Examine the ways in which educational policy can help reproduce and legitimise social inequalities.

a c grade essay which summarises most educational policy

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Examine the ways in which educational policy can help reproduce
and legitimise social inequalities.
Industrialisation increased the need for an educated work force, during this time
the education the pupils received depended on their social background. Middle
class children were given education to prepare them for work in a professional
career where as working class education consisted of basic literary and numerical
skill to prepare them for factory work. Schooling did little to provide social mobility
In 1880 state schooling was made compulsory from the age 5-13, later rose to 16
by 1973
In 1994 education was shaped my meritocracy, the idea that individuals should be
able achieve a status reflective of their capabilities. Rather than that is ascribed
at birth. 1944 education act brought about the tripartite system; this meant that
children were placed according to their ability in one of 3 types of schools b7y way
of 11+ exams. Firstly the technical school, but these existed in only some areas so
it way more a bipartite system with grammar schools and secondary modern
schools. Thus rather than promoting meritocracy the tripartite system and 11+
exams reproduced inequalities by channelling two social classes into two different
types of school that offered unequal opportunity. Grammar schools offered
academic education and access to non-manual jobs and higher education, this was
mainly the middle class, whilst the secondary modern schools offered non
academic practical curriculum and access to manual work, it pupils were mainly
from the working class.
The tripartite system also reproduced gender inequalities by discriminating against
girls often requiring higher marks from them to obtain places at the higher schools.
The tripartite system also served to legitimise inequalities but supporting and
enforces the ideology that ability was inborn rather than a product of hard work
and upbringing thus it was argued that ability could be identified early on with use
of 11+ exams. In reality the children class background greatly effected their
success in the education system. Bernstein pointed to the elaborated and
restricted code. He blames the failure of some pupil's on the failure of the school in
teaching the elaborated code. Other cultural deprivation theorist also argue that
external factors include intellectual development, language and the attitudes and
The comprehensive system was introduced in many areas from 1965 onwards
aiming to overcome the class divide of the tripartite system and make education
more meritocratic. The secondary modern schools and the grammar school, along
with the 11+ exams were abolished. Instead secondary schools were set up which
were indiscriminately and all pupils with in a certain area were to attend. Although
this comprehensive system is said to have reduced social inequalities it still
continues to reproduce inequalities through two ways. Firstly by streaming, this is
that children are put into groups according to ability. Middle class pupils are put in
higher sets and working class are placed in lower sets. Douglas showed that
steaming could lead to a self fulfilling prophecy in which achievement of pupils in
lower sets deteriorates and those in higher sets improve. Secondly through
labelling, ball shoed even were streaming is not presents teachers may continue to
label children on their ability and restrict opportunity eg by not giving them enough
attention or leaving them out of discussions.
Comprehensives also legitimise inequality though the myth of meritocracy, because
all pupils went to the same school it wade it appear that they all had an equal
opportunity regardless of class background when in reality this is not the case.

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It was left to the local; LEA to decide weather or not to join the comprehensive
system made opted out particularly were they were under conservative controls as
a result the bipartite system still exists, even today there exists 164 grammar
schools in England.
1988 education reform act introduced by the conservative govt of Thatcher
established the principle of marketising education which was favoured by the new
right.…read more


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