Inequalities in Australian Schooling: Sociocultural Factors in terms of Cultural Capital, Habitus and Social Reproduction
There is a common, underlying perception that students from particular cultural and linguistic backgrounds – what is generally referred to as ethnicity - have a predisposition towards educational success in Australian schools (Watkins, 2013). Students from Anglo backgrounds, for example, are often seen as having a cultural advantage whilst others, such as Middle Eastern students, are perceived as culturally prone to underachievement. These claims confine ethnicity to fixed and bound stereotypes, and see educational achievement as a result of the inherent qualities of these groups (Watkins, 2013). However, ethnicity cannot be held solely responsible for the inequalities in Australian education. A densely interwoven fabric of socio-cultural factors, for instance, geographical location and socioeconomic status, is evident in the disparities between students' academic achievements. It is within fabric that it can be established that students from minority groups are educationally disadvantaged due to their ethnicities, geographical locations and socioeconomic statuses, incidentally influencing their chances of educational success in Australian schools (Groundwater-Smith, 2009).
Bourdieu (1997) develops his notion of cultural capital, the learned competence in the valued way of doing things, as a way of explaining this unequal educational performance of students. Those with cultural capital not suited to Australia’s Western educational approaches are less likely to succeed than students with a predetermined skill set ideally suited to Australian education systems. That is to say, the students from minority groups are predisposed to underachievement due to their discordant cultural capital upon entering Australian schools. Many students, particularly those from minority groups like Indigenous Australians, have not necessarily developed the cultural capital that allows them to excel in a school environment, often because of socio-cultural factors like their ethnicity and geographical location.
In fact, studies indicated that Indigenous Australians are significantly behind non-indigenous Australians in academic achievement (Bradley, Draca, Green & Leeves, 2006). Geographical remoteness, socioeconomic status and indigenous ethnicity and culture have a major influence on educational success for Indigenous students. An example of this can be seen in rural indigenous communities where indigenous economic systems are still used, forcing a gap in terms of both geographical location and socioeconomic status (Altman, 2008). As a result of this gap, Indigenous students from these areas are not able to obtain the same level of education as students living in urban settings where colonial economic systems are recognised (Altman, 2008). These socio-cultural factors construct a specific cultural capital for indigenous students that is not widely...