At the level of equal opportunity rhetoric and strategy, concepts such as self esteem have been very powerful. However, it cannot be denied that our understanding of their ramifications is still in its infancy. Although the construct 'self esteem' offers cer- tain insights there is tendency in the literature to treat the issue of girls' self esteem in a universalistic manner, and thus to ignore the specific cultural circumstances of girls and the manner in which culture intersects with gendered achievement and ambition. The fields of sociology and cultural studies have much to offer in this regard. In this paper I will expand on the above points with particular reference to the ways in which social class, gender and education interact. This perspective will be informed by the socialist-feminist literature on gender and schooling.