Critically assess the relationship between social class, education and life opportunities in the UK. Is social class still the most important predictor of employment opportunities in 2016?
The following general criteria will be used to assess your written work.
Structure – a clear logical format with linked points and arguments.
Objectives – these should be related to the chosen topic area and should be clearly stated in the essay.
Background material – evidence of the background research drawing from literature sources. Should include enough descriptive content and factual information from which to derive arguments and assessment of key themes and issues to be addressed.
Accuracy – in the presentation and description of theories used in the argument
Argumentation – the main argument of the report should relate to the objectives you have initially stated. They should be supported by evidence, both from a variety of sources in the literature.
Conclusions – summarise the key points and arguments and relate back to the original objectives of the essay.
Presentation – the essay should be well planned – clear, coherent and well laid out. Relevant references and sources should be cited using a consistent and accepted style of referencing.
PLEASE NOTE: YOU CANNOT ACHIEVE A PASS MARK ON YOUR ESSAY BY ONLY READING THE COURSE TEXTBOOKS. YOU MUST READ SEVERAL ACADEMIC JOURNAL ARTICLES AS WELL. THOSE THAT ARE RECOMMENDED ARE LISTED AT THE END OF THIS HANDOUT. PART OF THE SKILL OF A GOOD ESSAY WRITER IS THE ABILITY TO SOURCE APPROPRIATE ARTICLES. STUDENTS OFTEN ASK WHAT IS THE MINIMUM NUMBER OF ARTICLES THEY NEED TO READ? THERE IS NO ANSWER TO THIS. HOWEVER, AN ESSAY THAT ONLY HAS A COUPLE OF JOURNAL REFERENCES IS UNLIKELY TO ACHIEVE MORE THAN A BARE MINIMUM PASS.
Some journals that are of relevance for this course and will help in your essay preparation are, in no particular order…
- British Journal of Management
- Human Relations
- British Journal of Industrial Relations
- Industrial Relations Journal
- International Journal of Management Reviews
- Employee Relations
- Organization Studies
- Academy of Management Journal
- Academy of Management Review
- Journal of Management Studies
- Work, Employment and Society
- Gender, Work and Organization
- New Technology, Work and Employment
- Personnel Psychology
- Journal of Organizational Behaviour
- Journal of Occupational and Organizational Psychology
- Economic and Industrial Democracy
- International Journal of Human Resource Management
- Human Resource Management Journal
Social Class, Education and Life Opportunities in the UK
According to Kleniewski (2011), social class or class is the set of concepts that define social stratification. It involves grouping individuals in the society into categories based on their economic and social status, occupation, and power (Ferrante-Wallace, 2008). In the social theory of class, Karl Marx defined class as the mode of production that distinguishes one group in the society from another. According to the social scientist, different modes of production in the society form a distinct class system where one class controls and directs the processes of production while the other produces and provides for the dominant class in the society (Kleniewski, 2011). According to Marx, the bourgeoisie and the proletariats are the two distinctive classes of the society where the bourgeoisie own the production lines/processes while the proletariats serve as production workers (Ferrante-Wallace, 2008). On the other hand, Max Weber argued that class included the socioeconomic distinction in the society based on property/wealth and the inclusion of power, prestige and social status as the defining factors of class in the society (Kleniewski, 2011). All in all, the society’s categorization of individuals into various socio-economic sets based on their income, occupation, social status, derived power or wealth influences societal integration and interaction significantly.
Class has changed significantly over the last century. In the early-twentieth century, the UK depended greatly on the manufacturing industry and its mass production as the greatest employer. The reliance on the manufacturing sector made a clear distinction between the bourgeoisie and the proletariats, creating a social class gap in line with Marx’s arguments. However, in the latter years of the century and the start of the 21st century, the shift towards the service industry and the extensive adoption of computer technology has diversified ownership, established a knowledge society, and caused a decrease in the percentage of the upper class, a rise in the middle class and a reduction of proletariats (Oesch, 2014). However, the UK continues to experience a major challenge caused by social stratification.
Social class remains an imminent policy issue in the UK due to its significantly high influence on the education sector and life opportunities. It remains the most significant predictor of educational access and achievement in the State. According to Savage et al. (2013), the UK records the highest social class gap that influences educational achievement and opportunities the most. While the government focuses on developing equality in education and to life opportunities, the challenge of the social class gap and its influence on the education sector remains a great issue of concern. The challenge continues to influence increasing socio-economic inequality that further impedes human development especially for people in the lower social class. Through an in-depth analysis of literature, this research critically assesses the relationship between social class, education and life opportunities in the UK. It outlines social class as the most important predictor of education achievement and employment opportunities hitherto but integrates different viewpoints for and against the argument.
The relationship between Social Class, Education and Life Opportunities in the UK
Class differences in the UK influence existence in the region by impacting significantly on most social aspects. According to Heath et al. (2013), social class has a direct influence on education and life opportunities. In the UK, class remains a critical issue that fuels political debates and concerns for the development of policies to alleviate the social class gap to minimize the inequalities it causes. The influence of social class on the education sector reveals the importance of immediate action in addressing the issue. Access to education and performance in schools in the UK is greatly determined by the social class of the student. According to Beider (2014), the social class of the parent determines what school the child attends and influences their academic success significantly. The best performing schools often attract students from the privileged social class while the less performing attract those from lower social class. The latter access poor quality education or lack a chance in the schools of their choice. The result of such inequalities in education is a general inequality in the access to life opportunities.
The UK has a widely spread social class that influences the education significantly and is directly connected to the inequality experienced in the education sector and in accessing life opportunities (Croxford & Raffe, 2014). For example, Savage et al. (2013) outline seven categories of class, which include the elite social class, the established middle class, the technical middle class, new affluent workers, the traditional working class, the emergent service workers and the precariat. These categories influence the education sector and contribute directly towards educational inequality and inequality in access to life opportunities in the UK (Machin, et al., 2012). However, Pakulski and Waters (1996) assert that class in the modern UK is dead, and its influence in the social and political platform remains insignificant but people continue to use it to divert attention from the real issues and morally problematic concerns that cause inequalities.
Additionally, social class influences the access to education and life opportunities in the UK. People from the elite social class, the established middle class, and the technical middle class in the UK have impressive or high economic, cultural and social capital (Savage, et al., 2013). However, the influence of the capital possessed by the different classes depends on the class, the highest being in the elite, the established and technical middle class respectively. Moreover, the new affluent workers, the existing working class, and the emergent service workers reveal moderately good capital, poor social contacts and status, and lower household income as compared to the aforementioned classes. While the new affluent workers maintain a good economic and social capital and a good emerging cultural capital, the traditional working class and the emergent service workers record moderately poor economic capital, reasonable house price and low emerging cultural capital. Moreover, the precariat class maintains a poor economic capital, poor housing, poor social contacts and cultural capital (Savage, et al., 2013). These aspects influence the life of the different social classes including access to quality education and life opportunities.
The influence of the capital on social class in the UK plays affects access to education and the enjoyment of life opportunities (David, 2009). There exists a close correlation between the education an individual attains and the ability to benefit from opportunities within the society. As the society avail numerous opportunities, few people from the privileged social classes utilize the opportunities while those from lower experience a significant challenge in acquiring quality education and utilizing life opportunities. According to Stevenson and Willott (2007), people from the middle and above classes have access to quality education since they have the privilege of attending public independent schools or prestigious public schools. For instance, the class of the elite records the highest capital and thus attends the best schools in the UK. The acquisition of quality education from the schools and the chance for the continued pursuance of academic objectives and career goals without hindrances equips them with the skills and knowledge critical for tapping into and exploiting the existing high-quality opportunities in the society (Leathwood, 2004). As such, children from the elite social class of the UK access quality education which places them at an elevated ground for the identification and utilization of life opportunities in the society.
Moreover, the close relationship between education and life opportunities in the UK can be seen from the analysis and comparison of the different social classes and class gaps in the society (Reay, 2006: Crawford, 2012). In the UK, the existing class difference to inequalities experienced in the education system and life opportunities. People from the different social classes have different preferences concerning what schools to attend and some are limited by various socio-economic denying them the chance attend their preferred schools (Stevenson & Willott, 2007). Most public or private schools that offer quality education are expensive for people of lower social status. Moreover, most state schools and private schools, which are cheaper and affordable by the lower class of individuals in the UK are criticized for offering low-quality education. This makes it difficult for people from the different social classes and with different educational backgrounds to compete effectively for the available opportunities. The issue continues to elevate socio-economic inequalities which further the educational inequalities through impoverished and lower social class generations (Hirsch, 2007).
The acquisition of education in different institutions of learning that offer different quality of education creates a distinction in the opportunities people from various social classes tap into and the career paths they follow. According to Leathwood and Archer (2004), the middle class in the UK attend state, private or independent schools depending on whether they are established, technical or lower middle class. Depending on the level of education they acquire and its quality, they pursue different career paths and make use of opportunities in white-collar and well-paying jobs. Opportunities in the fields of accountancy, architecture, survey, engineering, medicine, or information technology among others are of great interest (Savage, et al., 2013). Moreover, the traditional working class and the precariat stand low chances of acquiring education and pursue lesser prestigious courses and opportunities in life such as unskilled labour or skilled industrial jobs. Moreover, the access to education is limited by their economic status, and thus, they end up having low-quality education. Such education leads them to the pursuance of lesser paying jobs and opportunities. In other cases, as Johnson and Kossykh (2008) assert, precariat and the lower middle class have insignificant educational achievement which cannot guarantee them meaningful employment and pay. However, the focus directed towards improving the quality of education in state and public schools continues to ensure that people from different social classes have access to quality education. This has minimized the influence of social class on education and employment opportunities.
Apart from the quality of education as influenced by the institutions of learning, other factors such as poverty and class related concerns influence the educational achievements of individuals from different social classes. As Hirsch (2007) states, educational achievement and performance influences the chances of success in the society and play a major role in the identification of opportunities in the society. However, performance and achievement are influenced by multiple social factors other than the quality of education a school offers in alignment with its social appeal. According to Reay (2006), poverty impacts on student performance and affects academic achievement significantly. People from poor backgrounds experience numerous difficulties that limit learning efficiency and, therefore, make it nearly impossible for them to constantly pursue academic goals in the way as their counterparts from privileged backgrounds. As Hirsch (2007) asserts, low-income influences educational performance significantly and acts as a strong predictor of low educational performance. As such, the precariat, lower middle class and traditional working class experience difficulties in the identification of life opportunities and the pursuance of academic excellence and achievement.
The interconnection between social class, education and life opportunities is undeniable. Children from different social classes have different experiences that influence their learning processes and performance differently (Beider, 2014). Children of lower status experience a lack of control over the learning process and often feel anxious and less confident about school. This results from multiple challenges closely linked to their social class. For instance, the precariat record low household income and negligible savings and face numerous challenges (Chan & Goldthorpe, 2004). The class is deprived of basic needs and other essentials for enhanced learning. Therefore, the performance and academic achievement of precariat students is greatly affected. They record low academic achievement and stand a lesser chances of benefitting from life opportunities. Moreover, children from higher social classes may experience challenges but benefit from various privileges that come with the statuses. In an instance, housing, hunger, poverty, and lack do not influence their lives and thus, the comfort and the control they have over their education gives them an advantage over those from poor backgrounds (Hirsch, 2007).
The continued lack of opportunity among individuals from low social classes due to the lack of sufficient skills and low qualifications causes child poverty and denies the children a chance to benefit from life opportunities. The challenge of class, especially where people are from a low social class translates to generational poverty (Hirsch, 2007). As parents lack opportunities for socio-economic advancement due to socio-economic circumstances, they expose their children to poor quality education or their children achieve poor qualifications. The achievement of poor or low qualifications in education and the lack of skills causes the transmission of poverty to immediate generations. The result is a society crippled by poverty, hunger, disease and the lack of opportunities that it can exploit. The case depicts the close relationship between education, social class and life opportunities. The UK faces a great challenge in developing the society especially targeting the precariat, the traditional working class and the lower and middle middle class. Bridging the gap between the wealthy and the poor through policy development will alleviate social and educational inequalities and create a chance for every citizen to exploit and benefit from the available opportunities (Raffe & Croxford, 2015: Hope, 2010).
Moreover, investigating the influence of the social class on the achievement of quality education among the elite class, the established middle class and the technical middle class outlines the close relationship between class, education and opportunities (Savage, et al., 2013). These classes enjoy numerous privileges that come with the high economic and cultural capital and the various aspects that enhance livelihood. For instance, while housing and food remain a significant challenge for the precariat, people from these social classes have comfortable housing and sufficient food supply (Heath, et al., 2013). They have sufficient supply of the basic needs, what would be luxurious to the precariat. Therefore, children or students from these social classes learn in efficient environments and have control over their learning processes. Additionally, they remain confident throughout the process and thus record impressive academic performance and achievement. The achievement translates to numerous life opportunities. These opportunities require individuals equipped with the necessary level of skill and knowledge thus making it only feasible for children from elite or proper childhood (Hirsch, 2007).
The elite, the established middle class and the technical middle class have high economic capital and social capital and thus pursue different academic goals. Children from these backgrounds record impressive academic performance and achievement (Feinstein, 2004). The children face limited challenges in learning and remain focused on education and the achievement of their goals and objectives. Moreover, they have role models to emulate and focus on high-end careers and professional development (Waller, et al., 2014). For instance, children from elite social class may pursue their dreams without the challenges that precariat children face. As such, they end up achieving high qualification and great academic achievement, which allows them to exploit opportunities present in the society (East, et al., 2014: Savage, et al., 2013). It remains difficult for children from low social status to achieve these achievements and thus, it is clear that education, social class and life opportunities in the UK work hand in hand (Jackson, 2013).
All notwithstanding, social and economic capital, as Croxford and Raffe (2014) asserts, have no significant influence on or do not entirely define what career paths or employment opportunities people from different social class pursue. With the increasing investment in education, the government continues to ensure that people from different backgrounds and classes have access to quality education. The acquisition of the education places people from the different classes at the same level of skills and knowledge development, whose application depends on individuals. With the knowledge, people have access to different employment opportunities, and thus the level of capital, whether social, cultural or economic remains irrelevant. As such, capital does not always influence employment opportunities even when it may play a major role in influencing the kind of schools a person attends.
continue to form a critical issue in the UK and call for the implementation of
immediate and effective measures for addressing the concern. The differences
and majorly the existing social class gap in the society continues to enhance
the present inequalities in the social, economic and political spheres. Less
privileged children experience numerous hardships in their education and thus record
low success and academic achievement. However, children from the middle and
above classes record impressive success and academic achievement. The close
relationship between education, social class and life opportunities ensures
that the rich access and exploit the opportunities while the poor continually
transmit poverty through generations due to the inability to tap into the
present opportunities. The government of the UK must work towards the reduction
of the social class gap to give every citizen the chance to pursue and benefit
from life opportunities.
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