education notes (version 2)


the role of the education system


key concepts

  • education teaches the skills needed in work and by the economy
  • allocation function- sifts and sorts people for the appropriate jobs
  • plays a part in secondary socialisation; passes on core values
  • tend to focus on the positive contribution education makes to society


  • durkheim- education passes on norms and values to integrate individuals into society; helps to create social order based on cohesion and value consensus; teaches individuals specific skills which are necessary for their future occupations
  • parsons- school is a bridge between the family and adult roles of society; pass on a universal value of achievement; education selects children into appropriate roles; meritocratic; agrees with durkheim that education helps to make people agree about norms and values
  • davis and moore (1945)- every society sorts its members into different positions; there are rules for how education does this; principles of stratification; there has to be a system of unequal rewards to motivate people to train for the top positions


  • evidence of differential achievement in terms of class, gender and ethnicity suggests that education is not meritocratic
  • who you know is still more important than what you know in some parts of society; the allocation function isn't working properly
  • can be argued that the education system doesn't prepare people adequately for work
  • doesn't look at how education may serve the interests of particular groups in terms of ideology and values; doesn't explain conflict
  • durkheim assumes that the norms and values promoted in schools are those of society as a whole rather than those of powerful groups
  • most contemporary changes in education appear to be aimed at encouraging individual competition and training pupils for particular vocations; could be argued that the sort of education favoured by durkheim is not the best preparation for future working life
  • hargreaves- most British schools fail to transmit shared values
  • other functionalists see competition as a vital aspect of modern societies
  • parsons fails to consider the diversity of values in modern societies
  • there is only a weak link between educational qualifications and income
  • intelligence and ability have only a limited influence on educational achievement
  • the system of social stratification prevents the education system from grading individuals according to their ability


key concepts

  • education prepares children for the world of work by giving them skills and values they'll need
  • justifies inequality
  • passes on ruling class ideology that supports capitalism


  • neo-marxist althusser- education is part of the ideological state apparatus; tool of capitalism which is used to pass on the belief that society is fair; education produces a docile and obedient workforce

bowles and gintis 1976

  • there is a close link between school and work
  • there's a correspondence between pupil experiences of school and adult work
  • pupils are taught to accept hierarchy, work also has a hierarchy
  • capitalism requires a hard-working, obedient workforce which is too divided to challenge the authority of management
  • the education system helps to produce a workforce with these qualities through the hidden…


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