theories and key names



3 functions of education 

S ocilaisation   Durkheim, Parsons

S kills provision    

R ole allocation    Davis and Moore

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Education Socilaises young people into Key cultural norms and values.

Durkheim felt the school played an important part in making sure individuals had moral reposnsibility for others; these can be seen in schools through citizsnsip and fundraising for charities. 

Parsons believed school acted as the brodge betwen family and wider society; helping children to adapt to to the meritocractic view of achievement

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Skills Provision

Education provides young people with the skills tehy need for wider society. 

An occupation more specialised requires longer periods of education. 

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Role Allocation

Education allocates people the most appropriate job for their skills. This is determined from examinations and qualifications. 

Davis and Moore refer to the process as sifting and sorting. Schools is like a giant sieve which sorts people into their most appropriate groups

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Functionalist evaluation

- they believe there are only one set of values; however different cultural groups have varying values

- Marxist theory argue meritocracy is a myth as certain group sare put at a disadavantage just because of the class they are born into

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2 functions 

R eproduce inequalities

J ustify these inequalities through the myth of meritocracy


Bowles and Gintis 


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says that education is part of the ideological state appartatus [contolled by ideas]

He focusses on the hidden curriculm

   -  the things you learn in school which are not par of the curriculm

  -  For example puncuality, communication skills, gender expectations 

He argues this encourages working class people to confrom to the capitalist system and accept failure. Therefore repoducung and justifying 

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Bowles and Gintis - Correspondence principle

They argue there is a link between what goes on in school and the world of work. 

They believe the hiden curriculm does this by making usre there is a hard-working, obedient and motivated workforce through 

- acceptance of the hierarchy, organised by the headteacher who has the controla nd pupils obey the teachers

- motivated by external rewards such as qualifications

They do not believe school is meritocratic as they believe the class sysem is the most influential. 


  • exaggerated the link between school and the workplace
  • they ignore the formal curriculm
  • other people argue school does not prepare people for wider society 
  • vocational subjects support bowles and gintis
  • If school creates passive students why have subjects such as sociology
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Bourdieu - Cultural Capital

Cultural Capital is middle class - measure by for example how many books people read, how often you visit museums and art galleries. 

Bourdieu believed the more cultural capital you had the better you do in school 

Schools are believed to be middle class institiutions run by middle class adults resulting in the middle class students getting the best rewards. 

Sullivan tested Bourdieu theory's shwing it supoorts Marxist theory that teh function of education is to REPRODUCE

Sullivan's research support the idea that the high cultural capital a parent had the better the child would do in education. Showing that these concepts are still relvenat today. 

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Internationalism - labelling


Focus on th eprocesses in school. why some children do better than others and how studnet sand teachers read each other. 

Labelling and Self Fulfilling concept

Rosenthal & Jacobson

told teachers false information about the students IQ. The children who the teachers believed had an high IQ did better than tose belived to have a low IQ. 

Suggetsing that self-fullfilling prophecy can occur. 


  • Supports labelling and sfp
  • positive label led to excoraugemnt and intellectual progress. 
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Internationalism - setting and streaming

Setting - grouping pupils together for specific subjects

Streaming- grouping students togther in a hierarchical system and stayed in the groups for all subjects

Ball - studied banding in comprehensive schools:

lower streams -  more likely to be working-class, behaviour deteriorated and lower expecatitions practical subjects and lower level exams

higher streams - middle-class

Keddie - streams in lonom schools for humanities

students in lower bands the content was simplified with it being absed on common sense

students in higher bands had more abstract concepts exanding their knowledge

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Internationalism - evaluation

- Only look at processes in education so they fail to explain wider class inequalities (marxist)

- labelling can be seen as deterministic. Sense students have no control over their achievement. However not all live up to their labels

- many studies show male peer groups so are noit useful to explain female peer groups

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The New Right - competition

schools have to compete with ecahother in orde to attrcat pupils 

C hoice
C ompeition

Chubb & Moe

studied American system of education and suggested parents should have a choice of where their child goes to school

this would create competition leading to successful schools growing and others shutting down

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The New Right - Evaluation

- competition stops choice as schools close down - eg Riverside in Leicestershire

- limitied by geographical location

- schools may change as a result of Ofstead, chnage of headteachers, results

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