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Labelling and Self-fulfilling Prophecy As Factors in the Under Achievement of Some Pupils in School

Outline and evaluate the process of Labelling and self-fulfilling prophecy As factors in the underachievement of Some pupils in school. Labelling and self-fulfilling prophecies are the main factors in the educational system and, therefore, profoundly affect the individual’s self-concept and behaviour. Throughout, I will outline and examine some socialist’s arguments.

Labels can be applied to individuals from people who have a position of authority, I.E., Teachers, parents, etc…Teachers have been a prevalent force of labelling and self-fulfilling prophecy throughout the centuries; they generally come from a middle-class background and identify more with the middle-class student. Their judgements against pupils are influenced by factors other than the ability to achieve but issues arising from speech, dress and social background.

One socialist, Talcott Parsons, argued that schools take over the family as a primary source of socialization. He believed that the schools were meritocracy regardless of class; those who had the ability would achieve in school and later progress in adult life, whereas those without ability would do less and have a more menial level of achievement. Parson was criticized on his theory for failing to consider the possibilities that values transmitted from the system may be those of a ruling minority rather than society as a whole.

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Marxist Pierre Bourdieu argued the role in the education system was to reinforce class differences; he believed that it was achieved by promoting the ‘Dominant Culture’ of the ruling classes in the classroom through language, ensuring working-class students were less likely to understand or be understood. This disadvantages students from the working class society by creating academic success and failure reinforce class.

Another sociologist Basil Bernstein expanded on this theory with the idea that different speech codes were used by the middle and working-class, creating a divide. The Restricted code (mainly for the working class) was context-bound, and the Elaborate code which was not context-bound, he purposed that the middle-class students were fluent in both codes and the working class were confined to the restricted code. This places a disadvantage on the working-class children as teachers use elaborate code to communicate.

Marxists would also argue that equality was impossible in a class-based society; they said the education system exists to mould children into their class-defined roles to benefit capitalism, serving the rich well and keeping the poor down. This relies on the idea that someone is labelled in a particular way and others will respond to their behaviour in terms of the label, and that person will act accordingly. This is known as the concept of labelling theory and self-fulfilling prophecy.

Rosenthal and Jacobson performed an experiment where they selected 20 students at random to take an I.Q. Test and told their teachers that they could expect to show significant intellectual development; a year later, the same students were re-tested, proving their theory. Rosenthal and Jacobson concluded that this was a result of intellectual development. The children were labelled so that the teachers would have high expectations of them, which they believed, and here a self-fulfilling prophecy took place.

Rosenthal and Jacobson indicated that children classified as being of higher ability performed better throughout their academic years. This suggesting that because labelling and self-fulfilling prophecy used by teachers meant the working-class children had a distinctive throughout their academic years. Streaming is another problem still found in schools; this system separates children into different groups according to their predicted ability.

Comprehensive schools continue to use the streaming /banding system, which is an unfair system and harmful to the self-esteem and educational performance of the bottom stream pupils. This is consistent with those of working-class or of ethnic background. Once placed in the bottom stream, children become victims of the self-fulfilling prophecy, and they again take on the role expected of them, leaving the middle class to dominate the higher stream.

Ethnic minority backgrounds also faced problems through the education system; for some, their primary language was not English making their studies a foreign language. Although West Indian children do speak English at home, their studies here are of different dialects. In addition, black children have created a belief in some teacher’s minds that they are more likely to be underachievers and slow learners, so this can influence their performance and retard their progress in schools.

The functionalist view was very narrow and was accused of painting a pretty picture of inequality; they argued that it was necessary for social success and that not everyone could achieve, but they showed little if any consolation by that statement to those who felt betrayed and kept down by the educational system.

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Labelling and Self-fulfilling Prophecy As Factors in the Under Achievement of Some Pupils in School. (2021, Sep 20). Retrieved October 3, 2021, from