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Education is a social process. Education is growth Education is life itself. During the course of this study I have been even more convinced that society and all its processes have a profound effect on people's lives. I draw upon my own experience in that I was pulled along during my formal education doing that which was considered to be 'cool' rather than fully applying myself to take advantage of the opportunities that I had been afforded.
I acknowledge that the methods of data collection and the subsequent data are subjective in nature; I have attempted to ensure that the validity of the study through pinpointing questions in the questionnaires and the interviews which target the specific information pertaining to the study.
Having said that there are a number of areas which I as the researcher recognise could and should have been done differently for the benefit of the study. I did not give myself a clear enough focus at the outset and therefore did not fully get to grips with what is an interesting area for research. I did not pinpoint exactly the questions which I was seeking to answer and therefore the questions that were devised for the questionnaire were not specific to the task. For example as a part of the Literature review I wrote about gender specific issues but failed to address this issue fully in the questionnaire. On reflection I was not specific enough with regard to influences on my academic achievement in the school setting - I did not home in on the information that would have enabled me to fully explore the issues that made the academic attitudes and achievements of myself and my sister so different. I needed perhaps to structure the questions differently in order for the respondents to be able to give fuller answers thus giving me more data on which to draw. As a result of this and the previously acknowledged subjective nature of this type of study generalised conclusions will be difficult to draw.
One conclusion that can be drawn is that attitudes count for a good deal. Academic outcomes are influenced by the attitude that individual learners have along with the attitudes that parents adopt and attitudes that are elicited by the ethos of the school. The process begins in the home through the way that the parents and extended family interact with children in order to encourage their love of and enthusiasm for learning. All respondents indicated this to be the case saying that the influence of their parents was vital in their attainment without indicating why this was the case. Interesting and potentially important data was lost through the researcher's failure to get the respondents to expand their answers as to how others experience of school was used to better their own.
There would appear to be a link between the society in which people live and adult aspirations. My Grandmother, my mother and a number of my female friends wanted merely to get married and to have children; there is nothing wrong in that goal in life but it does seem to presuppose that this is the function of the female and that this attitude is fostered within society and the home from a very early age. Having said that my mother was motivated to have a career later due to her aspirations for myself and my sister - she (and my father) wanted us to enjoy a better life and worked long hard hours to provide the opportunities for us to better ourselves. These targets were clearly picked up by both of us but it was only later down life's road that education came to mean what it should have for me all along; the bond that I have with my Grandmother and the shared learning experiences that we had have pushed me towards higher goals - I must take advantage of the things that are now available to enhance my education and my life in general (as my mother has done) rather than not maximising the opportunities.
Using education as a social stepping stone is an interesting point for debate. My sister and I, as well as my parents have moved from working to middle class through using the education system and the gaining of qualifications to our advantage and advancement. We have been able to move away from the self fulfilling prophecy idea and society's artificial constraints to make better lives and prospects for ourselves through the application of our intellect and 'using the system'.
On reflection I, as the researcher, needed to be more specific in their aims for this study in order for it to provide a valid social comment; it needed to be specific in the data which it sought in order to address what are key issues with regards to academic achievement. It might also have been useful to draw more specific comparisons between myself and my sister in order to determine which factors were more influential on us and why. There also needed to be some questions and data gathered about the differences in attainment between the genders in education - without male and female data to draw upon, no really meaningful comment can be made about gender affects on academic attainment. It would have been advantageous to include males in the final study as well as in the pilot in order to generate this data. Greater understanding might also have been possible if there had been a fuller explanation of the socio cultural background of my Grandmother and my parents in order to be able to compare it to previous studies into the influence of social class on education. It would also have enabled me to assess the difference between where my sister and I are now as opposed to where my Grandmother began to see how far we have come.