Posted by: u4492462 | October 22, 2009

Sociolinguistics and education

Having read about Elaborated and Restricted codes in chapter 11 (Mesthrie et al. 2009), I agree with (Bernstein in Mesthrie et al. 2009) the notion that Elaborated codes are associated with the middle-class children and the Restricted codes with the working class children; in which elaborated codes are seen as more ‘explicit’ and ‘expressive’ than the latter. Many questions occur in my mind such as why are middle-class children have better communicative competence than children in working class? Do parents with greater educational and economic success help facilitate their children in learning the language and the way they express ideas in an explicit way? Both of which are required at school. Can ‘deficit’ hypothesis sufficiently explain why working class children do badly at school? Should (minority and working class) children receive ‘compensatory education’ to do better at school? What if the minority and working class children are taught in their language, will they do better?
Sociolinguistics (Hudson 1980:215) discusses the‘culture-clash’ problem in answering questions such as Yes/No question – “Do you often watch television?”. While middle class children answer this question by extending this question and thinking of this question as an invitation to talk about their TV watching habits, the working class just simply answer ‘Yes’ or ‘No’. Should cultures (of minority children ) take into account to explain their success and failure at school? Any ideas?



  1. I think the question on why white-middle class children do better at school is because the system used at school is the system that conform to the culture and tradition of the middle class. As Heath (1983) found from her extensive observations of home language use within middle class white, working class white ad working class back community, she found that the home language used by white middle class family prepared the students for their success in school, as Mesthrie et al wrote:
    “Middle class white parents spend much time reading stories aloud and discussing story-events with their pre-school children. Heath argues that middle-class white children are therefore “not surprised by the question-asking, revoicing, and other features of teacher talk and respond enthusiastically to its demands.”

    Different to children from the white middle-class group who are equipped with all the habits, tradition and way of interacting as expected by the education system, the students from working class background has different culture and tradition apart from the difference in language. The limitation in language that the students from the minority groups have or in this case the working class group added with the culture which is different also play role in the failure in the students learning. Working-class black parents do not spend time in reading stories to their children but encouraging their children to speak for themselves while when at school teachers are not willing to encourage such outspokenness and this often creates conflict between students-teacher (Mesthrie et al:2009:352) This conflicting value between the intended and received message often found in such situation. The expectation that the school have is different from the culture that the children are familiar with.
    The use of their language can also be helpful for those children as language barrier can also be one of the reasons for their failure. How could they perform well if they do not even understand the instruction or what the teacher expect them to do.
    Culture should also be taken into consideration as the children come to school with the value and tradition that they have at home which is different to the value or culture the teachers or the school has. Susan Phillips (1972.1983) study of “the difference between assumption governing speech and silence found in (Indian) homes and in the non Indian controlled) public schools on the Warm Springs reservations found that “Warm Spring children learn early in life that speaking is an adult privilege; children are expected to listen quietly to adult conversations and to learn from what they hear” (Mesthrie et al, 2009: 351) “While in classroom setting the social meanings associated with silence are read as “the student’s failure to complete the assignment or to pay attention to the class discussion”
    Therefore, I believe that compensating education is important in this case, to be able to address the issue of culture clash that I mentioned above so that there is an education system which is more equal to the students from this group.

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