Explanations for differential educational achievement across different class, age, gender and ethnic categories are many, varied and complex, so it’s unlikely any single explanation taken out of the context of the lived experiences of different social groups can fully explain these differences. However, this is not to say it’s not a useful exercise to get students to consider (and evaluate) “single-issue” explanations.
In this respect this article – White children ‘falling behind other groups at GCSE’ – suggests that parental engagements (what parents actually do to support their children’s education) are a more-significant factor in achievement than “parental aspirations” (what parents hope and encourage their children to achieve) and it can form the basis for a some useful classroom exercises:
1. The underlying concept behind the idea of parental engagements is emotional capital and labour and this can be applied and considered through the work of someone like Diane Reay.
2. The article is based on a recent (2016) CentreForum Report (Education in England) that contains a lot of useful contemporary data that can be mined by teachers and students.
3. In terms of research methods, the article suggests ethnicity is a crucial variable in achievement – but how might evidence relating to social class question this assumption?
4. This type of explanation can be considered in the context of alternative explanations for differential educational achievement – how could these explanations be used to evaluate the explanation advanced in the article?