Cultural capital is a Marxist theory that originated from the work of the French anthropologist Pierre Bourdieu. Bourdieu refers the possession of the dominant culture as cultural capital because in the educational system it can be translated into wealth and power. The concept of cultural capital is used to explain how, in addition to tradition socioeconomic and family background characteristics, cultural knowledge, behaviours and traits in individuals and families also affect educational outcomes and teachers’ perceptions of the child. He believes that sharing similar forms of cultural capital with others such as mannerisms, skills, credentials and so on, creates a sense of collective identity and group position. At the same time, it is a major source of social inequality. Certain forms of cultural capital are valued over others, and can help or hinder one’s social mobility just as much as wealth or income (Smidt, 2006).Habitus is one of Bourdieu’s most influential concepts that refers to the lifestyles, skills, values, dispositions and expectations that we possess due to our life experiences.
Children’s cultural capital, transferred to them from their parents, is embedded in the habitus and becomes manifest to teachers through children’s behaviour, language, knowledge and gestures. According to Bourdieu, taste for culture such as food, music, art are also an extension of habitus. Different classes are associated with different tastes and legitimate taste has the greatest prestige. The education system attaches the highest value to legitimate taste and those who acquire it find it easier to succeed. Therefore, children from culturally advantaged families have more cultural capital than children from less advantaged backgrounds and are better able to exploit their cultural capital (Edgerton and Roberts, 2014).A funds of knowledge concept can potentially transform early childhood learning and teaching environments, and implement partnerships with families, communities and cultures authentically. According to Moll (1992), funds of knowledge are “the essential cultural practices and bodies of knowledge and information that houses use to survive, to get ahead, or to thrive” (p. 21).
Informed by sociocultural perspectives of learning, the concept of funds of knowledge acknowledges the richness of experiences associated with children’s active participation in multi-generational household and community activities. Such activities contain ample cultural and cognitive resources and urge teachers to gain a deeper knowledge and understanding of the whole child through getting to know their family, in order to facilitate transfer of knowledge between home and school contexts. The analysis of how information is transmitted to children in Mexican American households suggests that knowledge is passed on through culturally created processes that have a direct effect on the self-esteem of children (Cooper & Hedges, 2014).Riojas-Cortez’s (2001) study of bilingual preschool children’s sociodramatic play offers insights into how funds of knowledge can be applied in an early years’ context to implement a culturally responsive curriculum informed by children’s interests and capabilities. During sociodramatic play, children practice the cultural behaviours transmitted by their families and use them as resources to enhance their play.
Pedagogical practice informed by dialogue with children and their families may enhance professional understandings of how children’s interests emerge from the everyday practices of homes and communities.