AS Sociology - Education and Research Methods

These cards will contain everything you need to know about education and research methods for your exam.


The Role of the Education System

Functionalism Says Education Has Three Functions that Help Society:

1) Education teaches the skills needed in work and by the economy.

2) Education sifts and sorts people for the appropriate jobs. This is called the allocation function.

3) Education plays a part in secondary socialisation, passing on core values.

The functionalist perspective says that education is meritocratic. A meritocracy is when social rewards are allocated by talent and effort rather than because of a position someone was born into.

Talent + motivation + equal of opportunity = qualifications + high position in society.

1 of 11

The Role of the Education System

Functionalists opinions:

1) Durkheim said that education passes norms and values in order to integrate individuals in society .Education helps to create social order based on cohesion and value consensus.

2) Parsons describes school as a bridge between the family and adult roles of society. Schools pass on a universal value of achievement. Parsons says that education selects children into appropriate roles because it's meritocratic. He agrees with Durkheim that education helps make people agree about norms and values.

3) Davis and Moore (1945) say that every society sorts its members into different positions. They think that there are rules for how education does this - called "principals of stratification". They believe that there has to be a system of unequal rewards to motivate people to train for top positions.,

2 of 11

The Role of the Education System

Marxism Says Education Legitimises Inequality Through Ideology:

1) Education prepares children for the world of work by giving them skills and values they'll need.

2) Education justifies inequality.

3) Education passes on ruling class ideology that supports capitalism.

3 of 11

The Role of the Education System

What Marxists think:

1) The neo-Marxist Althusser sees education as part of the "ideological apparatus". In other words, it's a tool of capitalism which is used to pass on the belief that society is fair. Althusser thinks education produces a docile and obedient work force.

2) Bowles and Gintis (1976) say there is a close link between school and work. They say that there's a correspondence between pupil experiences of school and adult work - pupils are taught to accept hierarchy at school, work also has a hierarchy. B&G also believe in the 'hidden curriculum' prepares people for work and that meritocracy is a myth

3)Willis (1977) says that education doesn't turn out an obedient work force. Some kids form anti-school subcultures and cope with school and then turn adult work by mucking about.

4) Bourdieu use the concept of cultural capital to explain how the middle class get into top positions. 

4 of 11

The Role of the Education System

There are Problems with Functionalist and Marxist Views:


1) Evidence of a differential achievement in terms of gender, class and ethnicity suggests that education is not meritocratic.

2) "Who you know" is still more important than "what you know" in some parts of society. So the allocation function isn't working properly.

3) In can be argued that the education system doesn't prepare people adequately for work. For example - the lack of engineering graduates indicates that education fails to produce what employers and the economy needs.

4) Functionalism doesn't look at how education may serve the interests of particular groups in terms of ideology and values . It doesn't explain conflict.

5 of 11

The Role of the Education System


1) Marxism assumes people are passive victims. It exaggerates how much working class students are socialised into obedience. Willis shows that students actually resist authority.

2) Most people are aware of inequality in education. Most people don't believe that society is fair.

There are similarities and differences between the Functionalist and Marxist views.

1) Both functionalism and Marxism look at the big picture - institutions and the whole structure of society. they tend to ignore social interaction

2) The biggest difference is how they see inequality, Marxists say education helps maintain inequality and make people accept inequality. Functionalists say education passes the value of meritocracy  and lets people better themselves.

6 of 11

Class and Differential Achievement in Education

Social Class tends to Affect Educational Achievement

1) Pupils from professional backgrounds - more likely to enter higher education.

2) Pupils from middle class backgrounds - more likely to study A-levels.


3) Pupils from disadvantaged backgrounds - more likely to leave school at 16.

4) Pupils from unskilled backgrounds - on average achieve lower scores in GCSE's

5) Pupils from working class backgrounds - more likely to do a vocational course.

7 of 11

Class and Differential Achievement in Education

Material deprivation Outside School Can Affect Achievement

1) I/n 1997, the Joseph Rowntree Foundation classified one-in-ten children as poor - which was defined as being a family that couldn't afford three or more things that other families took for granted (computer, internet).

2) Hasley (1980) found that the most important factor preventing working class students staying at school was lack of financial support.

3) Douglas (1964) found that children in unsatisfactory living conditions (poor housing, overcrowding) didn't do very well in ability tests compared to kids from comfortable backgrounds.

4) Unemployment or low income means less money for books, internet access and school trips. Low income families can't afford nurseries, private schools or uni.

5) Poverty and unsatisfactory living conditions may cause absence from school.

8 of 11

Class and Differential Achievement in Education

The theory of cultural deprivation says that working class culture and parenting aren't aimed at educational success.

1) Douglas (1964) thought that the level of parental interest was the most important factor in affecting achievement. For example, middle class parents are more likely to visit schools fro open evenings. Bear in mind that some working class parents may not attend due to inconvenient shifts - not lack of interest.

2) Some sociologists say that working class kids don't have the knowledge and values that help achievement. Museum visits, books and parental knowledge of education. may help middle class pupils to succeed.

3) Some parenting styles emphasise the importance of education more than others.

9 of 11

Class and Differential Achievement in Education

Pupils from non-manual backgrounds and different outlooks. Pupils from manual backgrounds lived for immediate gratification. The pupils from non-manual backgrounds were ambitious and deferred their gratification - they invested time in studying and planned for the future.

Values of the working class are a self-imposed barrier to improving their position. he said that the working class ten to place a low value on education.


Material and cultural deprivation theories don't explain how factors inside school affect achievement.

Cultural  deprivation theory generalises a lot about differences between middle class and working class life. It ignores working class families who do place a high value on education, and tends to assume that working class families have no culture at all, or that working class culture can't be relevant to school. This is called ethnocentric.

10 of 11

Bernstien and Bourdieu - investigated Differences

Berstein -

  • Found that working class pupils in the East End of London weren't comfortable with the style of language required by school.They used restricted code - short forms of speech.
  • Middle class students knew how to use the same elaborated code as the teachers - a much more wordy style of speech with everything made explicit.
  • In terms of language, the working class kids were  disadvantage. 

Bourdieu -

  • Reckons that middle class students are at an advantage because they have the right kind of "cultural capital" - the right language, skills, knowledge and attitudes.
  • He though that the more cultural capital you have, the more successful you'll be in education  - he believed that working class pupils don't have access to cultural capital.
11 of 11




where is the research method?

Henry Barnes


Instead of relying on me, do your own revision.



hehe lol :)



Excellent resource, enables all students to challenge and develop answer responses.



Thank You!






Where are your research methods????? bit stupid to write research methods when you only got education on there



that's this is so helpful cuz I now know better the theorists names and their findings 



Thankyou for this it was very helpful

Similar Sociology resources:

See all Sociology resources »See all Education resources »