Cultural Capital and Performance in Medical Education

Article excerpt

Abstract: Prior research has found that students from higher social classes generally perform at higher levels in education than other students. A common explanation is that these students hold higher volumes of inherited and acquired cultural capital. However, research on the performance of students in specific fields of education is scarce and thus we know little about the variations between fields of education. Since faculties differ in their teaching and evaluation methods, we could expect the performance of groups holding higher and lower volumes of cultural capital to differ between them. The purpose of this study is to create an understanding of the performance of students within the medical field of education in France. The study is based on a longitudinal dataset (1999-2008) and Specific Multiple Correspondence Analysis is used as statistical method. Main finding is that the inherited and acquired cultural capital is important for level of performance during the students' initial years of medical education, while the acquired cultural capital alone is important during the later years. The results suggest that the lack of inherited cultural capital in some cases and to a certain extent, can be compensated for by acquired cultural capital.

Key words: Higher education, medical students, cultural capital, social class, educational system, acquired cultural, students perform, different groups, statistical method

INTRODUCTION

A rather large body of research has looked at the performance of students from different social classes and concluded that students from higher classes generally perform at higher levels in education than students from lower ones (Graaf, 1986; Muller and Karle, 1993). However, research on the performance of students in specific fields of education is scarce. Since faculties differ in their teaching and evaluation methods, we could expect the performance of students to differ between them (cf. Smith and Naylor, 2001; Hansen and Mastekaasa, 2006).

The purpose of this study is to create an understanding of the performance of students within the medical field of education in France. This field of education is interesting to study because it recruits students from the higher social classes in France to a greater extent than many other fields RERS, 2009 and thus provides a social and pedagogical context with which lower classes are less familiar. In this study, medical students enrolled at the University of Picardie Jules Verne (UPJV) in Amiens, France, are studied. Amiens is located in the Picardie region, a previously industrialized area that includes a large working class population. In 2007, for example, 23.1% of the inhabitants in Picardie were manual workers, compared to 17.6% of the total population in France (www.insee.fr). Due to the higher working class population in the region, the UPJV is attracting many students from lower social classes (cf. RERS, 2009). For example, in 2008, 14.0% of students enrolled at UPJV had a working class background, compared to 10.2% of students enrolled at universities in France in general RERS, 2009.

This study looks at the performance among students in medical education at two different points of time: During the initial years of medical studies and during the later years when the student either enrolls in specialized or general medical training. Many students that enroll in medical studies do not continue studying during the second year of medical education. Between the years 1999 and 2001, a total of 815 students enrolled in the first year of medical studies at UPJV. However, only 36.1% of them (294 individuals) continued studying during the second year of education. After the sixth year of medical training, students either enroll in generalist or specialized medical training. Among students enrolled between 1999 and 2001 that pursued specialized or generalist medical education after the sixth year, most students (64.4%) enrolled to obtain a generalist medical doctor degree and the remaining students enrolled in the more competitive field of specialized training. …