Consequences – When Education Is Biased

Although a noble concept education does not serve all the purposes it was meant to serve. The issue at hand, the fact that education tends to reaffirm existing inequalities, is not easy to explain since the ideal behind education in everyone’s mind is the exact opposite. We tend to think that since almost everyone in the western world has access to all levels of education and thus a chance to improve him/herself that person can accomplish something better in life than he or she already has. But the facts show that we do not all have the same opportunities and in the long run the present system of education sustains the existing “order” of society.

One of the largest scaled researches on this issue was conducted for the US government in 1964 by a sociologist named James Coleman. His research showed that academic achievement depends largely on the socioeconomic background of the students rather than school facilities or other factors as he originally expected. Rutter another sociologist who did research on this issue found that school conditions (student-teacher relationship, proper motivation, etc”) could actually improve the academic achievement of children who were of low social and economic background and were otherwise expected to perform poorly. But how can something like this be explained? Three theories seem to explain the reasons why adequately.

According to Basil Bernstein “children while growing up acquire a certain linguistic code depending on the social position of their family, something which later on affects their performance at school”. This difference in language does not concern vocabulary or other linguistic skills it is the difference in the use of language according to Bernstein that makes the difference. A child that grew up in a working class family is used to what is called a restricted code of language, a code that includes a lot of unstated assumptions which is more suited for everyday life rather than academic use. On the other hand a child that grew up in a middle or upper class family is accustomed to an elaborate code with which he/she is able to discuss and express more abstract ideas and is able to suit many kinds of social settings, especially that of the academic world. Such a difference is sure to influence a child’s educational chances.

There are probably many other reasons that explain why education expresses and reaffirms existing inequalities, reasons that have to do with the race, gender or ethnic and religious background of students in different countries. But there are also many things that can be done in order to improve the system and give equal chances to all for a better and more prosperous life. It depends on all of us to abolish inequalities but unfortunately history has shown that people fight for changes only when they have nothing to lose and those who design our lives have made us believe that we have lots to lose if we try to make any change.