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The Role of Social Stratification in Inequality Within The Education System

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Unfortunately, an individual’s gender, ethnicity and class regarding education, continue to act a great barrier to someone’s quality of education. They all continue to represent major dimensions in social stratification and differential access to schooling in both as developing and a developed country. Although there have been major attempts to demolish discrimination on the terms of ethnicity and race however, racial discrimination is still dominant in many countries today. Throughout this piece of work, I will discuss how social stratification has caused inequality within the education system.

In many states throughout the USA and other countries, race continues to be a significant aspect in academic achievement. Many individuals highlight how the element of race still matters in an individual schooling or the extent of their success; sociologists such as Travis Gosa and Karl Alexander (2007). The two had argued that discrimination against someone’s race affects not only the working-class African American but also the middle-class. African American children who come from well off families are not as close to be successful as a ordinary white American student. For this reason, there needs to be a better even more so, meaningful understanding of race and racialisations within the education system.

There have been many attempts to explain why black children are under achieving; many have stated it is down to cultural assimilation as well as loss of social identity. Furthermore, it can be argued that a schools working/classroom environment and ethos is a major factor to black students’ self-esteem within school. This tends to give them a lack of motivation or lack of interest in maximising their full potential, there were significant contrasts in the performance of White British pupils and some BME groups (particularly Pakistani and Black Caribbean), and distinctions (if less significant) in terms of gender, with girls achieving higher than boys (which contradicts the idea of gender equality I will discuss later) It may very well be the issue with race in society already, the stereotypes and people’s general perception of race itself which may be the reason of their under-achievement. Both non-whites and whites have internalised and constructed their racial identities.

Although as discussed, a person’s race does have an impact on their education, it is not entirely negative. Those who are off minority groups, who may have experienced some form of racism could potentially be moved to more deeply embrace there culture, this way they are able to flourish and develop as a person positively and this could affect those around them and the cycle may go on, as stated by Smith and Taylor (2012) ‘such resentment can be directed by more deeply engaging…ones culture, history, and heritage’’. This positive process could lead to a more positive result in terms of minority students by incorporating sociocultural appropriate vales into the education system. This way it will give them a role model someone to look up to, ‘’Lack of positive role models – there were 25 black women and 90 black men among 19,000 professors in 2016-17’’; being able to see people who they can relate to will give them a sense of motivation, hopefully encouraging them to reach there full potential as there will be an increase of black role models.

The link between academic achievement and ethnicity has been studied by numerous of scholars during the past 4 decades. Although a child from different ethnic backgrounds make up majority of the American public-school population, and is still greatly increasing, a drastically small amount of minority students has been considered as competent in reading. In comparison to white students, minority students tend to score lower on regulated tests. It is known that minority students and students from disadvantaged ethnic groups, for instance black Americans within the USA, shown to have poorer academic records, depicting the gap between ethnicity and academic achievement. Strand (2010) argues that based on primary school pupils’ performance on Key Stage 2 tests (SATS) age 11, those who were entitled to free school meals, did not achieve as well as those who were not. Clearly those who were not from well of families, seemed to have an affect on their self-esteem and their education; they lack motivation to push to their full potential. Even more so ‘’A majority of 19-year-olds who have been eligible for free school meals leave education without a good standard of recognised qualifications in English and maths – without which, achieving their goals in the world of work or further study will be much harder’’. Being unable to provide for a child’s school meals, means there are other things a family must pay for and indicates some for, more of struggle which then rubs off onto the child, having to worry about other means and thinking about getting money fast rather than continuing with their education. Not only that, ‘’ They predominately attend poorly performing schools; because they have no choice but to attend poorly performing schools the level of teaching decreases as well.

As well as race and ethnicity, gender inequality is another enduring important element of division of power and social stratification. It clearly reflects patriarchy that exists today. Gender issues are also connected to race, ethnicity, class and status etc. it is known that women are encouraged a great deal to develop skills that are fitting for lower paid jobs, things such as clothes retail or clerical work which is low in income and low status, ‘’Women hold nearly half (45%) of full-time ‘professional occupations’ – including scientists, engineers and health professionals –yet their hourly earnings are 11% lower, on average, than men’’; the fact that women are susceptible to becoming pregnant or due to heavy family responsibilities, they are deemed unable to work fulltime or overtime. This prevents them from advancing in their jobs.

There are many forms of gender equality that people are facing; there are many women around the world who face issues of gender equality. There are women who experience cultural isolation, social segregation as well as economic discrimination. It is as though women are caught in a ongoing cycle of poverty; unable to improve their current status. It is argued that there are two central elements of patriarchal ideology; control of women’s sexuality and the sexual division of labour

Globally compared to men, on in three women are illiterate whereas one in five men are considered illiterate. Rabiner et al. (2004) note that although children from different ethnic backgrounds make up a significant and increasing percentage of the American public school population, accounting for almost 40% of the national enrolment in the fall of 2000, for the past 30 years, significantly fewer minority students have been considered proficient in reading’’, furthermore, in developing countries, one int three women are illiterate where as one in four men are illiterate. Majority of the world illiterate people are in fact women. Even more so, in developing countries, due to cultural practices and religious beliefs women are viewed as good for nothing. Many women/girls are expected to miss out on school more or drop out early due to too many cultural expectations.

It is known my many genders is one of the most important elements in terms of inequality. Till this day there are no societies in which a woman has more power than men, but the role of a man and women and how their roles are valued differ in different societies. It is not so much the biological differences a man and woman posses which partakes in gender equality but other factors per se. I t can be argued that biological things and human biology is the cause of social stratification. Then again it is stated that cross-cultural factors and the environment itself show that gender inequality varies rather than it being constant. According to Parson’s, a family will operate most efficiently if there is a clear line between the roles of a ma and woman; a female will act in more of an expressive role where as the man ill take on the instrument role. This idea is representative of the traditional and patriarchal societies that link to many of the developing countries/economies. Due to the continuous social change and development in society, there will be a more balanced gender pattern in the future to come.

On the contrary, in different parts of the globe, places such as the UK there are marginal gaps between male and female within the education system; with females achieving much better grades than males. Statistics shows ‘’ that on average girls have been ‘out-performing’ boys in GCSE exams since the late 1980s.’’ In ‘’2013/14 Girls are outperforming boys, 61.7% of girls achieved at least 5 A*-C GCSEs (or equivalent) grades including English and mathematics compared to 51.6% of boys; this is a gap of 10.1 percentage points’’; as stated before this is due to the continuous social change and development in society. Not to forget the UK is a very well-developed country with many cultures and traditions intertwined and have evolved over time, therefore certain patriarchy cultural conditions no longer apply. Although females are out performing males ‘’ Gender inequalities are still very evident … boys predominate in physics, mathematics, computer studies, technology and economics and girls choose, biology, social studies, and art and design’’, due to the traditional role of male and female the man tends to take on subjects suitable to a male role, the more ‘’hands on’’ higher status jobs where as females do not. Girls are much more likely to take on subjects such as social work, medicine or psychology ‘’ Stereotypes – emphasize the nurturing role of women and their ‘supposed natural pre-disposition to care activities’’.

To conclude, by focusing on these individual factors of gender, ethnicity and race in education and their negative impact on life opportunities of individuals affected, some people feel intimidated by modernity and social change brought about by forces such as globalisation. Many countries prefer to maintain and keep the traditional culture and social stratification as this is what they have grown up to know and want to stick by it; or to exercise power and control. However, looking at these factors together rather than individually, intersectionality of identities has an even greater impact on one’s education. The idea that black girls achieve better than boys, but not as well as the white girls. Or black working-class girls do not achieve as well as white working-class girls. Parental role models to playa part in the ability to affect education, however this is very difficult, even though they are middle-classed they are still at a disadvantage because of their race ‘’he argued that struggles of people colour must include attention to class because most people of colour are oppressed based on class as well’’. It is clear that sociocultural background whether that be race or ethnicity is very important when it comes to the impact it has on education as Bee and Bjorklund (2004) said ‘’identify four factors affecting individual development that are sociocultural in nature: gender, race and ethnicity, class, and education’’.


  1. Barone, C. (2011). Some things never change: Gender segregation in higher education across eight nations and three decades. Sociology of Education, 84(2), 157-176.
  2. Grant, Carl A., & Sleeter, Christine E. (1986). Race, Class, and Gender in Education Research: An Argument for Integrative Analysis. Review of Educational Research, 56(2), 195-211.
  3. J Zajda, K Freeman (2009). Race, Ethnicity and Gender in Education: Cross-Cultural Understandings. 12th ed. .: Springer Science & Business Media, 2009. 230.
  4. Karl Thompson. (2014). How do GCSE results vary by social class, gender and ethnicity?. Available: Last accessed 11/04/2019.
  5. Lucy Stokes, Heather Rolfe, Nathan HudsonSharp, Sarah Stevens. (2015). National Institute of Economic and Social Research. A compendium of evidence on ethnic minority resilience to the effects of deprivation on attainment. . (.), 47.
  6. Office for national statistics. (2017). How do the jobs men and women do affect the gender pay gap?. Available: Last accessed 11/04/2019.

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