The Role of the Education System

AQA sociology

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  • Created by: Hannah
  • Created on: 10-05-11 14:41

The Role of the Education System


Education has 3 functions that help society;

  • Teaches the skills needed in work and by the ecomony
  • Role Allocation ( Parsons- the harder pupils work the higher the role they will be given {meritocracy})
  • Secondary Socalisation, passing on core values

1. Durkheim- passes on norms and values so pupils are integrated into society; Creates social order based on cohesion and values consensus.

2. Parsons- bridge between family and society; agrees with Durkheim.

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The Role of the Education System


Education legitimizes inequality through ideology.

  • Prepares children for the world of work; gives skills and values they need.
  • Justifies inequality.
  • Passes on a ruling class ideology and supports capitalism.

1. Althusser- ideological state apparatus; produces a docile and obedient workforce.

2. Boudieu- culture capital.

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Problems with Functionalist and Marxist Views


  • Evidence of differential achievement in terms of class, gender and ethnicity suggests education is not meritocratic.
  • "Who you know" is still more important than "what you know" in some parts of society; allocation function isnt working properly.
  • Can be argued education doesnt prepare people for work. E.G. the lack of engineering graduates indicates education is failing to produce what employers and the economy needs.
  • Doesnt look at how education may serve interests of particular groups in terms of ideology and values, It doesnt explain conflict.
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Problems with Functionalist and Marxist Views


  • Assumes people are passive victims. It exaggerates how much working class students are socalised into obedience. Willis showed how students actually resist authority.
  • Most people are aware of inequality in education. Most people dont believe society is fair.

Problem with both approaches is that they dont look at interaction and social processes within the school.

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Similarities and Differences between Functionalist

+ Both look at the big picture- institutions and the whole structure of society. They tend to ignore social interaction- with the exception of Willis.Both say education has a huge impact on the individual and that theres a close link with the economy and work.

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

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The Role of the Education System


The education system is patriarchal.

  • Hidden curriculum unofficially reinforces gender differences.
  • Gender differences in subject choice in schools
  • Girls outperform boys at school- but boys demand more attention.
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