Sei sulla pagina 1di 6

Rowan McCloskey S4526447

AEG5137

Assessment Task 1
This research essay will address the impact of socio-economic
factors on educational outcomes. It will outline what factors are used to
determine socio-economic status and how much of an impact this status
has on the educational success of a student, things like school completion,
Year 12 results, entry into higher education and the workforce. This report
will then explore the factors that contribute to this inequality, with a
particular focus on educational opportunity, schooling along with cultural
identity and bias. The final section will then focus on ways that this
inequality can be addressed including the role of governments, schools
and the community.
There is no clear list of components that determine a persons socioeconomic status, nor is there a clear demarcation between socioeconomic groups. In Australia, to assist researchers in this and add some
context, the Australian Curriculum, Assessment and Reporting Authority
(ACARA) created the Index of Community Socio-Educational Advantage
(ICSEA) to provide a scale that represents the influence of a number of
factors associated with students family backgrounds on their educational
outcomes. (Australian Government 2011). This index take into account
students family backgrounds such as parents level of education, income
and occupation as well as school factors such as geographical location
and the proportion of Indigenous students the school caters for.
(Australian Government 2011 & My School 2013) These factors, along with
issues such as school transience, are accepted worldwide as being the
most relevant to a students academic performance. A number is then
attached and students are able to be divided into four quartiles, with the
highest representing relative advantage and the lowest representing
relative disadvantage. (Australian Government 2011).
When it comes to answering the question of whether there is a
difference in educational outcomes between the different quartiles, the
answer is a very definite yes, with students from the higher groups
outperforming the students from lower groups in all categories. According
1

Rowan McCloskey S4526447

AEG5137

to the Australian Government (2011) the gap between the highest and
lower quartiles when it comes to literacy is the equivalent of three years
of schooling; the Year 12 attainment rate for the highest quartile in 2009
was 75% compared to just 56% in the lowest quartile and in 2010 the
proportion of students that attended university from higher socioeconomic backgrounds compared to lower ones was more than double.
Indeed when it comes to school completion, socio-economic status is one
of the strongest indicators of the likelihood of a whether a young person
will actually complete twelve years of schooling (Smyth & Hattam 2004).
So what is the reason for this inequality of outcomes? The first factor to be
investigated is educational resources and schooling.
The idea of education as a universal right for all children regardless
of class, race, gender or ethnicity is a relatively recent concept, one that
was instituted in the 1959 United Nations Declaration of the Rights of the
Child and one that still faces huge challenges to this day. From a socioeconomic perspective, the struggle for equal outcomes among children
from different classes suffers from some entrenched cultural biases as
well as a large power imbalance between those at each end of the socioeconomic spectrum. Education systems at the beginning of the 20th
Century were very stratified, as Connell (2007, p. 16) explains, they were
segregated by race, by gender, and by class; tracked into academic and
technical schools; divided among public and private, Protestant and
Catholic. Although the desegregation of this system was highly successful
it is often very difficult to eradicate underlying values. Technical schools
continued on, most often located in lower socio-economic areas while
university remained the almost exclusive domain of the middle and upper
classes until the 1970s-80s and as the evidence above demonstrates is
still overwhelmingly utilised more by these groups.
Today, the issue of socio-economic inequality manifests itself by the
ability to choose a school that will be the most educationally
advantageous for the student (Lynch & Lodge 2002). It is here where the
power imbalance is most evident. The most obvious example of this is in
access to private schools, with often exorbitant fees that are mostly
2

Rowan McCloskey S4526447

AEG5137

beyond the means of families from lower socio-economic groups. Also,


when it comes to public schools, they can face hurdles. For a start, lowincome parents probably cant afford to move houses to an area with a
good school, the kids may not be able to travel distances to attend school
for financial and/or logistical reasons and they may have trouble gaining
admission to the school. In this era of educational markets, there is
evidence from both the USA and Japan that schools feel pressure to
maintain a large level of middle-class enrolments, as these students are
considered to be more likely to succeed academically. This in turn enables
the school to be more competitive in the marketplace. Students from
lower classes on the other hand are viewed as a risk or liability (Lynch &
Lodge 2002).
This last point leads back to the issue touched on above of cultural
biases and assumptions. As Smyth, Down & McInierney (2010) explains, in
many Western societies, including Australia, there is an unshakeable belief
in the neo-liberal idea that the individual alone is responsible for their
achievements and failures. That any success is due to individual effort
and talent while any inequality is down to personal shortcomings and
failings, or poor choices. There is obviously a myriad of causes and
reasons for any person or communitys situation whether it be positive or
negative, including privilege, social relationships, social status, finances
and history. However this idea of the power of individual initiative over
the power of social class (Lareau, cited in Smyth, Down & McInierney
2010) is so strong that it is often internalised by people on both sides of
the ledger, those that find themselves in the top quartile of the socioeconomic spectrum and those at the bottom. It can often become a selffulfilling prophecy in the area of education when a student from a
struggling background attends school. They can start from a position of
perceived inferiority that is often exacerbated by teachers and a school
system that is seen as part of the dominant class establishment.
Expectations can immediately be lowered with children from a particular
background not being challenged and encouraged to improve as much as
others. Indeed there is a view by Bourdieu (cited in Lynch & Lodge 2002)
3

Rowan McCloskey S4526447

AEG5137

that there is an intimate association between the perpetuation of class


privilege via schooling and the States project in Western capitalist
societies. Nevertheless, despite these challenging obstacles it has to be
accepted that education remains the greatest instrument for people to
move out of poverty and improve their lives and those of their families.
So how can outcomes be improved for students coming from lower
socio-economic backgrounds? Increased funding needs to be targeted to
schools and students with the most need. Discrepancies in educational
resources between wealthy and underprivileged students at school and at
home is very pronounced and an increase in funding would be an
immediate step towards redressing the imbalance. The creation of an
inclusive and transparent school community would also be way of building
social bonds and giving parents more confidence in becoming involved in
their childs education. This is an important step because it has been
acknowledged that while powerful parents will demand the best resources
and have no problem challenging the school and teachers for improved
results, often working class parents, more resigned to inequity and
without the required assertiveness will not (Smyth, Down & McInierney
2010). The final two areas where improvements could be made are in the
curriculum and teaching. With the current trend to a more rigid curriculum
and standardised testing it is becoming more difficult for teacher and
school administrations to provide lessons and education that would
perhaps be more beneficial to students from disadvantaged backgrounds.
Instead of distributing the hegemonic curriculum that can often have the
effect of disempowering these students, Connell (2007) argues that
lessons that use locally produced knowledge and encourage ideas of
social justice would be more effective. This goes hand-in-hand with
utilising the skills of teachers who work in disadvantaged schools to create
a network where they can share knowledge and ideas. As the people bestplaced to provide insights into these issues it would also be a positive step
if these networks contributed to any future policy.
In conclusion, while all the evidence points to a direct correlation
between socio-economic status and educational outcomes, the way this
4

Rowan McCloskey S4526447

AEG5137

manifests through a proliferation of elite schools and the belief that kids
from disadvantaged backgrounds are inferior, means that it is an area
where implementing real solutions is extremely difficult. This is because it
involves a shift in mind-set at a societal and government level, and a
break with the status-quo, which is always hard. Despite these challenges
it is beyond doubt that a lift in educational and learning outcomes across
all socio-economic quartiles would be the single, greatest benefit to
society and one that is achievable.

List of References
Australian Government 2011, Review of Funding for Schooling Final
Report, viewed 17 March 2015, http://www.appa.asn.au/gonski-report.php
Connell, R 2007, Poverty and Education, in Da Silva, CD, Huguley, JP,
Kakli, Z, Rao, R (eds.), The Opportunity Gap: Achievement and Inequality
in Education, Harvard Educational Review, Cambridge
Lynch, K & Lodge, A 2002, Equality and Power in Schools,
RoutledgeFalmer, London
My School 2013, Glossary, viewed 18 March 2015,
<http://www.myschool.edu.au/AboutUs/Glossary/glossaryLink>
5

Rowan McCloskey S4526447

AEG5137

Smyth, J, Down, B & McInerney, P 2010, Hanging in with Kids in Tough


Times, Peter Lang, New York
Smyth, J & Hattam, R 2004, Dropping Out, Drifting Off, Being Excluded,
Peter Lang, New York
Vincent, C (ed.) 2003, Social Justice, Education and Identity,
RoutledgeFalmer, London