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FUNCTIONALISTS: education plays a key role in preparing young people for adulthood, citizenship and worklife. its an important agency of socialization and social cohesion. 


- schools are a 'society in miniature' - a small-scale version of society which prepares young people for life in adult society. 


- school is an important place of secondary socialization. 

- people must earn their status according to indiviudal achievement e.g. talent and skills


- developed the theory of human capital

- high levels of spending on education and training is justifiable. 

- it develops knowledge and skills = successful economy 

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- education shouldnt be concerned with promoting equality but with training the workforce

making sure the most able students have their talents developed and get the best paid jobs.

Chubb and Moe:

- there should be a free market in education, with a range of schools/colleges run like private businesses.

- shaped by the wishes and needs or parents and students. 

The New Right see that education operates like supermarkets > forced to supply cheaper and better quality products as they compete for customers

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- see education as social control > encouraging young people to accpet their social position and not do anything to upset the current patterns of inequality in power and wealth


Main role of education = reproducing an obediant labour force and to prevent the working-class from rebelling against exploitation. The ruling class must win their hearts and minds into accepting. 


- upper-class children have a built-in-advantage that they afterwards pass on to futute generations.

- advantaged even before starting school > makes it easier for them to stay in their class. 

- they then hold higher positions as adults.

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- therefore argues the educations system reproduces class inequalities from one generation to the next. 

Bowles and Gintis:

social class background, ethnicity and gender are the main factors related to sucess/failure in education. 

- upper/upper middle class people tend to get higher qualifications and better jobs than the working class children of simialr ability

Shultz: human capital idea = 

> preparing young people for work and making education meet the needs of the economy.

Functionalists and the New Right see this as being beneficial, as it helps boost the economy.

Marxists see it as producing workers who supprt a profit - making capitalist society, whilst the middle-class enjoy a more academic education, leading to well paid positions of power. 

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- by making the education system produce a more skilled based, flexible labour force, it would meet better needs of employers. 

- also would provide young people with skills > an advantage when it comes to careers and a wide range of jobs. 

Ways to achieve this:

1. work experience programmes for school/college students.

2. a stronger emphasis on key skills e.g. I.T, problem solving, basic numeracy and literacy. 

School ethos and the Hidden Curriculum:

Ethos = the character, atmosphere and ideas of the school. 

- all pupils, whatever ability are valued, rewarded, praised and encouraged to fulfil their potential.

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- an emphasis on equal opportunities with intolerance of racism and sexism. 

- giving support for students with special needs. 

- parents are encouraged to get invloved in their childs learning e.g. volunterring as helpers on school trips. 

- encourages students to participate actively in school life e.g. decision making in the school council. 

Hidden curriculum = 

- students learn attitudes and values reflected in the school, simply by participating in the daily routines of school life. 

Example: a catholic faith school might display religious artifacts like crosses or statues, which encourage respect from them by students. 

Things such as punctuality, school rules, uniform, school assemblies, prize giving and students standing in line all seek to gain certain values, attitudes and behaviour amongst students. 

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Teacher stereotyping, pupil identities and the halo effect:

Teachers actively judge and type pupils in different ways, looking at their behaviour and creating impressions of them, e.g. if theyre bright or slow learners, troublemakers or ideal pupils, hard working or lazy and normal or deviant

> the teacher uses a 'label' to define a students behaviour. 

> may contribute in moulding pupils identities. 

Halo effect = 

> a teacher who has formed a good impression of a student in one way e.g. seeing them as being cooperative, polite and helpful would see this student as more favourable in other unrelated ways >being bright and hardworking, even if they're not. it works in the same way with a distruptive, difficult student. 

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Overall theory = 

- teachers label pupils from the type of impression they get off them, over a period of time. 

- it changes the way teachers act and deal with students. 

Waterhouse suggests that a student known as deviant is commonly known to have poor behaviour, yet one day if they work differently in a lesson, such as showing hard work, it is interpreted as a one off, and are still a bad student. 

With a normal labelled student, if they were to one day disrupt a lesson, it would be classed as a temporary phase that will soon pass.

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Banding: where schools try and ensure they take in pupils with any ability. 

Streaming: where students are divided into groups of simialr ability which they stay in for all subjects. 

Setting:when school students are divided into sets of the same ability in specific subjects. 

> being placed in a low set can lower a pupils confidence and stop them from trying. 

> teachers can also be less ambitious and give less knowledge to lower-stream children.

Comfirmed by Ball...

- top stream students were 'warmed up' by encouragement to achieve and study

- low stream students were 'cooled out' and encouraged to follow lower-status and practical couses. They would then achieve lower levels of academic success.

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- found that students in lower streams have a negative attitude towards school. 

- they find teaching pace too slow, they spend less time on homework and are likely to not participate in school life.

= damages students self-esteem and confidence. 

Sutton Trust found:

- whilst setting was good for stretching bright pupils from poor backgrounds, not enough of them were reaching top sets. 

- streaming put poorer pupils at a disadvantage, and favoured those of the middle-class. 

CONCLUSION = streaming contributes to the underachievement of working-class pupils. 

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- teachers taught those in higher streaming classes differently to those in lower streams.

> pupils were expected to behave better and work harder. Teachers gave them more educational knowledge. 

greater opportunities for educational success.

Therefore... lower sets will underachieve partly because of getting less access to knowledge. 

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Gillborn and Youdell:

Schools divided students into 3 groups:

- those they thought were most likely to succeed with little help to get 5 GCSE A* - C gardes.

- those on the C/D borderline, who with little help could get a C grade or better.

- those hopeless students, who are unlikely to get a grade C or above, whatever was done.

> schools focus their attention of the first two groups, as it gives the impression of a good successful school. 

> the third group is left to die and educational death.

Most likely to be working-class, white and black students, and those with special needs.

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Lacey: studied a middle-class school and found that there was 2 processes at work in schools...

Differentiation: schools place high value on things such as hard work, good behaviour and exam success. Teachers jusdge students and rank them into different groups.

Polarization: when students get divided into two opposing 'poles' - those who achieve highly and get a high status in terms of values of the school, and those who are labelled as failures are deprived of status. 

The Pro school subculture:

> groups of pupils who generally stick to academic aims, ethos and rules of the school. 

> linked to upper set students who are valued and rewarded, as they fulfil the schools ambition for good behaviour and academic success. 

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> black pupils that wanted academic success tried avoiding racist stereotyping by teachers and stuck to school values.

Belonging to a pro-school subculture encourages peer group support for success

The anti-school subculture:

> consists of students who rebel against school for various reasons. 

> they develop anti-school identities and behaviour in opposition to the aims, ethos and rules of the school.

> truancy, messing about, playing up teachers, breaking school rules and copying work all become a way of getting back at the system. 

> labelled as failures by putting them is lower streams and sets. 

^ mostly Black Caribbean and White working-class males

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- working-class 'lads' sought to free themselves from what they saw as boring schooling, by making 'having a laff' the amin purpose of the school day. 


> researched 13-14 year old girls and boys:

- girls are increasing becoming part of the ani school subculture. They adopt 'ladette behaviour' (the female version of boyish behaviour). It's 'uncool to work'. They attempt to make a teachers life hell. 

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Functionalist writers e.g. Parsons suggests:

- social inequality in contemporary societies is based on different skills, talents and abilities people have. 

> for most people today, their abilities and talents are demonstrated by their educational qualifications. 

> everyone should have an equal opportuntity to develop their talents and abilities to achieve educational qualifications, regardless their social class backgrounds, ethnicity, gender or disability

However, Marxists argue:

- what the education system really does is maintain and reproduce existing social class, ethnic and gender inequalities from one generation to the next. 

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Perry and Francis:

- social class is the strongest predictor of edu achievement in the UK. It's the key factor influencing whether a child does well or badly at school. 


- found that many children from disadvantaged backgrounds were already up to a year behind more privileged children educationally by the age of 3, before many children had even started school. 

- social class inequality in education begins even before children enter primary school. 

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Children from the lower working-class have been compared to the middle-class children of the same ability, and this is what was found:

- they do less well in tests

- more likely to start school unable to achieve 

- less likely to get places in the best state schools 

- generally get poorer exam results

- more likely to leave school at 16, many with few or no qualifications

- more likely to take training courses at the end of compulsory education, rather than academic AS and A-level courses

- less likely to go itno higher education. 

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- there are very high parental interests, leading to much better exam results than for children whose parents show no interest. 

- childrens progress can be degraded by the lack of parental involvement/expectations.

Middle-class parents compared to working-class parents:

take more interest in their childs progress at school

- become more interested and encouraging as the child grows older (selecting subject options etc) 

- more likely to want their children to stay at school beyond the minimum leaving age. 

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- they are generally themselves better educated and so middle-class parents tend to understand the school system better than working-class parents. 

> working-class parents may feel less confident in dealing with teachers at parents evenings and subject choices etc. 

- middle-class parents know more about schools, the examination system and careers, and so are more able to help their children with getting onto the right subjects/choices of courses. 

- know more about complaints procedures and fighting sex discrimination against their daughters.

- they know what educational toys, games and books to buy and what cultural events to go to.

^ this stimulates their childrens educational development before and during schooling, and they have the money for funding those resources.

Therefore...even before schooling, they have learnt more due to socialisation in the family.  

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- success in education depends heavily on language.

The ability to read and understand books, to write clearly and to be able to explain yourself fully in both speech and writing are key skills required for success in education. 

Bernsteinargued that there are 2 types of language use =

Restricted code = the sort of language used between friends or family members. It's informal, simple, everyday language which uses limited explanation and vocab. It's understood by both speakers so detailed explanations arent required. 

(used by both middle and working-class people, but lower-working-class are mainly limited to this form of language)

Elaborated code the sort of language used by strangers and individuals, where explanation and detail is required. It uses much wider vocab than the restricted code. Teachers usually use this when theyre explaining things. 

(used mainly by middle-class people)

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- it gives middle-class students an advantage at school over the working class students because:

understanding textbooks, writing essays and exam answers and class discussions require detaila and explanation. 

those middle-class young people who are used to the elaborated code at home will find school work easier and learn more than those working-class students. 

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Bourdieu's theory: 

> he was a Marxist

> he saw the culture of the school as giving in a built in advantage to middle-class children.

- argues for the habitus, the cultural framework containing ideas about what counts as good books, newspapers, tv programmes and so on.

- this habitus is picked up through socialisation in the family.

- the dominant class has the power to make it's own habitus in the education system. 

- those coming from the middle/upper-class backgrounds have more access to the culture of the dominant class. He calls this cultural capital

- upper/middle-class children gain more cultural capital and so feel more comfortable in the education system. Working-class students will likely fail exams and be pushed into lower-status educational courses.

Therefore... school seems to be neutral and fair, but it isn't.  

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- cultural explanations invlove a 'blame the victim' approach. It places the blame for educational achievement on the home and family background. 

The working class lack ambition and aspirations, attitudes and values, necessary language skills etc.


- many working-class people work longer hours, have less flexability and choice in their working hours, and do more shift work. They're less educated than teachers and other middle-class people.

- by not visiting a school, it can give evidence of constrians of their job, not the lack of interest/encouragement. 


- pointed out that working-class people lack the same amount of confidence as the middle-class in interacting with teachers at school. 

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- middle-class students may perform better because they recieve more praise and encouragement from teachers.

- blaming social class background and the family as irresponsible ---> leads to low expectations of teachers. It can encourage teachers to label these students as 'born to fail', therefore neglecting their needs and not giving them the best teaching. 


- argues theres no cultural deprivation but a cultural difference. 

^ education is based mainly on white middle-class culture, which disadvantages those from other backgrounds. Schools are failing to meet the needs of working-class children and recognize their culture is worthwile. 

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Cultural deprivation theories suggest:

- for all young people to have an equal chance in education, those from cultural deprived backgrounds need extra resources to help them compete with other children. 

^ extra help is known as compensatory education

The school influencing working-class underachivement:

- many argue that school can make a difference to life chances of students, whatever background.

- research suggets that achievement isn't affected by material/cultural factors outside school, but what goes on in the classroom. 

Interactionist perspective:

Evidence shows a link between working-class origin and underachievement mahy have led to teachers expecing them to perform badly. Low expectations may actually contribute to their failure. 

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Underachievement of boys and girls:

- until the 1980s -> major concern with underachievement of girls

> they tended to fall behind after GCSEs, being less likely than boys to get 3 A levels for UNI entry, and were less likely to go into higher education. 

- early 1990s -> girls began to outperform boys.

- 2011 -> boys began to catch up with girls.

Gender differences in edu achievement:

- girls do better than boys at every stage in SATS in english and science, and outperform boys in language and literacy. 

- they are more successful than boys in most GCSE subjects. 

- a higher amount of girls stay on in sixth form and further education. 

- female students are most likely to get 1st and 2nd class degrees. 

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Perry and Francis: point out that although girls outperform boys in literacy within their social class, middle-class boys outperform working-class girls. 

- girls still tend to do different subjects than from boys, which influences future career choices. 

- arts subjets are more likely to be taken by females, and science/technology by males

-> it exists at GCSE but becomes broader at A level and above. 

Therefore...girls are less likely to participate after 16 in subjects leading to careers in science, engineering and technology. 

Women are less likely than men who have similar qualifications, to get similar levels of sccuess in paid employment. 

^ men hold the most of the positions of power in society.

However... it is likely in the future that women in the population as a whole will be better qualified than men if they continue to outperform in education. 

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- improving rights and raising expectations of self-esteem of women

- challenged the traditional role stereotype of women being housewives/mothers.

- more people are aware of the problems of patriarchy and sex discrimination. 

= women now look beyond being a housewive/mother as their main role in life.

Equal opportunities:

- the work of Feminists -> encourages 'girl friendliness' in schools to meet the needs of girls better.

- WISE (Women Into Science and Engineering) inspired girls to be attracted to studying science, technology, engineering and maths

- teachers are now much more sensative about avoiding gender stereotyping in classrooms.

= overcame academic problems girls faced.

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- Growing employment opportunities for women = 

-> girls have become more ambitious 

-> less likely to see having a home and family their main role in life. 

Girls today have mothers who are working in paid employment. it provides a positive role model and many girls recognize that the future invloves paid employment, combined with family responsibilities.

Sharpe: in 1976

- girls priorities were 'love, marriage, husbands, jobs and careers'. She repeated her study in 1994, and found the priorities had been chnaged to 'job, career and being able to support themselves' 


Comfirmed Sharpes findings, and found that many girls were very ambitious, aiming for high occupations e.g. doctors, rather than traditional jobs e.g. hairdressers

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Girls work harder:

- more motivated than boys 

- girls put more effort into their work, and spend more time on doing their homework properly

- they take more care in the way their work is presented

- concentrate more in class over a long period of time

- girls are generally better organised

- moe likely to bring the right equiptment to school and meet dedlines for handing in work. 

= these factors may help girls perform better than boys in things like coursework. 

Girls mature earlier:

- by the age of 16, girls are estimated to be morr mature than boys by up to 2 years...

- so girls are likely to view exams in a much more responsible way. 

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- they recognise the seriousness of career and academic choices that lie ahead. 

Why do boys underachieve? lower expectations:

- staff are not as strict with boys as with girls

- more likely to extend deadlines for work

- more tolerant of the distruptive behaviour 

- accepting poorly presented work

= lower expectations can create a self fulfilling prophecy which contributes to boys lower achievement. 

Boys are disruptive:

- generally more disruptive in classrooms than girls and may loose learning time due to being sent out of the room.

Boys = 3x more likely to be excluded from schools than girls

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Forde et al: peer group pressure encourages boys to keep a dominant masculine identitiy. 

- school work is seen as 'girly', where its not 'cool' to work hard or achieve at school.

Epstein et al:

- working-class boys risk harassment, bullying, and being labelled as 'gay' if they appeared to be hardworking at school.

= can explain why boys lack the application required for exam success.

- teaching is often seen as a mainly female job, so theres a lack of positive male role models, especially in primary schools.

- it may be why boys see learning as 'girly' and 'feminine'  at an early stage. 

Mac an Ghaill

- working-class boys may lack motivation and ambition as they feel that they have only limited prospects.Getting qualifications wont get them anywhere anyway, so whats the point in bothering?

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- boys and girls feel differently about their own ability. Boys overestimate their ability and girls underestimate theirs

Renold and Allan:

- research on high achieving girls in two primary schools show girls being torn between being seen as academically bright or ebing attractive to boys. 

= therefore, to continue being attractive to boys, girls played down their academic abilities.

Boys don't like reading:

- schools require good levels of reading and writing skills, but many find it as 'girly' or 'uncool'.

- boys see reading as feminine, boring and a waste of time. It's something to avoid.


- boys interest in what they read can influence their ability to understand text. Girls are better at understanding and handling reading, even if it doesn't have personal interest to them.

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Skelton et al: young males still take technology based subjects. Science subjects which are often taken by males are more difficult; higher status than soft subjects taken by girls. 

Gender socialisation:

- from an early age, boys & girls are encouraged to play with different toys and do different things at home. 

- growing up seeing parents do different things around the house. 

This socialisation may encourage boys to develop more interest in technical and scientific subjects and discourage girls from taking it. 

= may create peer pressure to take certain subjects. 

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- giving subject career advice

^ teachers can reflect their ownexpectations by councelling boys/girls into choosing gendered subjects. 

Skelton et al: males and females may be drawn to different subject areas because it's what's appropriate for their gender identity. 

Kelly: boys dominate science classrooms by grabbing apparatus first, undermining girls confidence and making them not want to take the subject. 

Colley:music which was once traditionally feminine, with girls making up the most of students taking it, was becoming more popular with boys. 

- this was because the subject had become more computer and electronics based. Technology brings the reducing appeal of girls. 

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Skelton et al:

Boys and girls act on their gender roles as opposites. Acting as a boy means behaving in a way thats exactly opposite to girls. thats the opposite to girls.

Children act out these roles without actually being consciously aware of it.

Francis: Key elements that create gender identities through schooling =

- boys dominate the talk in mixed-sex classrooms, drowning the talk of girls.

- boys then gain the most amount of the teachers time and attention, but most of it is to do with disipline and learning.

Boys and girls sit in seperate groups in the classroom.

Girls = reading magazines, doing their make up and making themselves 'look nice' to please boys; instead of working.  

Boys = getting into arguments with teachers.

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Teachers help create gender stereotypes. They have different expectations of pupis according to gender.

Girls = expected to be quiet and obedient.

- girls who arent like this and dont show appropriate gender behaviour  are penalized harder than boys. Poor boy behaviour is seen as 'boys will be boys'.

Conclusion = Spender:

- teachers time is mostly spent on troublesome boys, rather than on girls who are keen to learn and get on with school.

Feminist researchers are becoming angry with how the education policy has ignored girls in recent years and is only concerned with boys.

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Highest achieving groups = Chinease, Indian and other Asian pupils consistently have higher levels of achievement than others. They make great progress in school.

- likely to achieve 5 or more A* - C grades at GCSE, and get better AS/A Level results.

Lowest achieving groups = Black Caribbean, Pakistani, Bangladeshi and a small number of gypsy travellers.

- consistent low levels of achievement.

Social class and material factors:

- minority ethnic groups are more likely than white people to live in low-income households.

- those from poor ethnic backgrounds such as Pakistan and Bangladesh were living in poverty.

- some ethnic minority groups face problems such as poor housing, overcrowding etc = material disadvantage.

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Department of education =

Showed that pupils with English based language who spke another language at home, outperformed in the EBACC. Classmates who had English as a mother tongue underperformed.

Family life and parental support:

Swann Report =

pupils from some minority ethnic groups enjoy parental support more than others. Asian families = close-knit extended families who have high aspirations for their children are very supportive attitudes towards education.


- lower working-class white British families in the most disadvantaged areas have a negative attitude towards learning and towards school. Parents also have low aspirations for their children.

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- Pakistani, bangladeshi and Indian Asian pupils found parents to be very supportive with high levels of interest in their childs education, but they didnt know a lot about the daily life in school and their experience of it.

- Black Caribbean communities have high levels of lone parenthood and financial problems. The girls show high levels of achievement than boys, as women are the breadwinners in their families. Parents provide positive role models for girls, and encourage high levels of achievement.


Cline et al:

- a significant amount of minority ethnic groups reported race related name calling e.g. big lips, ****, chocolate boys, chimpanzee and malteser, just because of their ethnicity.

- they recieved verbal abuse at school and when travelling to and from school. racial harassment continued over a long period of time.

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Bhatti: a study on Bangladeshi, Pakistani and Indian students. Pupils identified their own racist behaviour by teachers =

> being ignored

> not given a chance to answer questions in class

> not being helped

> not being given responsibility and being unfairly picked on for punishment.

Pupils responses:

Mac an Ghaill: found that racism and negative labelling do not necessarily have negative effects on students, as the self fulfilling prophecy suggests.

Students can adopt various survival strategies:

> breaking rules, dress and behaviour codes, and at the same time they get on with work.

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