L. Huang (2007). The Contribution of Home Background to Student Inequality in Secondary School in Norway in Standards in Education, pp. 331-345
In this essay, I would like to provide my critical understanding of a journal article entitled The Contribution of Home Background to Student Inequality in Secondary Schools in Norway written by Lihong Huang. There are 6 questions asked dealing with the inequality in secondary schools in Norway. Before moving to the main issue, I shall be discussing the social structure and education system of Norway. Then finally I will come up with the burning issue.
Education system in Norway allows children to start school when they are six year old. Compulsory education is ten years that includes seven years primary school and three years lower secondary school. 98 percent of young people enter upper secondary school education after they have finished lower secondary education (Markussen, 2003). Upper secondary education is three years optional schooling provided by the government to children between 16 and 19 years old. Before 2006, students would choose from three educational paths in their upper secondary schooling, namely (1) academic path which leads into university entrace qualifications after three years of study, (2) merchantile path which leads to a trade or journeyman’s certificate after four years of study, and (3) professional path which leads to certain vocational competence such as mechanic, carpenter, or electrician after three years of study.
In fall 2006, graduates from lower secondary school will apply either a general education path which leads to university entrance or professional path which leads to vocational competence for their upper secondary education. Finally, around 35 percent of upper secondary school graduates continue to tertiary education right away and about 50 percent of the Norwegian young population choose tertiary education after completion of upper secondary education at some point in their life.
Huang argued that the specific structure of educational system in a country has implications for social mobility of the individual who make careers in the system (Allmendinger, 1989). A flat structured society plays an important role in Norwegia as there are some clear features of cultural fractions within the middle class and among different occupational groups.
In contrast, social status refers to a set of hierarchical relations that express perceived, and to some degree accepted, social superiority, equality and inferiority among individuals, which reflect not their personal qualities, but rather the degree of ‘social honour’ attaching to certain of their positional or perhaps purely ascribed attributes, such as ‘birth’ or ethnicity (Chan and Goldthorpe, 2004).
To sum up, the issue proposed by the author is that, the inequality in secondary school in Norway was influenced by the student family background. There is a relationship between the student home backround and student motivation and achievements. The author based this issue on the sociocultural, psychological and environmental educations from parents, teachers, and others.
Answering the question number 2: The author argues that ability and social background are the key factors affecting students’ decision to undertake higher studies. Do you agree with him? What are the other likely factors which motivate/do not motivate students to undertake tertiary education?
In respond to this question, I would say that I agree with the author’s arguments. It is found in Norway that children whose parents take completed tertiary education have higher achievement and have much higher of participation in tertiary education. The fact that different social strata in Norway have their own specific class cultures determines the individual occupations. Also, different social strata manage to pass their cultures along generations through influencing their children’s educational career choices. Parents’ social class will be seen through their children education and occupations. This social strata affects on the students from immigrant families. They tend to study harder and have more encouragement from home to aim higher in their career development (Lauglo, 1999, 2000).
Other factor which motivates students to undertake tertiary education is the gender issues which were known as gender segregation. This issue ensure men and women have equal access to a higher education, equal opportunities for participation in the labor force and in choice of occupation. Today, women and men have more or less equal levels of education, and women’s participation in working live has increased dramatically since 1960s.
The third question: In this research the author derives his hypotheses from three theories. Formulate an hypotheses and a research question based on each of these theories. What type of statistical tools would you choose for your stated hyphoteses? For the response of this questions, I would like to list three theories used. The first theory is forward test anxiety theory which suggest that children strive for approval from parents and significant others and fear for disapproval (Skinner and Fester, 1957). The second theory is the need achievement theory that suggests that children strive for success or avoid failure according to the values placed on either success or failure (Atkinson and Feather, 1966). The last theory is the theory of motivation that explains motivation to learn as a competence acquired through children’s experience but stimulated mostly by modelling, communication of expectations, direct instruction or socialization by parents, teachers expectation, and significant others (Brophy, 1987).
Allow me to formulate a hyphothesis based on these theories. I would derive the hypotheses from the null hyphotheses, that is, there is no relationship between the student home social backround and the student achievements. In addition, I would like to propose the Correlation Coefficient as the statistical tool. Pearson product-moment correlation coefficient, also known as r, R, or Pearson's r, a measure of the strength of the linear relationship between two variables that is defined in terms of the (sample) covariance of the variables divided by their (sample) standard deviations.
The question number 4 about the figures 14.1 page 337 will be explained as follows: Figure 14.1 is an analytical model based in theories and previous research. The model contains four latent clusters. Two separate variables – family social status and family economic status are hypothesized to constitute student home socio-economic status. The hyphothesized links between student family social status, family economic status with student motivation and student achievement are tested in the model, using LISREL techniques. The arrow directed from student motivation to student achievement in a hypothesis that students who aim high in their educational plans eventually do better in their studies.
The answers of questions number 5 are as follow: Table 14.1 explains about the students’ parents. Among them, only 12 percent of the fathers and 10 percent of the mothers report lower secondary school as their highest level of education while 36 percent of fathers and 35 percent of mothers have educational attainment equal to and above tertiary level. As table 14.1 shows, parental educational attainments from the dataset are not significantly different from the national total. Concerning family financial situation, 6.5 percent of the students claim to be poor while 67 percent of them say that their family’s financial situation is rather good and 22 percent of them feel that their family is in a better financial situation than the average family in their neighborhood.
Table 14.2 summarizes correlations between student-family social background, student educational motivation and student achievement. First, father’s and mother’s education levels correlate almost equally with student motivation and achievement. Second, all correlations are positive, which means that parents with high educational attainment tend to have children with high educational motivation and high achievement as well. Third, all the correlations are rather moderate but statistically significant. The positive correlation in Table 14.2 provide us some explanations of students planning of education and their school achievement. It implies that students have higher educational goals if their parents have higher educational attainment. The same implication also applies to student achievement in theree subjects. Nevertheless, these relationships need more careful exploration, achieved by testing the linear structural mode in the following.
Table 14.3 presents the statistical result of a linear structural model linking student home socio-economic status, student motivation and student achievement. It shows that home social status, measured by father’s and mother’s educational attainments have a very strong positive and direct effect on student motivation and a strong total effect on student achievement. Home economic status seems to have very little effect on either student motivation or student achievement. Student motivation has a strong and positive effect on student achievement.
For the last question, I would like to explain about the likely factors for better academic performance of children from more educated parents and immigrant families. Norway is one of the few countries in the world that have achieved social equality to some extent. As long as there is segregation in the society, occupational or cultural, the education system will be there to maintain and reproduce it.
There are two blocks here, for more educated parents, it is believed that they would influence their children to get tertiary education to secure their social status. The other block is from the immigrant families that tend to study harder in order to reach a better career development. Those two blocks are the reason why is that the tertiary education choosing should be based on the children interests for better academic performance.
This study showed that student motivation and student achievement are also influenced by the other factors, for example: cultural capital of the family as well as its social and economic capitals, student school experience, school learning environment, teacher attitude and treatment towards different students, etc.
Chan, T.W., Birkelund, G. E., Aas, A. K., Wiborg, O. (2010). Social Status in Norway. University of Oslo.Huang, L. (2007). Standards in Educations: The Contribution of Home Background to Student Inequality in Secondary Schools in Norway, 331-345.
Kilden. (2006). Gender in Norway: Policy Areas.