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Socio-cultural approaches to learning and development: A Vygotskian framework


In an educational environment, it becomes vital to understand the importance of creating an environment for students to benefit from. A better environment ensures that students will be able to learn, acquire and develop their skills and with the support of the instructor present to solve their queries and to groom them, these students will be able to excel more in their field of interest.


Socio-cultural and environmental influences

  1. Socio-Cultural Learning Theory

Socio-Cultural learning theory is formulated on the concept that a learner perceives and learns from his/her environment and as such environment plays an important role in their development. According to one of the researchers in this field, Vygotsky, he proposed the theory that comprised of three important elements that made the theme of it. These elements being language, area of proximal development and culture.

  1. Language

The socio learning theory presents the fact that language is the resultant of the tools and symbols that arise from inside a culture. People are able to learn a language through participating in various events, social gatherings, scenarios and various processes that contribute towards the learning process (Kozulin 2003). This idea of Socio-cultural is solely dependent on the concept that every learning individual undergoes three important stages which are essential for speech development. The first stage relates to the factor of an environment, associated with and best known as “Social speech.” It initiates at the early ages of a child, around the age of 2 years. The second stage initiates and teaches them about “private speech” that a child picks up at the age of 3 and it is at that time when thoughts are spoken out loud. The third and final stage deals with the process of developing “inner speech” at the age of 7.

  1. Area of Proximal Development

Area of Proximal Development deals with the factor of properly ascertaining the divide between the individual’s intended educational developments by participating in problem-solving with that of actual development that takes place. This is best analysed by studying the individual during the problem-solving situation, under the supervision of an instructor.

  • Culture

Vygotsky argues and promotes the concept that culture is formed with the implementation of various tools and symbols that work as a catalyst in the background. This presents itself as a unique identifier in defining the edge the human race has over the animals. The key source to developing intelligence resides in the fact that humans can internalise the available tools and symbols in their culture.

  1. Environment Influence

Learning is greatly influenced by environment, and similarly, the factors that are present in the environment will become sole determinants of the learning development phase. A child’s first learning experience is greatly affected by the educational environment they are provided. The research presented by Deriek encases a scenario where if a student is kept without any books within that room, no pictures to view or no one to interact with, it will be more than likely that the student will start to have a declining interest towards education and will lose interest in learning anything eventually. He further proposed that if an ideal learning environment were to be created, the student needs to be present in a stimulating environment. Researches have also proven that student’s overall performance has been elevated if there are education stimulating factors present around them or if the environment is friendly, comfortable to learn in and altogether welcoming.

  1. Impact on Socio-Economic Classes

Socio-Economic factor or commonly known as Socio-Economic Status (SES) covers portions including income, acquisition of education, securing financial standing and the subjective concept of social status and the social standing within the class system. The SES explains the procedure through which individuals in society are able to gain opportunities and privileges (Stephens 2014 pp. 943-953). The power of affordability plays a major role in the SES and determines if the individuals in a society are able to acquire these commodities. The effect of SES is visible through other realms as well and determines how effective it will be through for people.

  1. SES associated Educational Issues

Detailed research conducted in this perspective has revealed that children belonging to the lower SES scale families were unable to develop their skills and were slow in this aspect. However, the children belonging to a higher SES scale were able to develop them much fast comparably. It can be best exemplified by relating to an example of a low SES family. Children in the low SES families were unable to acquire better education due to the dominating financial standards that determined the educational institutes they could attend. It also reflected towards their slower cognitive, memory, language and socioeconomically development. It also affected they’re brought up resulting in putting them with lower health and economic levels as well. The best way to approach and address this problem is by introducing various measures that can improve the level of schools, their educational system that may assist in decreasing the overall dropout rate among children from low SES families.

Gender Influences and Educational Achievements

The general dualism theory that prevails between the opposing genders (man and woman) has always been one of the decisive factors in existence, determining the different attitude cultures adapt to address this problem. The difference between male and female is not entirely based on the biology that defines them but also on the fact of their social roles, responsibilities, the norms and values they adopt, function and behavioural elements found in them. These elements have always been the ideal determinants in deciding the maleness and femaleness residing in the society. Socio-economic literature defines and addresses the difference between the genders in terms of explaining the distinctive traits between men and women through their genetic makeup or their biologically different sex.

On closer inspection, the existent problem of gender stratification in the educational system of the present era is close to being non-existent. The problem of gender equality that is an educational system is certainly defined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights that explains that education is available for anyone and everyone, without any differences or restrictions such as race, ethical background, culture, social or sexual discriminations. Presently, the issue regarding the education for women is no longer anymore. However, there are still factors that present such a problem based on masculine and feminine educational opportunities. One of the researchers shows that boys have more opportunities towards subjects with more demand in the market. These subjects include mathematics, informatics, engineering and science subjects, whereas girls are more interested and have better options in subjects like literature, languages, art and history. These subjects determine their future career in their life.

  1. Gender Inequality and Differences

In order to better understand the elements that contribute towards gender-based educational preferences, it is imperative to understand the cause behind it fully. Studies on this subject have brought forward a finding that explains two major prevailing reasons that define the cause of this difference in the educational system. These gender-based differences and to properly consider and analyse them, the two reasons are,

  1. Genetic Differencing

The first and foremost reason deals with the biological factor, and the way upbringing plays a role in it. The biological argument is based entirely on the concept of inherited genes and the gene factor in understanding the mental capabilities of an individual. These mental capabilities further explain the divide between men and women. Bringing the fact of hunting into consideration, it was evident in the old days that men were mostly the ideal candidates of pursuing hunting as their main career. This assumption is based on the fact that men usually showed signs of utilising the right side of their brain’s hemisphere which resulted in the development of the phylogenetic. The phylogenetic development assists with space-visual perception and a better approach to mathematics. In regards to the women, they utilised the left side of their brain more, which resulted in the development of left hemisphere of the brain. It assisted them in acquiring a better command over the skills of perceptual and verbal skills. Another factor that played an essential role in this development is their role regarding being a mother. This biological argument presents a better insight towards the understanding that boys perform better in science and technical subjects, whereas girls can excel better in humanitarian and language subjects.

  1. Socialization Factor

The second reason presents the idea that most educational differences are caused by the important elements present in our environment such as the social and cultural values. The socialisation elements explain the upbringing and the focus on social development that a child acquires in schools. Schools play an important role in identifying themselves as the training grounds for social skill development since the child’s first interaction with his/her peers will determine their position among them while the classroom plays the part of being the laboratory for examining the purpose gender roles play in our society and how to interact with the opposing gender. These gender roles further help them understand their role in society based on the difference between masculinity and femininity. In this new environment the child is taught to befriend children from the similar sex, and the training replaces their home-taught values with those of the school. The other role that the second approach plays a part in, is identifying and elaborating the role teachers’ play in addressing children from the male and female gender, their behaviour and attitude towards them and the kind of social treatment opted for in this case.  Similarly, in this situation when a girl achieves a higher grade in a subject unassociated with their gender-based interest, the teachers will not appreciate nor compliment them but if a boy were to get fewer marks the teachers will merely state this error as “smart but mostly lazy.”

Potential Influence of Cultural Factors in terms of Education

  1. Cultural Influences

There are several elements that are present in most countries that enforce certain cultural barriers that prevent students from fully learning and understanding some problems. A situation such as this one gives birth to cultural influences being effective along with socio-economic and sociocultural differences. From the perspective of learning, cultural influences become a dominating factor in aiding the students to understand and better perceive their education. To better understand cultural influences, it is essential to determine the cultural values before deciding methods of resolving them.

In many cultures, there are several customs and practices that limit female education, most prominent among this is Asian culture. Many Asian countries have been noticed to implement practices that either prohibit or restrict education for females or if allowed, permits them to study up to a certain grade or level. This kind of education is not sufficient enough to allow them to attain a higher paying job and as such becomes a prominent issue in gender-based inequality.

  1. Cultural Influences and Educational Achievement

The influence that cultural values have on beliefs being followed and their importance in the education system cannot be underestimated or overestimated. It is imperative to comprehend the practices that are followed in certain cultures. To better exemplify this scenario, Asian classrooms usually follow the ritual of the students keeping their heads down and avoiding direct eye contact since it is considered to be disrespectful. However, in comparison, European and American schools value active participation and encourage this practice as well. Another example is that Hispanic parents who value their teachers too high and will always consult them in terms of educational advice. In comparison to them, European and American parents are too involved in their children’s education, their classroom activity and the educational schedule they follow, as well as providing help to teachers. This may cause the educators to decide and make inaccurate judgments. These examples present a clear and precise insight into how cultural values and their influences can affect both children who are beginning their education, their participation in schools and the way their educational grooming is performed. Another common cultural influence is that of language preference. Most cultures impose the learning of a specific language and make it mandatory for children to learn it before progressing further in their educational development. Theory of Cultural deficit provides a helpful insight into this matter.

  1. Cultural Deficit Theory

The theory of social deficit presents the view that most students perform with poor performance in their education due to social, linguistic and cultural nature of the environment in their homes. For instance, there are some children who may not have books read to them; this can cause the children to have a lower vocabulary development as compared to other children in their age group. Another contributor to lower vocabulary is the level of social interaction they have at home. Having an interaction that requires a lower level of vocabulary will result in the children not being able to understand their subjects in school fully. The theory of social deficit aims at the deficiencies that may be found at home, the environment at homes that are provided to children, their behaviour and knowledge development. These elements contribute towards their lower level performance in schools.


The primary aspiration of Vygotsky was to devise a new technique to look at and come up with an answer to instructive and social problems of the time. He believed other factors, other than biological instincts, caused humans to operate the way they do. He was the initial modern psychologist to propose a way in which culture plays a part in each person’s nature. Vygotsky believed the inclusion of sign systems from a child’s culture changes behaviour and interfaces early and later forms of individual development. Vygotsky was a strong enthusiast of the idea that what children learned from other people in their own culture made a difference in their development. He considers human thought processes to be based on social connections and speech. Three key areas of sociocultural theory are the zone of proximal development, private speech, and make-believe play. Gender influences play a prominent role in determining a child’s educational perspective, as well as potential cultural factors that inspire or demotivate children. Each of these factors, combined becomes a dominating factor for education in every culture and as such can determine education and the discriminations in genders when it comes to education. Socio-Cultural theory of learning provides a better look into how better outcomes can be acquired and the ways to groom a child’s educational skill.


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