Bentley College Marketing- Honors

This blog is for MK 402-H01 and the greater Bentley College population.

Sunday, March 19, 2006

In Education, Class Matters

The article “In education, class matters” discusses the impact that social class appears to have on education. The author opens with the hypothesis that “better education” comes from better teachers and more tax money to develop school programs. However, a recent UK study found that the primary factor in how well children do in school is not what type of school they attend, but social class

The study matched almost 1 million pupils with individual postcode and exam scores at ages 11 and 15. The results reveal the fact that although students may be receiving the same education, the actual “social class” composition of the school impacted both the individual students’ success and the entire school performance more than other policy and curriculum-based factors. The author sums it up well by saying: “Put simply, the more middle-class the pupils, the better they do. The more middle-class children there are at the school, the better it does. It is proof that class still rules the classroom.”

The discussion of this study illustrates how social class, however that may be defined, still dominates over so many other factors in determining the behavior of people. The overwhelming influence of social class is important for marketers when segmenting consumers. However, I believe it also provides marketers with information beyond segmentation to communication. If students are shown to have different responses in learning to the same education curriculum, the argument can be made that they would have the same degree of varying responses to marketing communications. If students are processing the information differently in school based on their social class, it can be inferred that they would process marketing communications differently as well. This relates to the article about health care and social class, which argues that “a subculture conceptualization requires that social classes exhibit distinctive modes of thought and lifestyle” (Henry 8). This leads to the proposition that “comprehension of new health information for lower-class individuals will require messages tailored to their specific cognitive styles” (Henry 21). Overall, the findings of this study can be used to support the same may be true for education.

This blog posting and study improved by understanding of marketing because it gave some statistical significance to the fact that behavior is shaped by background and social class. At the same time, the study shed light onto the severe implications that could come from these findings if administrators were to “segment” students based on class. This could lead to a “Tiffany’s/Wal-Mart” strategy in which the upper classes receive the “better” education or additional funding, with policy makers using this research to argue that the money is wasted on lower class students since their class, not the actual education, has a bigger impact on their performance. Also, schools could look at this information from a business perspective and “fire their worst customers,” which are the lower class students since the school’s overall success was also found to be influenced heavily by the social composition of the school. Will the low income, low class students become a low priority?

It is difficult to critique this piece since most of the questions that I have concern getting more details about the study. My previous understanding of marketing and social class from out class discussion made me question some of the terms used in the study. First of all, the posting does not mention exactly what the study defined as “social class” or “social background.” Warner’s model included wealth, occupation, education, and residential location. Many more “subjective” factors can be components of social class, such as race, religion, consumption patters, and manners. For marketers to understand the significance of the findings of this study completely, the exact definition of social class, social background, middle class, and other ambiguous terms would be necessary. Also, the author does not seem to point out the implications of the fact that the study was conducted in the UK, where social class may be more “rigid” than in the US. It would be interesting to conduct this study again in the US to see if it yielded similar results.

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