Sociology: education

Functionalist perspective

Durkheim: believes that schools provide a diversity of qualifications which gradually become more specialised, he also argues that school teach specialist skills that can be used in the work place.

Parsons: argues that there is a bridge between home and school and that at home pupils are judged by particularisation standards whereas at school pupils are judged by universalistic standards.

Davis and Moore: they believe in role allocation and meritocracy and that education is meritocratic and provides an equal opportunity for all to achieve good qualifications. Education provides a way of allocating people to appropriate job roles through tiered qualifications.

Criticisms of the functionalist perspective are Marxists as they believe education is not meritocratic. They believe class background influences educational achievement, especially with private education.

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Marxist perspective

Marxists believe that the education system benefits the ruling class.

Althusser argues that school creates false consciousness, it controls people’s minds (the ideological state apparatus). It presents the capitalist system as just and inevitable, and presents alternative systems as unrealistic.

Marxists also see education as the reproduction of class inequality. As social class influences achievement in addition to intelligence and effort, middle class children tend to get better qualifications and go on to higher paid middle class jobs. Whereas the working class end up with lower qualifications with lower paid working class jobs.

Willis conducted a participant observation on 12 lads who formed a counter school culture. They saw school as pointless and irrelevant and realised that it was unfair. The lads actively resisted school authority however they sell ended up in working class jobs therefore class inequality was still produced.

Criticisms of Marxists theory is that some pupils don’t rebel they just don’t accept authority well and critical subjects are taught in school.

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Feminist perspective

From the 1960’s onwards, feminist sociologists highlighted the following gender inequalities in education :

Gender stereotypes
Gendered language
Gendered roles
Women in the curriculum
Subject choice

Radical feminists are hue that patriarchy still works through school to reinforce traditional gender norms and to disadvantage girls, whereas liberal feminists celebrate the progress made so far in improving girls’ achievement. They essentially believe that the future is now female and now that girls are outperforming boys in education, it is only a matter of time until more women move into politics and hight paid, managerial roles at work.

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New right perspective

The new right believe that the state cannot meet people’s needs and that the most efficient way to meet people’s needs is through the free market/ through private businesses competing with each other.

The new right created an education market where schools were run like businesses competing with each other for pupils, parents were given the choice which school to send their children to rather than being limited to the local school in their catchment area. This lead to the establishment of league tables.

Vocational education were put in place for those students of working class who didn’t have much intelligence so that they could learn basic working trades to go into when they left school.

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