Social stratification is a concept involving the classification of people into groups based on shared socio-economic conditions. Giddens (2009:1133) defines social stratification as “the existence of structured inequalities between groups in society, in terms of their access to material or symbolic rewards”. This context explains in detail the three agents of social stratification and expresses personal views about the categories of social class in the Zambian society it further goes on to explain whether or not social class is responsible for students educational attainment.
The three main agents of social stratification are the family ,mass media and educational institution this is in line with Agumba (2009:45) who contends that “there are many agents of social stratification and these include the school and the family”. One key determinant of one`s social standing is the social standing of one`s parents. Parents tend to pass their social position onto to their children because people inherit not only the social standing but also the cultural norms that accompany a certain lifestyle which they share with a network of friends and family, as such this social standing becomes a comfort zone, a familiar lifestyle and an identity.
Agumba ( 2009:45) comments that “the family plays an important role in the development of an individual, impressions made by an individual often affect his or her adult life” thus a family creates an imprint of the social standing an individual might assume. The media plays a significant role in shaping reality it fosters peoples conceptions about class ,wealth and poverty the media tends to focus much of their attention on the concerns of the wealthy and the privileged Giddens (2009:745) “the ownership of the media has been often been concentrated in the hands of the few wealthy ones” television airtime is filled with advertisements for luxury cars cruise vacations diamond jewelry and other things which only the well to do can afford and hope to buy ,it also regularly provides information about individuals who have achieved superclass, Giddens (2009:759) notes that “representation of the middle class on television appear to be ubiquitous”.
Often when poor people are featured the depiction is either unflattering or pitying, such portrayals are often negative or stereotypical Research has shown that social inequality continues to be produced in educational institutions one latent function of education is for one to achieve and attain the capacity or ability to live a fulfilling life. According to Jean (2009: ) “students who get the best education are likely to be selected for preferred jobs in society”. Agumba (2009:45) adds on saying that “schools or institutions promote social stratification through streaming ,this is grouping of learners with the same ability together”, the impact of this is that streaming has a negative effect on self image and ultimately on performance.
Weber also saw class as an economic category but he stressed its interaction with social status and the affinities of party. In recent time`s social scientists have used occupation as an indicator of class. Zambia is a developing nation and social class in the Zambian context is composed of the three main categories which are the lower class, the working class and the middle class the top upper class is yet to emerge in the Zambian society. The lower class is the least informed people in the Zambian society this class is generally characterized by “low aspirations, poor education, family instability, unemployment, crimes, drug abuse, frequent illness, early death etc.
With proper information and resources it can be anticipated that this class has the potential to be a productive workforce .The lower class can also be thought of as a class which has adopted the worst social culture which is generally characterized by low self esteem. The working class in the Zambian society are the minimally educated people who engage in manual labour ,it should be noted that this class is the largest in the Zambian society.The members of this class are usually underpaid and they have no opportunity for career advancement this class can be reffered to as the working poor and much of what members of the class earn is exhausted on basic needs.
This class is generally hardworking but lack realization of self potential and as such it is the most exploited class by the top classes.the class is characterized by jobs such as dishwashers maids skilled workers in this group also exist such as plumbers and carpenters, although the skilled workers in this class have the capacity to make more money than some members in the middle class their jobs are usually more taxing and they lack self confidence to establish themselves but they would rather work for the others in order to earn their wage.
The middle class in the Zambian society has more money than those below them in the social ladder,this class is the main exploiter of the lower working class and is reffered to as the petty bourgeoisie (people who work but employ others).this class can be divided into the lower middle class which is composed of the less educated people with lower incomes such as managers teachers and secretaries and small business owners,the upper middle class is made up of highly educated business men and professional people with high incomes such as lawyers stockbrokers and CEOs.
Education attainment is the degree of education an individual has attained .it is firmly acceptable to say that “social class is responsible for students education attainment”. There is a very close relationship between social class and education attainment, pupils from professional background are significantly more likely to enter higher education than those from unskilled backgrounds, working class children are more likely to study vocational subjects, this is because some working class parents place less emphasis on education as a means to get on in life. This undervaluing of education by adults combined with more limited career aspirations results in working class pupils viewing schooling as merely a prelude to getting a manual job.
Moreover children from disadvantaged background are more likely to leave school this is believed by many sociologist to be as a result of working class fatalistic culture. Parents generally pass on the idea that their lower status was relatively fixed by education as such working class children don’t see much point in investing time and effort into something that will have little or no effect in their lives, children from this social class also tend to experience economical hardships more than any other classes this is often linked to material deprivation which such students are often linked to throughout their life this material deprivation is has been closely linked to the under achievement of working class pupils in schools.
Middle class students are at an advantage in education attainment because they have the right kind of cultural capital,the right language skill knowledge and attitudes,so basically the more cultural capital you have the more successful you will be in education the working classs lack this cultural capital.middle class families pass on culture and expectations from parents to children this is termed as cultural reproduction and due to this phenomena parents in middle class have high expectations,this pushes their children to work hard at school and to carry onto further education,as they emphasize that they need education to succeed in life.
Other factors of how social class affects educational attainment, are labeling teachers tend to toevaluate pupils in terms of an ideal ideal student by looking at personal factors On overall it can firmly be said said that students in high social classes are likely to have greater educational attainment than those in low social classes,this is because members of high social class tend to be better educated and have higher incomes they are more able to provide to provide educational advantages to their children as well.