Topic 1: Education


1.1: The Role of Education in Society  (p. 4-12)

Compulsory state education was not always possible. Until 1880, only the m/c could receive an education through private schooling. Kids were educated up to the age of 10. 

Under the Forsher’s 1970 Education Act, school boards were set up where school places were inadequate. This took over a lot of schools. Under the Fisher Education Act 1918, the state was responsible for secondary education and school leaving age was 14. It was continuously raised until it became 18 for everyone born after 1997. 

Rapid expansion of state education was due to reasons such as belief that improved education would result in economic success, relieving concerns that the UK would be behind manufacturing companies in other countries because workers weren’t skilled enough.

People also believed education was key in civilising people. If people were well-educated then they would make informed decisions on voting and they would share values / beliefs with the whole population.

Reformers believed education could rescue those in poverty. State education could help produce a fairer society so everyone had the opportunity to succeed. 

The government have contributed into improving education. In 2010/11, it accounted for about 8% government spending. 

Functionalism is a sociological perspective that started in the 19th century. Comte and Durkheim originally worked on it, developed further by Talcott. They examined how societies work successfully without falling apart, how shared beliefs / values help this and how institutions work to create orderly societies. 

Functionalists argue education has three broad functions - socialisation, skills provision and role allocation

Socialisation can be primary (family) and secondary (school). It is a process where individuals learn key cultural values of society and to behave correctly. Durkheim was concerned individualism could lead to a lack of social solidarity. Parsons believed that education bridged the gap between family and wider society, it produces a value consensus which is a general agreement about society’s basic values. It also socialises kids to adapt to a meritocratic view, meaning if they work hard they will succeed.

Skills provision is provided by education, where required skills for our modern industrial society are taught. Division of labour is increasing so spending more time in education is necessary to get these complex and specialist skills. Functionalist theory ties in with human capital theory - this claims investment in humans with education is like investment in new machinery, meaning new machines create lots of good products and better educated humans create more wealth. 

Role allocation is the process of deciding who does what within society, such as through exams, interviews and recruiting. This was argued by Davis & Moore (1945) - based on the principle of meritocracy, education allocates people the best job for their talents and these jobs may be more important than others because they’re more highly paid. Society is benefited by the most capable people working the most important jobs, because it increases prosperity. 

The functionalist perspective is criticised for being overly




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