Sociology Revision Education

All you need to know about Education for Sociology AQA

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The Role and Purpose of Education
Functionalist view (consensus theory):
Functionalists emphasise positive aspects of schools. Durkheim noted the importance of education in
preventing `anomie' (a state of chaos, in which society lacks a shared set of norms and values to guide
behaviour). Durkheim argued that whilst family is based on affective relationships, society is based on
instrumental relationships. Functionalist writers believed that society is held together by shared values or
`Value consensus'. He believed that society's work together when there are a clearly defined set of shared
values. Durkheim also believed that Social order (where society runs smoothly) is maintained when
individuals feel apart of the society which they belong to. He points to the importance of education in meeting
economic needs, not only through the basic skills they teach but also in general values like being a `good
worker' such as punctuality and hard work. Education is vital in providing businesses with the right kind of
Parsons develops this idea, arguing that education teaches children to value achieved status rather
than that ascribed by the family. Additionally, school rules acclimatise children to Universalistic values (set
of rules which is applied uniformly to all members of a social group) rather than Particularistic values
(set of rules which is specific to an individual within a group) of the family. Parsons also argues that
education instils values of competition, equality and individualism. These traits are crucial to the functioning of
capitalism. Parsons also extends Durkheim's basic principles by highlighting that schools are important in
assigning people to jobs to match their abilities. He sees education as a Meritocratic (neutral filtering
device where the most talented and hardworking are able to succeed in particular subjects and
qualifications). Education is crucial in making sure the right people are assigned jobs which are becoming
increasingly specialised.
Social Solidarity (Durkheim): it is based on `essential similarities' between members of society. One
main function of education is to develop these similarities and so bind members of society together.
(through learning history, a shared language etc)
Specialised Skills (Durkheim): people have specialised jobs with specific skill and knowledge.
Education provides individuals with these skills in order to take our place in an industrialised society.
Examples include teachers, plumbers, blacksmiths etc.
Secondary socialisation/Value consensus (Parsons): education acts as a bridge between the family
and wider society.
Role allocation (Parsons): involves sifting, sorting, assessing and evaluating young people in terms of
their talents and abilities to allocate them to appropriate roles in wider society.
Equality of Opportunity/Meritocracy (Parsons): Ability + Effort = Society. The idea that the
chances of success are the same for everyone, regardless of social class ethnic background.
Marxist view (conflict theory):
Marxists are more critical of the education system compared to functionalists. They argue that education
operates as an ideological tool, manipulating people to think in certain ways to legitimise exploitation by the
ruling class and inequality. Marxists feel schools render the Proletariat (the majority of the population who
do not own the means of production) passive and resigned to their fate. Althusser argued that education
operates as an `ideological state apparatus' (education is used by the state to pass on the belief that
everyone has a fair chance, controls people through brainwashing) compared to the `repressive state
apparatus' (controls people through force). He says that education justifies class inequalities by transmitting
an ideology that we all have a fair and equal chance. Success more likely reflects social class background as
children from working class backgrounds are more like to underachieve, and middle class children more likely
to succeed. The social class system is therefore maintained and reproduced.
Bowles and Gintis took a research study in schooling in capitalist America. They argue that the
organisation of schools mirrors the workplaces, known as the Correspondence theory (hierarchy of
authority, working for an external reward such as exam or pay, not finding work satisfying,
competition between individuals). They argue this principle prepares children to fit into their future
exploitation as part of the proletariat. Another argument that have is that education transmits a myth of
meritocracy presenting an illusion of social mobility and blaming the working class for their inevitable failure.

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Marxists argue that education ensures the proletariats are filtered into jobs of low status and pay,
whilst rich children retain prestige. This is a Deterministic view as it assumes if you are in the working class
you will fail in education. Paul Willis's research with the `lads' suggests that far from being docile and
obedient, working class pupils challenge the system by `aving a laff'. When production was based on
Fordism, it may have been true that capitalism required low skilled workers.…read more

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Social class influences on achievement
Correlation between attainment and class is well recognized with poorer children achieving less well than the
richer children at every key stage and level of education. Poorer children are also significantly
underrepresented in postcompulsory education. As children progress through school the social class widens.
JWB Douglas concluded that parent's attitudes were also an important factor on achievement.
77 percent of children from professional backgrounds attained 5 A* C grades.…read more

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Boys of AfricanCaribbean origin often have the label `unruly', `disrespectful' and `difficult to
control' applied to them. Gillbourn found that AfricanCaribbean pupils were more likely to be given
detentions than other pupils because teachers misinterpreted the dress and manner of speech of these children
as representing a challenge to their authority. In receiving this treatment pupils responded in accordance with
their labels. The way young black men get respect is through the credibility of the street, not in educational
success ­ this was feminine.…read more

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There are increasing Job opportunities for women in the service sector of the economy, wile the
availability of male manual work has reduced considerably. 50% of all women in 1960 were in employment
compared to 75% of all women by 2006 with many more in higherstatus, relatively wellpaid positions.
Many girls have mothers in paid employment providing positive role models. As a result girls realise that the
future offers them more choices with careers being a real possibility.…read more

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Male Peer Groups: also use verbal abuse to reinforce their definitions of masculinity. Studies by
Epstein and Willis show boys in antisubcultures often accuse boys who want to do well of being
gay or effeminate. (also refer to Mac an Ghaill studies)
Teachers and Discipline: male teachers tell off boys for `behaving like girls' and teased them when
they gained lower marks in tests than girls.…read more

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He argued that this was the impact of `differentiation' (ways of distinguishing
between social groups through variations in aspects of culture, language, wealth, power, and status).
It led to Polarisation' among the boys, where the top stream became more interested and the lower stream
less interested.
Stephen Ball argues that those in the lower streams gradually decline academically and in terms of
behaviour.…read more

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These approaches tend to be quantitative, more practical approach when
dealing with large amounts of data in an objective way. These methods are used to provide a broad overview
of what is happening in education whilst other methods usually explain why.
Questionnaires can be administered and analysed with relative ease, and they offer a way of
gauging the extent of belief, opinion and action amongst teachers, parents and pupils. When sent by post the
anonymity is useful as it may lead to more honest responses.…read more


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