I would say that one of the critical social problems that is addressed in the book is what education's role can be in understanding social context and how it can be sought to change such conditions. Braithwaite teachers his students that while they might not be able to change or eradicate social problems such as racism, sexism, discrimination based on age, or class discrimination, they can be in charge of their approach to these problems. In treating them as adults and teaching them how to avoid socially designed labels of "dregs" and "miscreants," Brathwaite uses education to teach them that they can assert some level of control and autonomy in how they are a part of a social context. In doing so and through emphasizing community as being critically important to this process, Braithwaite teaches them how to empower their own senses of self amidst social context.
In the book To Sir with Love the students reside in the English slums in the inner city. They live in places similar to project housing where their parents have been working dead end low income jobs for years. Most of the students have uneducated parents. The students have learned to recognize that they are considered the under lining of society and have build their own self-worth based on the concept. Many of the students have not been taught the basics of cleanliness.
The parents of the students work long hours and are tired and have little money to show for their hard work. The students are aware that they will soon have jobs to survive versus the ideals of having a chance to go to college/university. They are England's social and financial poor.