Social Class and Education
1. How may a student's social class origin and related factors impact on her/his learning outcomes and how can teachers intervene to effectively address any resulting disadvantages and injustices for students?
That a student’s social class origin impacts on their learning outcomes is self-evident across much of the developed world, with entrenched disparities in academic achievement that are inversely correlated with family income (Snook, 2009:3, Argy, 2007:para 3, Reay, 2006:289, Nash, 2003:179-180).
In Australia, New Zealand, the United States and the United Kingdom, a student’s chances of academic success are greatly influenced by factors such as ‘ parental wealth, occupational status, education and aspirations’ (Argy, 2007:para3,
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Reay sees the teacher’s role as critical in the frontline struggle for educational engagement in otherwise disadvantaged students. Her student interviews clearly show how disempowered and disengaged they become when experiencing middle-class favouritism in the classroom. (2006:297-299). Teachers must adopt a culturally and socially neutral (diverse) position, rather than feed into the ‘pathologisation of the working classes..the system..valorises middle rather than working class capital’ (2006:295). All students should be made to feel that they have potential, that their contribution is valued. Reay also believes that teachers must learn to understand and manage the ‘classed, racialised and gendered processes’ that drive students to make poor educational choices. In doing so, teachers can assist students to see value in adopting a successful learner identity. (2006:301).
Western educational systems and curricula are seen by some as vehicles which, despite their stated aims of improving access and outcomes for all, merely serve to perpetuate middle-class perspectives and domination (Reay, 2006:293, Connell, 1993:49-50). ‘The hidden curriculum is a powerful means by which education and schooling maintain the status quo in our society with all its inequality and social injustice’ (Seddon, 1983:4). Connell advocates a counter-hegemonic curriculum to bring about greater social