Class, SES and Privilege educ1103 WEEK 5

What is "Class"? What is "SES"? What is "Privilege"?
How do these concepts relate, and what are the implications for education?

Definition: CLASS "a system of ordering society whereby people are divided into sets based on perceived social or economic status."

The perception of someone's economic or social status is shaped by the various forms of what the French sociologist Pierre Bourdieu terms "Capital". There are several types of capital and these forms of capital are passed down to family members, entrenching privilege or poverty, because those at the top seek to maintain their position.

Economic capital: What you have - Something that can be converted into money, beyond ready cash and income, it refers to investments, property, etc
Cultural Capital: What you know - Cultural artefacts that are valued and which can be converted into economic capital, such as qualifications, tastes, knowledge
Social Capital: Who you know - Your social connections and their social obligations to you
Linguistic Capital: What you say and how you say it - The language/s you speak and how well you speak them

An important point to note here is that Bourdieu argues that the social structure of society does not simply exist, but that social structure, including all the inequalities that go with it, are created by the agency (the actions) of individuals or groups of individuals. Capital doesn’t just exist, it is something which is practised and reproduced by us in our everyday lives.

While the terms "class" and "SES" are often used interchangeably, they are not quite the same. What is "SES"?

High SES and social class bring those with this status certain privilege/s in life, but what exactly does this mean?

Educational implications: The education system currently rewards students from a high SES background. The forms of capital they bring to school are valued by the school system. The inequalities of society at large are being reproduced by the education system (social reproduction).

Distribution of Wealth - making sense of the data

What does the above picture tell us about inequality in Australia over the last thirty years?

What does the graph above tells us about educational expenditure in Australian compared to other OECD countries?

Schooling in Australia

Read: The policy of private schools unmasked


  • What role does SES status play in educational achievement?
  • How can the system of schooling address the inequities and resulting social exclusion? (macro)
  • AND How can you as a teacher address the inequities and increase social inclusion?(micro)

Acknowledgements: images from https://www.pexels.com/, information on forms of capital from https://storify.com/TupsTweets/bourdieu-and-the-forms-of-capital

Created By
Rachel Buchanan

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