Sociology Paper One - Education

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  • Created by: Bethfr
  • Created on: 25-01-13 11:33

Formal education

Education - build up of knowledge and skills.

Formal education - Tested. Takes place in educational institutions, where people learn knowledge and skills across a wide range ob subjects.

Informal education - Not tested. Occurs when people build of knowledge and skills by observing what is happening in everyday life.

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Sociological views on education

Functionalist or Consensus View:

  • education is good as it gives us shared values.
  • education gives all an equal chance of improving ones lives- meritocratic.
  • education prepares us for the workplace and teaches us our position in society.

Marxist or Conflict View:

  • education benefits the rich-for jobs and teaching them their position in society.
  • education is bad for the poor, it is NOT meritocratic and does NOT offer equal opportunites to all.
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Functionalist approach to functions

Functionalist approach to the functions of the education system:

Serves needs of economy - Teaches knowledge and skills needed to be the future workers.

Selection - System grades poeple and allocates them to jobs based on their skills, individual merit, exam results - ability.

Facilitating social mobility - Allows poeple to move up the social ladder e.g. disadvantaged pupils can gain good grades that would allow them to move up.

Encouraging 'Britishness' and social cohesion - Pupils able to identify with British culture, see themselves as British. Schools strengthen social bonds that unite different people.

Secondary socialisation - Pupils learn culture, norms and values of society.

Social control - Pupils learn to conform and accept rules and adult authority.

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Opposition to Functionalist Approach

Marxist approach to functions of education system:

Education system benefits priveliged groups, perpetuates social inequality.

Serves interest of ruling class - Passes on ideas and beliefs that benefit ruling class e.g. capitalist society is meritocratic/fair

Reproduces class system - because it favours pupils from adavntaged backgrounds.

 Breeds competition - Through sports and exams, pupils encouraged to accept values like competition. Helps maintain capitalism - based on competition.

Secondary socialisation - Socialises working class pupils to accept their position.

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Current structure of education system

Current structure of education system

1. Pre school/early years education - state offer free, part time provision for 3-4 yr olds.

2. Primary education - mixed, 5 - 11.

3. Secondary education - 11 - 16, not includingsixth forms. Middle schools 8-12, 9-13.

4. Further education (FE) - 16 +. Completed compulsory education.

5. Higher education (HE) - Higher level academic and voacation studies. Can be provided in colleges.

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Differential educational achievement

Differential educational achievement - variation in educational attainment according to students' social class, gender, ethnicity.


Middle class tend to do better than working class in exams.

Some ethnic minority groups (Chinese, Indian, Irish) do better than others (Pakistani, Afro-Carribean, Banladeshi)

1970s-80s - subject choice was patterned by gender e.g. girls= biology english boys=  maths, physics

Gender gap in achievement has switched since 80s. Now girls do better in GCSE, A-level


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Home influences on educational attainment

Parental values and expectations - Parents in professional occupations have higher expecations of children. Expect good results. More likely to monitor childs performance.

Parent's educational background - Parents with high level qualifications are more likely to help with homework. Also, more likely to monitor performance.

Economic circumstances - Advantaged children more likely to have the facilities necessary to help them study at home.

Economic circumstances - Ethnic minority are often more likely to send kids to deprived schools that white British - not as well off? Less profesional occupation?

Cultural background - e.g Chinese culture value education and respect older people. Develop high ambitions and positive self esteem for being 'good pupils'.


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School influences on educational attainment

School based resources - How well resourced school is. Private school vs.inner city school.

School curriculum - bias towards European cultures. Some say other cultures' histories should be more included

Teacher expectations, labelling and self fulfilling prophecy

Pupil cultures - 'laddish' cultures - uncool to work hard. Encourages anti learning attitudes

Peer pressure = social pressure put on members in peer groups to conform to the groups norms e.g. urban/street cultures may not value education.

However, middle class areas, children may NOT see education as uncool. Academic achievement may achieve them status.

School ethos - character and culture of school. Some schools have academic ethos, promotes exam success and FE, HE.

Institutional racism - when an organisatiion fails to provide an appropriate service. is an unintended consequence of the way some institutions are organised. e.g. high rate of Afro-Carribean students excluded linked to institutional racism

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Government influences on educational attainment

Specialist schools programme - helped tackle low achievment and raise school standards

Schools admissions policies -  selective schools can work against pupils from disadvantaged backgrounds

Marketisation, competition - emphasis on parental choice, forcing schools to raise standards, may be hard for urban schools who's intake is mainly working class/ethnic minority

League tables - Low achievers may suffer, schools focus resources on high achievers to get grades up

Equal oppurtunities  and anti discrimination policies/legislation - schools unable to discriminate on gender/ethnicity e.g. Race Relations Act, Sex Discrimination Act

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Types of schools

Comprehensive - open to anyone ususally children from local communitites, large and has better facilites. BUT not socially mixed

Grammar -  sleective and choose best pupils after an admissions exam is taken. BUT have now become elitist so bad for middle class.

Specialist -  specialise in one particular area.

Faith schools -  religious foundation-encourage children to follow religion, education based on religion but still national curriculum BUT no cultural mixing.

Independant -  pay a fee to attend, choose curriculum and admissions policy, less students=more personal education. BUT lack of social cohesion.

Free schools - free of local authority, set up by anyone, decide admissions an curriculum. BUT negative impact on local schools as they take their funding.

Special needs -  cater for children with special needs, learn skills to help their disability, teachers know how to help the children BUT lack of socialisation for workplace and may be exculded/left out.

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1944- educational reform aimed at improving society. TRIPARTITE system (technical schools, secondary modern and grammar schools).

1965- introduction of comprehensive schools.

1979-new vocationalism desgined to train and equip young people with skills and education required for meeting needs of the ever changing economy.

1988-education reform act for; marketisation of schools, league tables, SATs and natinoal curriculum.

1990s- (EMA) educational maintenance alloowance for staying on to 6th form. GNVQ's and GCSE's, specialist schools and academies.

2000-introduced A2's and AS's at post 16yrs making them broader.

2007-schools leaving age rose to 18yrs from 2013 and Childrens Plan formed.

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