Studying core subjects linked to social mobility

A new article in the British Journal of Sociology of Education looks at how school curriculum content shapes individuals’ chances of social mobility. Using data from the National Child Development Study (NCDS), an ongoing longitudinal study of all those born in England, Scotland, and Wales in one week in 1958, the article finds that curriculum differences reproduce social inequalities and affect individuals’ chances of social mobility.

The people followed by the NCDS study attended secondary school at a time when selective and comprehensive schools co-existed in the British school system. The author found that all or most of the advantage associated with attendance at selective schools was accounted for by the curriculum studied there, even taking into account the socio-economic status of the individual when they were born and individual ability.

The article concludes that core subjects such as languages, English, mathematics, and science were important for individuals’ long-term occupational opportunities, although it noted that it was not possible to say whether this was due to their “higher status” or to the skills that pupils studying those subjects developed. The author says that the findings support the need to focus current discussion about effective teaching on curricular content and inclusive methods of teaching this content.

Source: The Role of the School Curriculum in Social Mobility (2013), British Journal of Sociology of Education, 34(5).