A key goal of education is to make sure that every student has a chance to excel, both in school and in life. Increasingly, children’s success in school determines their success as adults, determining whether and where they go to college, what professions that they enter, and how much they are paid.
The children of parents in higher social classes are more likely to stay on in post-compulsory education, more likely to achieve examination passes when at school, and more likely to gain university entrance.
Sociologist Ball et al. argues that middle-class parents are in a better position than working-class parents to ensure that their children are get to the school of their choice. Middle-class parents possess cultural capital, which means that they have contacts and can ‘play the system’ to their advantage. They also have the ‘stamina’ to research, visit schools, and make appeals and so on. Middle-class parents can afford to pay for the transport necessary to send their children to more distant schools, and they can afford extra tuition and childcare if necessarily. Although in the vast majority of cases, children from middle-class families have, to a certain point, the educational system to their advantage, Ball et al. did not find that working-class parents were less interested in their children’s education. However, they did lack the cultural capital and material resources needed to use the system to their advantage. Example, observations showed that working-class parents preferred to send their children to the nearest school, because of neighbourhood links, safety concerns, and transport costs.
Another aspect which is surely acting as an obstacle in educational success, is racism. Perhaps, the strongest attack on the educational system regarding ethnic minorities, was by Bernard Coard in 1971, on the British education system. He argues that black children are made to feel inferior because; West Indian children are told that the way they speak is inferior; the word ‘white’ is associated with good, and the word ‘black’ is associated with evil; the content of education tends to ignore black people; attitudes in the classroom are reinforced by pupils in the playground where racial abuse and bullying may occur. Coard believes that this leads to black children developing low self-esteem and low expectations.