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Assess the argument that social class difference in educational attainment are the result of processes within school

Failure and success in life depend on one’s motivation and capability. This applies to education as well. Besides aptitude and determination, sociologists discovered that social class affects one’s educational achievement as well. Internal and external factors of differential educational attainment can be explained due to class culture, resources and society.

An internal factor that affects the academic results of pupils is the labelling theory. The labelling theory was first found by Durkheim in the 1960s; he discovered that crime is an act that infuriates society and labelling fulfils society’s demand to control one’s behaviour. Becker, later on, applied that theory to education; he believed that teachers judge pupils by characteristics such as gender, appearance and class rather than intelligence and effort. In 1971, he argued that teachers hold an image of an ideal pupil in their mind and compare them to their actual pupils.

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The one most alike to the ideal pupil is then most loved by the teacher. It’s noted that the attributes of the ideal pupil are most likely found in pupils from the middle class. Evidently, students in the working class aren’t as close to the ideal pupil since they suffer from material and cultural deprivation. This attitude can affect the academic progress of the pupils since they are labelled into groups according to their ability. In a way, this may motivate students to do better and achieve more; yet this may demotivate them to ignore the labels and give up trying.

A self-fulfilling prophecy is an additional internal factor that has an influence on the educational achievements of pupils and links with the labelling theory. A prediction that causes the outcome to develop into the prediction is the self-fulfilling prophecy. In Ball’s study of “Beachside Comprehensive”, he argued that groups can be affected in the same way an individual was affected by the self-fulfilling prophecy. He performed an experiment with 3 groups of students, each group with a different level of ability and backgrounds. All students were eager to learn. However, due to the different expectations and attitudes of the teacher, one group did well while the two other groups failed. This clearly shows that the teacher’s attitude towards the pupils are important and may affect their educational success.

An external factor that influences pupils’ educational attainment is material deprivation. Material deprivation is the lack of money in one’s life that leads to disadvantages such as substandard housing, an unhealthy diet and attending state schools. This made a huge influence on the pupils’ academic results. In 1995, Smith and Noble formed a list of barriers that has an influence on the pupil because of insufficiency of money, preventing them from achieving their best.

When a pupil’s guardian is unable to pay for school expenses, it often leads to isolation and oppression from other pupils. Also, the pupils with a lower familial income are incompetent to use any other resources unless provided and may be deficient in the comfortable space to complete their work and study. Furthermore, the pupils from a richer background have the opportunity to attend a private school with funding from sponsors while pupils in working-class families can only attend a state school with bigger classes and smaller funding from the government.

Cultural deprivation is another external factor that affects the academic accomplishment of pupils. Cultural deprivation means to be deficient in an educational-filled lifestyle because of a shortage of money. In 1977, Bourdieu and Passeron pointed out the importance of cultural capital in education in order for the pupils to achieve better results. Cultural capital is the idea of certain advantages and disadvantages due to social class ones in. It is easier for middle-class children to understand, interact and communicate in school rather than working-class children since schools are mostly middle-class establishments. This may lead to a higher chance of failure for the children in the working class. According to Alice Sullivan’s survey research on Bourdieu’s theory of cultural capital in 2001, success seemed to occur more for those that read complicated novels and watched educational shows or documentaries.

Overall, I believe that the external factors are more influential than the internal factors to the success of the pupils because effort may be useless when one lacks the resources and the benefits of the middle and upper class. From the theories and researches sociologists have done over the past decades, it appears that even if one has the motivation to study and do well, it’s not as common for them to succeed without the help of money, resources and culture from their family in the right social class. In conclusion, I believe that for one to succeed in life, one must have the right instructions, motivation and connections.

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Assess the argument that social class difference in educational attainment are the result of processes within school. (2021, Apr 09). Retrieved June 15, 2021, from