and at the same time, encourages equal opportunities for the students by means of promoting the student-centred curriculum and the other assessment practices along with modified pedagogy in order to monitor the development of the children (Nolan & Raban, 2015).
According to different researches, there is a great importance of the type of school that a student attends because of his or her socio-economic status in the process of influencing his or her academic achievements. As per Considine and Zappala (2002), the context SES of the school impacts the educational results of the students, focusing on the effect of the school type. The outcomes of the survey was that the students who were attending the private Non-Catholic Schools were found to be more possibly to stay on the school than the ones who attends state school. There is a very close link in between schooling and the socio-economic status. It is to note that the population of the students in the private schools are basically of the ones who belong from the high SES background and have stronger financial resources and academic potential. As per Considine and Zappala (2002), students belonging from the independent private schools achieve higher academic results. Furthermore, in other study, which is been conducted by Holmes-Smith (2006), concludes on the notion that the students belonging from the lower SES often perform in poorer manner as compared to the other students. On the contrary, there are several studies that have shown that the students belonging from the lower economic backgrounds are more determined and able and that their academic performance are commensurate and are always more than the average. As per the study conducted, et al. (2012), a teacher explains “… stats have shown in our course that, generally speaking, our low SES students tend to do better. They’re slightly better motivated and probably more capable students”. This is because these student never get anything that easy. They have to fight for everything and hence, they do know the value of those things. They do not get the resources directly available from the schools and hence, they seek for other ways in order to gain those knowledge and resources. With the same, they are much more independent than the usual ones.
It is to note that there is a conflict theory presented in the above study because there is difference in the education in these schools because they vary socio-economically (“Theories of Education”, n.d.). These schools have lower SES as compared to the schools that have high SES and also they maintain a social inequality. They preserve the power of the ones who claim of dominating the society. In the year 1975, The Disadvantaged Schools Program was implemented in order to decrease the negative impacts that the lower socio-economic status lay on the academic performance of the learners. These programs provided some additional funds to the schools in the lower SES neighbourhoods for the school-wide projects. In the middle of 1990s, this program was changed so that to make it more focused on the numeracy and literacy. At present, the implementation of it differs in between different states.
The teachers at the disadvantaged schools and institutions are often seen as holding very low expectation on the academic achievements of the students and this greatly affects the attitudes of the students towards learning. Such teaching implications decreases the self-esteem, engagement and confidence level of the students while learning and completing their home works. As per Auwarter and Aruguete (2008), it is argued that the teachers think that the students belonging from the lower SES background or social class have less promising outlook and future as compared to the students from the high class. Hence, the students who are from the higher class families are often the favourites of the teachers and they focused on these student more than the rest others. Hence, the social class inequality is the thing that shapes the attitudes of the teachers as well as their values towards their students. They believe that their approaches of teaching and the pedagogy would remain inefficient and ineffective if “social class” is the predetermined factor of the achievements of the students (Auwarter & Aruguete, 2008).
Hence, it is to note that the SES (Social class and inequality) encompasses social settings, financial security, education as well as the income. It has also shed light on the relation in between the educational achievement and the social equality. The lower socio-economic status correlated along with the poor academic attainments, low education as well as the low quality of life. The above study has also clearly presented the socio-cultural issues in the schooling. It is to be concluded that the students belonging from the lower SES backgrounds are often seen to be developing the required skills and the academic knowledge comparatively slower than the ones who are from the higher SES background. Hence, it is very important for the schools and the government that they take necessary actions in order to provide relevant programs for them in order to help them in excelling academically.
Australian Professional Standards for Teachers. (2018). Retrieved from https://educationstandards.nsw.edu.au/wps/wcm/connect/8658b2fa-62d3-40ca-a8d9-02309a2c67a1/australian-professional-standards-teachers.pdf?MOD=AJPERES&CVID=
Auwarter, A., & Aruguete, M. (2008). Effects of Student Gender and Socioeconomic Status on Teacher Perceptions. The Journal Of Educational Research, 101(4), 242-246. https://dx.doi.org/10.3200/joer.101.4.243-246
Considine, G., & Zappala, G. (2002). Factors Influencing the Educational Performance of Students from Disadvantaged Backgrounds (pp. 2-15). Sydney. Retrieved from https://www.sprc.unsw.edu.au/media/SPRCFile/NSPC01_7_Considine_Zappala.pdf
Devlin, M., Kift, S., Nelson, K., Smith, L., & McKay, J. (2012). Effective teaching and support of students from low socioeconomic status backgrounds: Practical advice for teaching sta. Sydney. Retrieved from https://www.lowses.edu.au/
Education and Socioeconomic Status. (2018). Apa.org. Retrieved 5 April 2018, from https://www.apa.org/pi/ses/resources/publications/education.aspx
Holmes-Smith, Philip (2006) SCHOOL SOCIO – ECONOMIC DENSITY AND ITS EFFECT ON SCHOOL PERFORMANCE. New South Wales Department of Education and Training. Retrieved from https://www.curriculum.edu.au/verve/_resources/SES_Report.pdf
Nolan, A., & Raban, B. (2015). Theories into Practice: Understanding and Rethinking Our Work with Young Children. Melbourne: Five Senses Education. Retrieved from https://www.earlychildhoodaustralia.org.au/shop/wp-content/uploads/2015/06/SUND606_sample.pdf
Roff, K. Teacher experiences in low SES schools and high SES schools. Retrieved from https://files.eric.ed.gov/fulltext/ED493371.pdf
Rothma, S. (2003). The changing influence of socio economic status on student achievement : Recent evidence from Australia. Melbourne. Retrieved from https://esearch.acer.edu.au/lsay_conference/3

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