The role and purpose of education-theories

These notes are ones that I made for my exam, and really helped me revise and get the top grades.

They include everything that the exam board asks for in term of the specification,and are orgainised in a way that will make revision easier, including mind maps and tables, etc. And they're done in colour! Added bonus! whoop whoop!

I hope they help y'all, and good luck :D

P.s.These notes may contain some minor grammatical errors like spelling misakes, but all information is correct.

P.p.s. I sat the exam in June 2013 btw

Feel free to check out my other socioology notes, aswell as my psychology ones :D

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  • Created on: 20-02-14 23:48
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The Role & Purpose of Education-
Theoretical Perspectives.
The Functionalist Perspective.
· They are mainly interested in the positive functions education preforms for society and in
particular, for the economy.
· They believe education plays an important role in teaching norms & rules of society, which
needs to be shared by members of society for it's survival.
· They also believe that education also plays an important function in allocating individuals into
work roles that match their abilities.
Durkheim: Solidarity and skills
1. Creating Social Solidarity
· Society needs a sense of solidarity, and individuals must feel part of the society that they live in.
· Education helps create this solidarity by transmitting the society culture (shared beliefs and
values). E.g. teaching history to gain a sense of shared heritage.
· Schools are also seen to act as a miniature society, that prepares us for our roles within the wider
society-this creates social solidarity.
2. Teaching specialist skills
· Industrial economies have a complex division of labour- more than one person needed to produce
an item, and people have different specialities. This co-orporation between workers promotes
social solidarity.
· Education teaches us the specialist skills needed to play our part in the social division of labour.
Parsons: Meritocracy (equal opportunity)
· Schools prepares us to move from the family to a wider society, due to the system of meritocracy.
Meritocracy is where everyone's given equal opportunity and rewarded on their own effort and
· Within the family, the child is judged by `particularistic standards', which are rules that apply only
to that particular child. But in school and wider society they are judged by `univerlistic standards'
· This enables a child to be prepared for the wider society, maintaining social solidarity.
Davis & Moore: Role Allocation
· Positions within society require different talents to ensure society functions efficiently, with the
most able students being allocated the most demanding jobs.
· The education system identifies those with the greatest ability, and so they are allocated the
highest paid, most rewarding jobs.
Strengths: Weaknesses:
· Society is meritocratic. · Some people may not have
· Highlights importance of role equal chance (background,
allocation. race, gender.)
· Durkheim believes they teach · Not everyone's talents may be
specialist skills and make them recognised.
feel they belong (heritage).…read more

Slide 2

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The Role & Purpose of Education-
Theoretical Perspectives.
The New Right Perspective.
· The new right are politics-Charles Murray-Right Wing.
· The NR support functionalists.
· The NR developed due to policies, which resulted in too much state control creating
`welfare dependency' (the state giving out help for free)-High cost for the state.
· The solution for this was to introduce policies making people more responsible for
themselves. This increases competition in private and public sector leading to economic
· In terms of education the new right programme involved: League tables, Ofsted, National
Curriculum, Vocational education, greater parental control & choice.
· This led to better school management and better teaching, raising standards (qualifications),
reducing the level of welfare dependency.
· Hence, the NR were in favour of `marketization' of education. This competing between
schools will increases efficiency of schools.
· Schools would compete with each other for consumers (pupils/parents).
· Good schools will survive by improving the quality of education they offer, poor schools will
have to improve or go down under.
· Hence, this education market raises standards, giving a better deal to pupils, and improving
the economic efficiency of the country.
Chubb & Moe (1990)
· They examined 60,000 students performances and linked them to the schools they
· They found a correlation between success and the degree of financial and
organisational independence.
· So, introducing a market system would increases standards Government turning
schools into academies.
Research Methods Link-Using Surveys
· Carried out fixed surveys on parental attitudes and schooling- through
· Quick way to collect data from large sample size- allows generalisations about parents
and their views on how schools should be run.
· This could be criticized by anti-positivist sociologists.
Evaluation-Weaknesses of the market system.
· Students aren't seen as individuals.
· Only level of ability is seen-no meritocracy.
· LC pupils won't get into good schools and won't get equal opportunities, despite ability
· MC parents have the money to support their children, unlike LC parents.
· Do parents always have the correct understanding??…read more

Slide 3

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The Role & Purpose of Education-
Theoretical Perspectives.
The Marxist Perspective.
· Believe education works in the favour of the bourgeoisie in the capitalist society.
· The capitalist society is based on exploitation of the workers by the owners, by the means of
· The education system is driven by capitalism which want a workforce that's easily exploited
and accepts exploitation
· They believe the role of education is the reproduction of labour power'-reproducing the
generation of workers for the upper class.
Bowles & Gintis: Schooling in capitalist America
The Hidden Curriculum
· Education provides capitalists with a workforce with the personality, attitudes and values
that are most useful to them.
· This is achieved through the HIDDEN CURRICULUM. This isn't the content of lessons which
is important, but the form of teaching and how schools are organised.
· Therefore the hidden curriculum is those things that pupils learn through the experience
of attending school, rather than the formal objectives.
Bowles and Gintis believe that education shapes the workforce by:
1. Provides a subservient workforce (Don't challenge)
· In a study based on 273 students, they found that grades were awarded, related to their
personality and not abilities.
· Low grades were given to the aggressive, creative and independent individuals.
· High grades awarded to the punctual, obedient, dependable and passive individuals.
Research Methods Link-Using Surveys
· Bowles & Gintis measured students personality using questionnaires, and compared
them to their exam results.
· They found a correlation between personality traits approved by the capitalists and
scores at school.
· This could be criticized by anti-positivist sociologists, as questions about personality
traits may lack depth, and the questions may be misunderstood by students.
2. Encourages an acceptance of hierarchy.
· Schools are organised on a hierarchy of authority and control.
· Teachers give orders and pupils obey, and have little control on what subjects they study
and how they study them.
· This prepares them for the relationship in the workplace.…read more

Slide 4

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The Role & Purpose of Education-
Theoretical Perspectives.
The Marxist Perspective (cont).
3. External Rewards.
· Pupils are motivated to work hard, to gain qualifications.
· Similarly, work in society is also unsatisfying, but workers work for a wage.
4. Fragmentation of school subjects
· During the day pupils move from subject to subject, with little connection between lessons,
and their knowledge is fragmented.
· Work in factories is similar. Jobs are broken down into specific tasks, and knowledge of the
overall process is denied to prevent competition from the employers.
· However, there are cross curricular links-English, science, maths.
The correspondence principle
These parallels between school and workplace are examples of
the correspondence principle. This is seen to operate through
the hidden curriculum.
The Myth of Meritocracy: Legitimating Class Inequality
· Education promotes the myth of meritocracy.
· Bowles and Gintis argue meritocracy doesn't exist.
· The main factor determining whether someone has high income is their family and
class, not their ability/ educational achievement.
· To disguise this schools promote that everything is equal, and the WC are persuaded to
accept the inequality as legitimate. This makes them question their ability and make
them less likely to overthrow capitalism.…read more

Slide 5

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The Role & Purpose of Education-
Theoretical Perspectives.
The Neo-Marxist Perspective.
Paul Willis: Learning to Labour
· They also recognise conflict in the education system and believe it prepares the
· However, Willis' study shows education doesn't always shape someone to be obedient.
· Hence, the WC can resist attempts to indoctrinate them.
· He combines his interest in how schooling serves capitalism, with the interactionist
approach, focusing on pupils.
· He studied a group of 12 WC boys- `The Lads'.
· He studied them in the last year and ½ of their schooling, to see how they were
prepared for work by the education system.
· The lads formed a distinct counter culture, that opposed school (avoiding work,
rejecting school rules smoking, etc...)
· At the end of compulsory schooling the lads became manual workers and they carried
their counter school culture into the workplace. They challenged authority, had poor
attendance and were not punctual.
· The school hadn't succeeded in preparing the lads to be passive and obedient,
however, their rejection prepared the lads for exploitation.
· They continued to be trapped by capitalism in low paid, manual jobs.
· Therefore they had contributed to their own oppression/exploitation.
Research Methods Link-Using Group Interviews
· Willis carried out group interviews to uncover the counter culture of the lads.
· This allowed them to talk freely in their own words, providing Willis with insight into
their world.
· Critics argue that unstructured interviews are unreliable, and open to the researchers
own bias interpretation.
Strengths: Weaknesses:
· Realise schools don't always give · Ignore individuals (ethnic
everyone a choice. minority, gender, race)-a macro
· Emphasise class differences in approach.
class education. · Assume all students are passive,
· Emphasise how education but they are independent.
benefits capitalism. · Small sample size (12)-leads to
· Outline the correspondence incorrect assumptions.
principle.…read more

Slide 6

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The Role & Purpose of Education-
Theoretical Perspectives.
The Interactionist Perspective.
· They are mainly interested in the day-to-day life of schools rather than in creating
theories of the social role of schools.
· They examine the social processes within schools, especially teacher-pupil
· They believe teacher-pupil interactions lead to labelling of pupils creating a self-
fulfilling prophecy, where pupils act according to teacher expectations.
· It's a micro approach.
· Studied how teachers classified pupils, and found most shared a common image of the
`ideal pupil'.
· Pupils are judged against this model, with the MC pupils more likely to fit the positive
· He believes teacher attitude goes through 3 stages:
1. Speculation---the first impression of pupils
2. Elaboration---this impression is confirmed.
3. Stabilisation---a determined picture of the pupil is obtained.
Ball & Keddie:
4. According to Ball, teachers have different expectations according to different ability.
5. According to Keddie, teachers teach differently according to different ability groups,
which is then reflected to social class.
Stanworth & Spender-(feminists):
6. Girls and boys are labelled differently;
7. Stanworth believes teachers learn boys names more quickly, and have higher career
expectations for them.
8. Spender argues that girls receive less teacher attention, and sexist abuse if often ignored.
9. Teachers have ethnocentric attitudes (favour a particular ethnic background), an this
impacts negatively on ethnic minority pupils.
Strengths: Weaknesses:
· Recognise labelling · Others factors can also effect attainment,
can be done on class not just teachers.
basis. · Pupils are passive.
· Focuses on the · Labels can change.
individual. · Don't recognise that different teachers
give different labels.…read more

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