One possible topic for the essays I’m marking at the moment is the effect of socioeconomic status on educational achievement.
The papers on that topic, as on the various other ones, are typically of high quality, interesting and well referenced.
They include a variety of possible influences related to poverty itself – like lack of access to computers, books, resources and study space at home – and to the associated ‘social capital’ – things like lack of friends who aspire to success, parents who can help with homework and so on.
In a few cases I’ve suggested that it may also be related to parents who don’t value education – because in their experience, education failed to value them.
But there’s one issue I haven’t seen represented so far, and have been thinking about: development of language in babies and very young children. This paper offers a pretty good overview: http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/j.1467-8624.2012.01805.x/abstract
The upshot, though, is that parents of higher socioeconomic status typically talk much more to their children – many times more words in total – and use a wider range of vocabulary and grammar, and a wider variety of modes (e.g. instructions, conversations, stories and so on) with the children, and that the children develop more language earlier.
This language development also predicts schooling success quite strongly.
What this suggests to me is that, while interventions at school level are important, and can address some issues, by the time kids get to school some of the effects of socioeconomic status are already ‘wired in’ to their brains in terms of language development – the tools for learning.
The ideal solution would be to eradicate poverty, but since that’s not going to happen, interventions that help parents to spend time talking with their children, encourage them to talk, get them in playgroups with other parents talking to their children, offers them books and encourages them to read stories to their children and a wide range of other not-so-easy but also not-expensive steps could help to address disadvantage in ways that can complement and enhance the things schools can do.