1) Cultural Differences:
Students come from different
backgrounds, which can create an environment in the classroom
that is quite diverse. Culture has an impact on teaching and learning.
Differences in behaviours, attitudes, dress, language and food
exist in all cultures. Many of the behaviours that are associated
with being brought up in a particular culture have consequences
for classroom instruction. There is a tendency in our cultures
to value the mainstream, high status groups such as the middle-class
US or Canadian family. Therefore, children not brought up in this
sort of family may encounter difficulty. Often, schools expect
children to speak standard English, but this may be difficult
for those students whose families speak a language other than
English at home. As well, schools expect children to be highly
verbal and do a lot of their work independently, and to compete
with other students for grades and recognition. However, many
other cultures value co-operation over independence and competitiveness.
Therefore, understanding students backgrounds is very crucial
in making sure they are receiving the education they need.
2) Socio-economic Status and Achievement:
Another way that students differ
from one another is social class. Social class is based on income,
education and prestige in society. There are differences in child-rearing
practises between different social classes. Many children from
low-income families receive an upbringing that is less consistent
with what they will be expected to do in school. By the time they
reach school-age, children from middle class families are good
at following instructions, explaining and understanding reasons,
and using and understanding complex language, while lower class
children have less experience in all these areas.
Another difference in these families
are the types of activities that the parents tend to do with their
children. Middle class parents are more likely to express high
expectations for their children and to reward them for intellectual
development. They are likely to provide good models for language
use, to talk and read to their children frequently and to encourage
reading and other learning activities.
Often children from low-income
families are placed at risk for school failure by the characteristics
of the communities they live in and the schools they attend. School-funding
is often associated with the social class of the neighbourhood
that they are situated in. Middle class schools are equipped
with better resources and higher qualified and better paid teachers.
As well, schools in lower income neighbourhoods may have to spend
more of their budget on security, and on services for children
having difficulties. In very poor neighbourhoods crime and a lack
of positive role models, inadequate social and health services
and other factors can create an environment that is not helpful
to a child's development.
How do we get around this?
Schools can do a lot to help low-income
children to succeed in school. For example, programs have been
put in place to help develop children's cognitive
skills early in life and to help their parents do a better job
in preparing them for school. Teachers must realize that children
enter school with varying degrees of preparedness and success.
However, they must be wary about stereotyping certain children
because of their social class. Low expectations of someone can
turn into a self-fulfilling prophecy.
3) Underrepresented Ethnic Groups and Underachievement:
There are many reasons that students
from underrepresented groups lag behind in achievement:
* The most important reason is that in our society, under-represented
ethnic groups tend to occupy lower rungs on the social class ladder.
Therefore, parents in these families are unable to provide their
children with the stimulation and academic preparation that is
* Children in these groups face academically inferior and overcrowded
* The instruction that these children receive in school is inconsistent
with their cultural background.
* Certain ethnic groups tend to prefer to work in collaboration
with others and perform better in co-operative settings than in
traditional competitive ones.
* Some minority ethnic groups suffer from low expectations of
teachers and others, which affect their own expectations for themselves.
4) Gender and Gender Bias:
Gender affects a child's performance.
Because sex is visible and a permanent attribute, gender roles
are among the first that individuals learn and that all societies
treat males differently from females. There often exist the stereotypes
that males and females think and learn differently. It has never
been proven that these differences were due to biological factors
such as sex. It is generally from the fact that male and female
babies have been traditionally treated differently from birth.
This is known as the socialization process. Therefore, a child
may differ from that of a child of the opposite gender because
of what they are expected to know and do.
Development & Education