Education: Perspectives

  • Created by: Charlotte
  • Created on: 25-04-18 20:42

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Perspectives on Education:


The Functionalist Perspective on Education

  • Focus on the positive functions performed by the education system. There are four positive functions that education performs.

1. Creating social solidarity around shared values – Durkheim argues that society needs a sense of solidarity so that individuals feel a sense of belonging as so will work together towards shared goals, which without, social life would be impossible due to each individual seeking to pursue selfish desires. In advanced industrial societies this is done though learning subjects such as History and English which gives a sense of shared national identity and teaches shared values creating value consensus, promoting peace and harmony throughout society.

2. Teaching skills necessary for work – modern industrial economies have a complex division of labour and Durkheim argues that a modern school based system is the only way of providing individuals with the diverse skills necessary for this to take place. Vocational education provides learners with job specific knowledge rather than a general lack of education. School also teaches us to cooperate with people whom are different from us and may not always get along with and as such prepares individuals for dealing with people in later life.

3. School acts as a bridge between home and wider society – Parsons argues that school plays a central role in secondary socialisation which is necessary as the family has very different principles to wider society and children need to adapt if they are to cope in the wider world. In the family, children are judged by particularistic standards where as in wider society and school they are judged by universalistic standards thus school prepares for this and acts as a bridge between home and wider society.

4. Role allocation and meritocracy – advanced societies are characterised by inequality as society needs the most able to do the most important jobs leaving others to do less demanding jobs. It is education which allocates people to the most appropriate job through examinations and qualifications and so the system is meritocratic as there is equality of opportunity by which everyone is given an equal chance at success and the most able do through their own efforts.

  •  Evaluations:
    • Not everyone has the same values; schools won’t wipe away what parents then reinforce at home.
    • Education is ethnocentric as History classes only paint the British in good light, not mentioning their failings. History also barely recognises other cultures.
    • Education is not meritocratic as cultural capital allows for those from more privileged backgrounds to attend better schools.

Evidence to Evaluate the Functionalist Perspective on Education

  • Arguments and evidence supporting Functionalist views of education:
    • Social solidarity is created as eachers help students who are behind and give them a sense of belonging at the school so that they succeed as shown in the ‘Educating Yorkshire’ documentary with a student who had a stammer.
    • There is a strong correlation between education levels and unemployment levels.
    • There is a strong correlation between education levels and salary.
  • Arguments and evidence criticising Functionalist views of education:
    • Boys are much more likely to be excluded than girls.
    • Children who receive free school meals are less likely to achieve 5 A* - C GSCE grades.
    • Social solidarity is not created for everyone as many religions are not covered in Religious studies and so students feel isolated.
    • Schools supposedly teach cooperation yet there are many incidents of bullying.
    • Children from private schools are more likely to have a high earning profession.
    • English and Maths are often in sets and this labelling can have a detrimental effect on some students hindering their ability to achieve.
    • School does not cater to everyone as some are routinely absent as they don’t feel like school is for them.


The Marxist Perspective on Education

  • View the state as the means by which the capitalist ruling class maintain their dominant position. They argue that the education system performs four functions:

1. Education is the ideological state apparatus – Althusser argues that education is an ideological state apparatus which manipulates the ways in which people think, instilling a false consciousness to avoid the need for physical oppression. Education operates as an ideological state apparatus in two ways.

  • It transmits a general ideology which states that capitalism is just and reasonable while portraying other systems of societal organisation as unnatural and irrational.
  • Encourages individuals to passively accept their future roles, producing a compliant and obedient workforce.

2. Education creates a passive and subservient workforce – the capitalist class require a passive workforce which is easy to exploit as this enables them to pay low wages to make more profit. Bowles and Gintis argue that children are taught through the hidden curriculum which consists of the things learnt through the process of attending school rather than the main curriculum. This correspondence principle demonstrates how school values are reflected in the workplace.

  • Passive subservience of pupils to teachers corresponds to passive subservience of workers to managers.
  • Acceptance of hierarchy corresponds to the authority of managers.
  • Motivation by external rewards corresponds to being motivated by wages not the joy of the job.

3. The education system reproduces class inequality – schools ensures that the inequality in society is passed on to future generations as the wealthier pupils get the best education and go on to get middle class jobs whilst the working class are more likely to get a lower standard of education and end up in working class jobs. In this way class inequality is reproduced.

4. The legitimation of class inequality – in reality money determines the quality of education received, however school spread the myth of meritocracy as in schools we are taught that we are all given an equal chance to succeed as our grades are a result of our efforts and ability so failure seen like our own fault. It legitimises and justifies the system as we think it’s fair.

  • Evaluations:
    • People are aware of the middle and upper classes getting a better quality of education and so get better jobs with a better salary as a result.

Willis (1977) – Learning to Labour

  • Willis argues pupils rebelling is evidence that not all pupils are brainwashed into being passive, subordinate people as a result of the hidden curriculum. As such Willis criticises traditional Marxism in favour of Neo-Marxism.
  • As a result of studying 12 ‘lads’ through observation and interviews he concluded that although the pupils did not internalises the norms and values injected into them, they realised that they have no real opportunity to succeed in the school system but Willis still believes this counter school culture still produces easily exploitable workers.
  • Willis described the friendship between the 12 ‘lads’ as a counter-school culture as their value system opposed the schools.
    • The ‘lads’ felt superior to the teachers and other pupils.
    • They attached no value to academic work, more to having a ‘laff’.
    • The objective of the school was to miss as many lessons as possible, the reward being status.
  • The boys looked forward to paid manual work after school and identified all non-school activities such as smoking and going out with this adult world which was valued more than school.

Evidence to Evaluate the Marxist Perspective on Education

  • Arguments and evidence supporting Marxist views of education:
    • 2/3 of barristers and doctors went to private school and only 1/7 of medical students came from the lower 50% of the UK population when divided by class.
    • Internships require people to work for free which is not possible for the lower classes.
    • Bright students from disadvantaged backgrounds are falling behind after GCSE’s as they are only half as likely to achieve 3 A levels compared to their better off peers.
    • Male graduates who attended private school are around 10% more likely to enter the highest status occupations
  • Arguments and evidence criticising Marxist views of education:
    • The lower classes value immediate gratification and so drop out of education early so they can’t succeed creating a self-fulfilling prophecy.
    • Creative industries account for 1.7 million jobs and grew by 10% in 2013 showing that schools don’t kill creativity.


The Feminist Perspective on Education

  • Liberal Feminists celebrate the progress made so far in improving girls’ achievement. They believe that the ‘future is now female’ as girls are now out performing boys in education, it is only a matter of time until more women move into political, higher paid, managerial roles are work.
  • Radical Feminists argue that patriarchy still works through school to reinforce traditional gender norms and to disadvantage girls in four main ways.
    • The concern over boys’ relative underachievement is seen as a moral panic. However boys are improving, just not as fast. The focus on raising boys’ achievement reflects the male dominated system panicking at the first signs of the old patriarchal system breaking down.
    • Despite improvements in girls’ education, subject choices still seem heavily gendered and girls do not seem to be ‘breaking the glass ceiling’.
    • Traditional gender norms are reinforced in schools, to the disadvantage of girls.
    • Girls are increasingly subject to sexist bullying which is becoming worse with the ‘normalisation of ***********’.
  • Evaluations:
    • There have been successful campaigns which aim to increase girls’ involvement in STEM subjects and sport.


The Neo-liberal Perspective on Education

  • Schools should be free of government control because the state should not provide public services such as education, health and welfare as people are best left to meet their own needs through the free market.
    • Private providers should provide education for which people must pay for.
  • Schools should be run like businesses and made to compete for pupils as the state should create a business friendly society and encourage competition through lower taxation, deregulation and privatisation.
    • As a result, education will be run on meritocratic principles with the best students being able to get places in the best schools.
  • Evaluations:
    • Competition is proven to raise standards as in Hong Kong which has evolved into a ‘tiger tutor’ economy with teachers living lives similar to celebrities.

New Right

The New Right Perspective on Education

  • The New Right introduced the 1888 Education Reform Act aiming to improve educational standards through the marketization of education and by creating a parentocracy.
    • Marketization refers to making schools compete with one another for government funding based off performance thus turning them into competing businesses within an education market. Schools that provide what people want such as good exam results will thrive and those that don’t will be taken over by new management who will improve standards.
    • Parentocracy refers to viewing parents as customers as parental choice is necessary for marketization to work. If a school becomes oversubscribed, it receives a larger budget. Schools have been required to publish their exam results since 1988.
    • Private schools have always operated on these principles as they charge fees and compete against each other for customers. As such, the New Right believe state schools should operate on the same principles, only funded by the state.

Specific New Right Policies

  • League Tables – schools to be ranked based on their exam performance. The New Right theorised that league tables would force schools to raise standards as no parent would want to send their child to a school at the bottom.
  • National Curriculum – all schools are required to teach the same subject content from ages 7 – 16, must teach core subjects and GCSE’s and SAT’s were introduced also. With all the schools following the same curriculum it made it easier for parents to compare and choose between schools. Exams introduction meant that every school was assessed using the same type of exam.
  • OFSTED – a governmental organisation that inspects schools. The introduction of OFSTED raises standards by placing new management on those underperforming schools with a poor report and shutting underachieving schools with consistently bad reports.
  • Formula Funding – funding to an individual school is based on how many pupils enrolled in the school in a given academic year. Undersubscribed schools, where parents don’t want to send their individuals will decrease in size and could possibly close, whereas oversubscribed schools may expand.
  • Open enrolment and selection – parents are allowed to select multiple schools to send their child to but only specific one as their first choice. Schools can then select students for admission if oversubscribed baased on criteria such as already having a sibling at the school and proximity to the school. Specialist schools can select 10% of the intake based on aptitude in a certain subject and faith schools can also select on a basis of faith.

Evidence to Evaluate the New Right Perspective on Education

  • Arguments and evidence supporting New Right views of education:
    • The UK isn’t ranked very highly in PISA League Tables showing that there should be more competition to improve standards.
    • Schools compete for the middle class pupils as they are seen as easy to teach and more likely to perform well when sitting exams.
    • The GCSE pass rate is steadily increasing as the education system becomes an increasingly competitive market.
  • Arguments and evidence criticising New Right views of education:
    • Children now live in the shadow of SAT’s and as a result school has changed to have a learning focus rather than play in the early years.
    • Competition is selective and creates a knowledge hierarchy at the expense of others as far less time is spent on creative yet unquantifiable subjects such as art, drama and music.
    • Children know how to answer tests but don’t know what else they can do with their knowledge unlike the student’s in the 1990’s who had a greater conceptual understanding.


Postmodern Approaches to Education

  • Usher and Edwards suggest that postmodernism denies that these is any single best curriculum that should be followed in schools. They argue that education should teach many different things and should accept that there can be different truths.
  • Postmodern education should acknowledge the importance to individuals of shaping their own education to meet their personal needs and wishes.
    • Society has become consumer-oriented where we live in a ‘pick and mix’ society characterized by greater individualism. As a result the education system needs to be fun to reflect societal emphasis on leisure. Also both students and parents have more choice in the type of education the individual receives.
    • The fragmentation of society is reflected in the increasing providers of education as there has been an increase in more home-schooling, apprenticeships and lifelong learning.
    • The rise of the digital age and emergence of a hyperreality is relflected in education with more use of ICT such as interactive boards and iPad’s in classrooms, alongside the provision of online courses and games for education.
    • The increase in diversity and choice in wider society is reflected in education with more types of schools emerging such as faith schools and forest schools.

Postmodern Criticisms of the Current Education System

  • Wragg make several criticisms of the contemporary education system in most developed countries.
    • Millions of children are alienated by the education system. Education stifles creativity by too much focus on academic and standardised testing.
    • The current education system was created during the industrial revolution for the needs of that society and is outdated, not performing the functions that is required of it today.
    • The education system makes people feel like they are not smart because it favours certain subjects over others. It also prevents divergent thinking through the emphasis on academic subjects such as maths where there is only one correct solution.
    • Lessons are dull and out of touch with children who are living in the most information rich age in history.
    • It medicates thousands of children with Ritalin among others to treat ADHD because the education system is based on standardised testing which requires prolonged concentration. These drugs are made to calm and suppress them when we should be stimulating them in divergent ways.

Evidence to Evaluate the Postmodernist Perspective on Education

  • Arguments and evidence supporting Postmodernist views of education:
    • There has been a 65% increase in home-schooling over the last 6 years because of greater choice available to parents. The main reason for home-schooling is due to parents’ philosophy, lifestyle or dislike of the education system.
    • The growth of alternative sources of education highlight how more people are rejecting traditional education.
    • Education has adapted to fit postmodern society to an extent such as having more diverse schools.
    • Most people agree with the criticisms of modern education and think it needs to change to be more creative.
  • Arguments and evidence criticising Postmodernist views of education:
    • Formal education and qualifications seen to function as an advantage to society as those who are more qualified are able to get better jobs.
    • There is a clear correlation between improved education and economic growth as better education gives the working population more skills so they can get better paid jobs.
    • In developed countries, children spend over a decade in education whereas only a few go on to level 3 and 4 education in places like sub-Saharan Africa.
    • Students who go through a normal education are more likely to be more competitive in a global labour market as they have better qualifications.
    • Allowing schools more freedom to teach would leave some children being left behind.
    • Home-schooling is only an option for the already educated wealthy.


Labelling Theory

  • The labels teachers give to pupils can influence the students’ self-identities and how they interact with others which in turn affects their attitude towards school, their behaviour and their chances of success.
    • Teachers actively label their pupils over a period of time, by making judgements based on their behaviour in class, attitude to learning, previous school reports and interactions with them and their parents, sorting them in to various groupings. Teachers may also assign labels to students based on preconceived ideas based on ethnicity, gender and socio-economic background.
    • The self-fulfilling prophecy occurs when an individual accepts their label, internalises it, and so acts out a corresponding response.

Self-Fulfilling Prophecy Theory

  • The self-fulfilling prophecy theory argues that predictions made about the future successes of failure of a student will tend to come true because that prediction has been made.
    • Teachers will push students they think are brighter harder and not expect as much from students they have labelled as less-able.
    • A positive label is more likely to result in a good student being put into a higher band and vice versa for a student prejudged as less-able.
    • Positively labelled students are more likely to develop a positive attitude towards learning whereas those negatively labelled are more likely to for an anti-school subculture which is reinforced by peer group identification.
  • Rosenthal and Jacobson’s study of an elementary school in California concluded that the self-fulfilling prophecy did exist as after testing all student’s IQ, a randomly sample were identified who were expected to achieve rapid intellectual development. This randomly selected ‘spurter’ group had gained on average more IQ than the 80% labelled to be average. They also found that the teachers believed this group had made greater advances in reading.

Hargreaves et al. (1975) – Deviance in Classrooms

  • Analysed the ways in which students are labelled based on interviews and observation in two secondary schools. Hargreaves distinguished three stages of classification.
    • Speculation – this first stage involves the teachers making guesses about the type of students they are dealing with based on criteria such as appearance, how far they conform to discipline, ability and enthusiasm for work, likeability, relationships with other children and personality. During this stage teachers are tentative in their typing and willing to amend their views.
    • Elaboration – the hypothesis about each student is tested and as a result confirmed or contradicted, and through this process they label of each student is refined.
    • Stabilisation – the teacher feels they know the students and finds little difficulty in making sense of their actions in light of the type of student they are. If a student is labelled as deviant, it will be difficult for any future actions to be seen in a positive light.

Evidence to Evaluate the Interactionist Perspective on Education

  • Arguments and evidence supporting Interactionist views of education:
    • Due to an increasingly diverse society and general greater equality, it is unlikely that teacher label students with a certain predisposition in a negative light. Teacher may also try to help all students as their success may link to pay.
  • Arguments and evidence criticising Interactionist views of education:
    • Negative labelling can have the opposite effect as Fuller’s research on black girls in a London comprehensive school found their labels as low-achievers to encourage them to knuckle down and study hard to prove their teachers and school wrong.
    • Similar experiments to Rosenthal and Jacobson’s study revealed no significant effects and proved their study unreliable.




This is the most important information for the exam



1888 should be 1988






Really useful! In a nutshell! :)



Is this everything in the education part????



nope /\



what kind of grade will this get you?



so thanks