General Views of Education

Functionalists, Marxists, New Right, Symbolic Interactionalists, Liberal.

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  • Created by: Lucinda
  • Created on: 20-03-12 18:38


According to Durkheim, education provides 3basic functions:

  • to teach society's norms and values  (working hard brings rewards)
  • a sense of 'social solidarity' (individual belonging to something bigger)
  • teach individual to co-operate ( prepare for adult working life)

Specialised Division Of Labour: education teaches specialist knowledge and skills needed for the workplace.

Parsons and the 3 key functions:

  • Education bridges the gap between home and work (particularistic standards and unviversalistic standards- meritocracy)
  • A form of 'secondary socialisation'
  • It is a selection process (getting the right people for the right job)


  • Ignore the 'dark-side' of education such as stress from taking exams
  • Education doesn't teach society's but teaches the ruling class's norm's and values - to be obedient and hardworking
  • Education is not meritocratic as labelling takes place=self-fulfilling prophecy
  • Functionalists ignore the social factors affecting educational attainment: such as- class(m/c or w/c's attitudes and resources), gender(concentration span, role models, social policies and prorities)
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New Right

New Right think the functions of education as similar to Functionalists BUT think that education is not achieving these functions due to the Government.

Solution: Education Market / Marketisation of Schools. This is were school should compete for pupils (clients) and parents should have the freedom to choose which school to send their children too (consumers) This is also 'parentocracy'; parents having the freedom to choose where to send their children. 

Failing schools= 'sink schools' and Successful schools= attract more pupils and expand.

Chubb &Moe- schools should teach a shared culture by teaching a National Curriculum so that all schools teach pupil into a shared culture. British school should reinforce the national identity and teach Christianity as it's Britain's main faith. 


  • Competition would only benefit m/c as they have the resources to gain access to the best schools
  • The real cause of sink schools is inadequate funding from the Government
  • Education doesn't impose a shared national culture as it's the culture of the r/c and THEY decide what we do and don't learn
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-Institutions exist to benefit the Bourgeoisie and schools are not exception.

Bordieu: M/C students perform better at school as they are 'culturally equipped'. This is 'cultural capital', having the correct norms and values to help you succeed in education. Education serves the ruling class by ensuring certain behaviour is taught in schools ='cultural reproduction'.

The R/C decide what we learn via the 'National Curriculum'. It contains very ethnocentric subjects: English History except the 'Slave Trade', European languages. Hindi is not taught so Asians may feel inferior and culturally disadvantaged.

Althusser: Schools are M/C institutions run by the M/C, using M/C language codes and have M/C attitudes--->only M/C pupils succeed. Education is an I.S.A= a tool used by the ruling class to reinforce m/c beliefs.  

Bowles and Gintis: Education benefits capitalism as it ensures a 'supply of workers' This is achevied by the "hidden curriculum". This works in 4 ways:

  • Produces a 'subservient workforce'
  • Accept knowledge of 'hierarchy'
  • School day is 'fragmented'
  • Motivated by rewards.
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Hickox: Education doesn't benefit capitalism(1750) as it existed long before compulsory education existed(1870)                                                                                                                                    Reynolds: B+G ignore the importance of the 'formal curriculum' and focus too much on the 'hidden curriculum'. Formal= actual subjects.                                                                                                      Willis: 'learning of labour' 12 month study, 12 lads, Birmingham comprehensive. He did interviews and observations on attitudes to school- overt and non-participant. (Triangulation= study with interviews and observations)

  • devalved qualifications
  • wanted instant gratification
  • thought they were more superior than teachers who were inferior
  • placed value on being disruptive, deviant and disobedient. 

~ hidden curriculum wasn't working 


  • small sample so you can't generalise
  • interviews lead to interview bias (saying what you know the interviewer wants to here and impositional bias (deciding what to ask)
  • he ignores women=gender blind
  • overt observation='hawthorne effect' where you change your behaviour when you know you're watched (observational bias)
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Liberal &Symbolic Interactions

Ivan Illich: "Deschooling Society"

The current education system is unnecessary and harmful to the individual and they learn things they may not need in life. It should be abolished and replaced:

  • Skill Exchange: teaching skills required for work (BTECS)
  • Learning Web: students are in control and teachers 'assist' 


  • Skill Exchange creates 'occupational misfits' - one skill = one job. 

Weber: 'Vernstein' - I understand.

Social roles are important and different social roles require different types of behaviour. If pupils don't live up to expectations = punishment = labeling negatively = (may lead to) a self-fulfilling prophecy.

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Labeling Theories

Ball: those with non-manual jobs had the greatest chance of being placed in a top set as they may have had access to private tutoring. This is called the 'shadow curriculum' where pupils are taught outside of school as will as in school. He observed that most pupils were eager when they first started school but the behaviour began to change. He linked this to teachers have stereotypical views of the 'bands'. 

  • Band 1- Well-able students: well behaved and hard-working,
  • Band 2- Average: expected to be most difficult to teach
  • Band 3- Least able: expected to have learning problems

As a result of teachers expectations, different bands tended to be taught in different ways. Mug and Jug

Keddie: Knowledge available to students depended on the teachers assessment of their ability ti handle it. Those defined as 'bright' were given greater access to highly evaluated knowledge.

  • High status, white collar backgrounds = 'A' stream
  • Semi skilled, unskilled backgrounds = 'C' stream
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