Monday, November 7, 2011

Family and Education

Family background and its impact on achievement and failure

When speaking of family background of an individual one implies the social class to which his family belongs as well as his family history. There is a very close relationship between social class and educational performance. Research pointed out that some ethnic minority students suffered as a result of social and economic deprivation. Pupils from professional backgrounds are significantly more likely to enter higher education than those from unskilled backgrounds. On the other hand, the undervaluing of education by adults combined with more limited career aspiration results in working class pupils viewing schooling as merely a prelude to getting a manual job. In fact, research shows that working class students could not perform well at school due to the conditions in which they lived. They shared beds because of overcrowding and their health was not reliable. They could not concentrate in school if they were hungry (poor diet), ill and tired.

Moreover, pupils from disadvantage backgrounds are more likely to leave school at an early age, some sociologists believe that this is because working class culture is fatalistic - parents passed on the idea that their lower status was relatively fixed. The impact of this was working class children don't see much point in investing time and effort into something which will have no effect on their lives, working class children were also more likely to start school unable to read as working class parents seem to put less emphasis on education and the importance of it this could also be the reason why pupils from unskilled backgrounds on average achieve lower scores in examinations.Basically, there are three main different social classes as follows:

- Elite
- Middle Class
- Working Class
Difference in social classes can be cultural, linguistic or financial. Generally, the elite are more likely to have stronger cultural, linguistic as well as financial capital. The amount of the capitals decreases as one goes down the social pyramid.

Cultural capital refers to non-financial assets that involve social, educational and intellectual knowledge available to certain families. Such families may have as members writers, ministers, musicians and others who do not earn much financially but are rather very influential on making their children get facilities to acquire education because of their social status and intellectual capacity. According to Bourdieu, who was the first one to talk about cultural capital, middle class are at an advantage because they have the right kind of cultural capital - the right language, skills, knowledge and attitudes. This is because of the fact that teachers are from middle class themselves and therefore share the same values and beliefs as children from the middle class. So schools perpetuate middle class values.

Also, middle class families pass on culture and expectations from parents to children, this is called cultural reproduction, and due to this because the parents from a middle class family have high expectations. This pushes their children to work hard at school and to pursue further studies as they believe they need a good education to get a good job.

Linguistic capital refers to the capacity of mastering specific languages. This is highly influenced by exposure to such languages. The language spoken at home may also be an important factor affecting students’ achievement. For example, in some countries, the language spoken at home may not be the same as the medium of teaching, especially if parents are immigrants. This may lead to students feeling less confident about written and oral work thus affecting their achievement levels.

Since middle class children are more likely to have been socialised in a home environment that creates an elaborated language code, middle class children and their teachers "speak the same language" within the school. As such working class children have to learn this "new" language code, which puts them at an immediate disadvantage to their middle class peers. Their thought was limited by lack of linguistic skills. In some cases, children from working class may even feel alienated from the class.

Financial capital refers to the financial resources that can be put at the disposal of a child to facilitate his transition in the school system. Financial capital gives access to more private tuition, computers, a wide variety of books and other learning materials, a better diet – sometimes with vitamin supplement to boost up memorising capacity – and more trendy and sophisticated materials that put the child in a dominant position among his peers as compared to his classmate from the working class.

On the other hand, the lower social classes may lack the money to provide their children with the same educational opportunities as middle and upper class parents. As such the working class children lack parental support and motivation (poor diet, lack of privacy, lack of school resources, the stigma of poverty and the need to bring money into home) – and family pressures tend to push them into choosing the option of work – rather than education. These children are encouraged by their parents to “take what they can get, when they can get it”. That is they can start to earn money at an earlier age than their middle-class peers.

In addition, when there is malfunction in the family unit, such as family disrupted by spousal conflict, break up, broken homes, negligent and deviant parents, interpersonal conflict, lack of communication between members of the family, lack of supervision, weakened attachment (no attachment to the house), delinquency seems inevitable as children feel a sort of rejection and thus display a high level of hostile detachment thereby affecting both their behaviours and results in a negative way at school.