Ch. 6 Education


The Perspectives on Education
Functionalist perspective
Functionalists look at the role or function of an institution in society in keeping the social body ‘functioning’ properly.
Emile Durkheim: One of the main functions of education is to bind members of society together. This creates social unity and solidarity. Therefore, education is seen as a functional prerequisite because it passes on the culture of a society, particularly, its core values.

Role of education as seen by functionalists:

  1. Durkheim: Education is a secondary agent of socialisation.
    Durkheim believes that education passes on society’s culture, norms, and values to each new generation. This is done through the Hidden Curriculum and Formal Curriculum. As a result of the educational process, value consensus and collective conscience is passed on. This ensures that social solidarity is achieved.
  2. Parsons: Universalistic Values
    Education system helps children bridge the gap between an environment based on particularistic values to one based on universalistic values.
    Universalistic values – Rules and values that apply equally to all members of society, regardless of who they are.
  3. Schultz: Providing a Trained, Qualified Labour Force
    Education provides individuals with the necessary skills, qualifications, and talents to fill the ‘division of labour’. This is why the curriculum is fragmented.
  4. Davis and Moore: Meritocracy & Role Allocation
    Davis and Moore said that as we live in a meritocratic society, the education system becomes the best mechanism for selecting the right people for the right job. People are sifted and sorted into the social hierarchy.

Evaluation of the Functionalist view:

  • Marxists: Marxists argue that the education system legitimises social inequality through the hidden curriculum. The hidden curriculum reinforces social inequality at school and maintains ruling class ideology.
    One way this is done is through the unequal relationship between teachers and students. The students being required to obey orders of those higher than them (in position) ingrains the inequality that happens in the workforce. Furthermore, students are primed to keep up with the demands of the capitalistic structure of society.
  • Bowles and Gintis: Myth of Meritocracy
    Bowles and Gintis argue that capitalist societies are not meritocratic, because it’s not the amount of ability an individual puts into their education however, it’s their social class that influences their academic achievement.
  • Feminists:
    • Gendered curriculum: A situation where females and males choose or are given different subjects to study.
      An example: The subjects Home Science, or Home Economics, are largely geared to women in Indian schools, and is mainly taken in women’s colleges. Feminists argue that gearing mainly only women to take this subject encourages women to become dual workers.
    • Gender stereotyping: Assigning particular characteristics to whole gender groups regardless of individual differences.
  • Wong: Functionalists’ view is too deterministic. Pupils are not passive, and the existence of anti-school subcultures and teacher-pupil relationships is evidence of this.

New Right Perspective
The Conservative party introduced the Tripartite System and the 11+ exam. The system and test were seen as being unfair and inaccurate because they disadvantaged W/C students who couldn’t afford private tutoring or didn’t attend primary schools committed to feeding grammar schools.

The Labour government encouraged a comprehensive system. By the end of 1970, 80% of schools were comprehensive. Comprehensive schools: schools open to all students regardless of their ability to pay and educational achievements.
Many parents were dissatisfied with the comprehensive systems as schools were ‘basic’ and could not provide individual to pupils. The Conservative govt’s ERA addressed this issue.

The Conservative Party (New Rights) introduced the 1988 Education Reform Act which aimed to achieve the goal of raising educational standards through marketisation.

2010 to 2015
The Coalition government allowed the privatisation of education by allowing companies/parents/organisations to set up free schools. Free schools: non-profit schools that are free to attend. They are not controlled by the LEA but by non-profit charitable trusts.

The 1988 Education Reform Act included:

  • A government-approved national baseline curriculum.
  • National tests such as A-Levels and SATs.
  • City Technology Schools (schools specialising in tech, math, & sciences; independent of LEA – Local Educational Authority).
  • Funding formula.
  • The release of league tables so that schools compete for students, and parents can make informed decisions when selecting which school to send their children to.
  • Ofsted inspections are conducted to ensure quality. Ofsted = Office for Standards in Education.

New Right arguments against the functionalists:

  • The state and the LEA interfere too much with people’s lives.
  • Chubb and Moe: Education is best produced in a free-market and should be marketed as competition drives up standards and lowers costs.
  • Chubb and Moe - Parentocracy: Consumers of education (parents/students) should be empowered with more choices and a greater say in their educational decision-making.

New Rights on US Education:
Chubb and Moe – Parentocracy and Educational Vouchers
Parentocracy: A concept in a free-market society where the education system is expected to conform to the wealth & wishes of parents rather than the educational achievement of the pupil. Parentocracy introduces socio-class inequality in education.

Mr. David: Power shifts from the schools to the consumers (parents).

Evidence of Parentocracy:
The 2019 college admissions bribery scandal – Famous actors and businesspeople bribed coaches and university administrators of top US universities with millions of dollars.

Educational Vouchers: A system where each child receives a cash grant which their parents can use to select a private/public school to send their child to.

Chubb and Moe: Argue that parents should be given educational vouchers to spend on a school of their choice so that as a result, schools compete for the cash voucher.

New Rights on UK Education:

  • New Rights improved vocational education to make students more employable and reduce youth unemployment.
  • 1988 ERA introduced marketisation and Parentocracy.
  • The coalition govt (2010-2015) allowed the privatisation of education systems by allowing non-profit trusts/organisations to set up free schools.

Evaluation of the New Right View:

  • Marxists: Parentocracy reproduces social-class inequality as middle-class parents use their economic, cultural, and social capital to ensure their children get into the best schools.
  • Marxists: Privatised education will always prioritise profit over student future and well-being.
    Evidence is found that many academies and free schools provide poor-quality education.
  • Marxists and Feminists: Evidence has been found that academies and free schools discriminate against disadvantaged students.
  • Vocational education has been accused of preparing students to passively accept undemanding jobs for exploitative wages.
    Feminists: Vocational education is likely to funnel people into traditional gender roles.

Evidence supporting Criticisms:

  • The NCTAF (National Commission of Teaching and America’s Future) found that new underqualified teachers (25% of all teachers) are assigned to teach disadvantaged students. Qualified teachers are hired by wealthier schools.
  • NCTAF: Schools with a high minority enrolment have less than a 50% chance of getting qualified math/science teachers.
  • In 1994, 1/3rd of teachers in high-poverty schools taught without a minor in their main field.
  • Shepherd (2012): Shepherd found that free schools took in a lower proportion of FSM pupils (Free School Meals) than other local schools.

The establishment of the Education Reform Act means that parents can now ‘shop’ around for the best school for their child. Parents would like to shop around because there is a wide difference in what a child can achieve in one school, compared to another in the same area.

When shopping, you look for market signals. Market signals are aspects such as the price, reputation, quality, and reliability of a commodity. The Conservative government introduced Ofsted to develop market signals for the education system by inspecting schools for quality and reliability. Parents can read Ofsted reports and compare exam results in the form of league tables, and send their child to the ‘best’ school.

Marketisation of the education system is when the government get schools to compete with each other, in order to move up the league tables. Parents then select the ‘best’ school to send their child to using exam results, Ofsted reports, and league tables. The competition would also result in improved results and school standards.

The outcome of the marketisation of the education system was that middle-class parents were more inclined to understand the reports. Further, as they had a higher income, they were able to move to better catchment areas of good schools. This is a postcode lottery when compared with the disadvantaged.

Postcode lottery: The unequal provision of services such as healthcare, education, and insurance prices depending on the geographic area, or postcode.

Catchment area: An area from which a location or service attracts a population that uses its services and economic opportunities. It has good healthcare and educational services.

3 Features of Marketisation:

  1. Independence - Allowing schools to run themselves how they see fit.
  2. Competition - Making schools compete with each other for students.
  3. Choice - Giving parents and students more choice in where they go to school.

3 Elements of Quality Control:

  1. Ofsted inspections.
  2. League tables and exam results.
  3. National curriculum - baseline for what is taught.

Education Policies Promoting Marketisation:

  1. Conservative government
    • League tables.
    • Local management schools and City Technology Colleges.
    • Funding formula.
    • Open enrolment.
    • Ofsted ratings.
  2. Labour government
    • Business-sponsored academies.
    • Specialist schools.
    • Comprehensive schools.
  3. The coalition government
    • Free schools.
    • New-style academies.

Evaluation of Marketisation Policies & New Rights’ View:

  1. The Myth of Parentocracy - Stephen Ball
    Parents do not have equal freedom to choose the schools which their child attends due to covert selection processes and postcode lotteries in catchment areas. Middle-class parents have more freedom in choice due to their cultural capital, higher education, and income.
    The working class are comparatively disadvantaged because they are:
    • Less financially able to shop around.
    • Less able to understand league tables and compare schools.
    • Less able to access and evaluate Ofsted reports.
    Parentocracy reproduces social-class inequality by empowering middle-class parents.
    Parentocracy is when parents are seen as consumers in an educational free market because all parents are assumed to have free choice in choosing which school to send their child to.
  2. Marketisation leads to dumbing down - As schools need to retain and attract students, they would lower the teaching standard and educational material. Otherwise, people may leave if the course is too hard.
  3. Marketisation leads to reduced quality control - Ofsted is not very independent because governments and politicians interfere with the process by changing goals and standards.

Privatisation in general means the transfer of assets and resources from state control to the private sector.
Private education - Fee-paying schools not directly funded by the government.
Privatisation within education systems - When schools change their internal processes to be more like private businesses. Business characteristics they adopt: having performance targets, marketing, performance-related pay, and league tables. They opt out of LEA control and manage themselves.
Academisation - Importing business principles into education establishments.
Privatisation of education systems - Outsourcing of services within education to private companies.

This is seen through the:

  • Growth of academy trusts.
  • Increase in educational consultants.
  • Rise in examination services.
  • Developing educational brands.
  • Private investment in school buildings.

Evidence of privatisation of education:

  • In 2018 there were 738 multi-academy trusts (MATs) operating in the UK, and by November 2019, the number of MATs rose to 1170.
  • Growth of exam boards, such as Pearson, supply exam materials globally.

Marxist Perspective
Class Consciousness: An awareness of one’s social and economic class relative to others.
False Class Consciousness: People’s inability to recognise inequality, oppression, and exploitation in a capitalist society. This is because there are prevalent views in society that legitimise social class and inequality.

Economic Determinism: The belief that the economic organisation of society, or an individual’s economic status, determines their cultural, social, political, and intellectual activities.
The Marxists believe in economic determinism.
Marxists in general, believe that capitalism allows the ruling class to exploit the working class or employees, and this creates social class conflict between the 2 classes.

Marxists argue that education is an important component of the capitalist superstructure, as it functions to reproduce and legitimise the class inequalities in capitalistic societies. It mainly serves the interests of the capitalist class rather than its students.

Althusser (Neo Marxist) argued that the education system is an ideological state apparatus because,

  • Middle-class students have access to ‘economic’, ‘cultural’ and ‘social’ capital which largely ensures that they get better grades than working-class students. Working-class students don’t have these resources.
  • The education system deliberately engineers working-class failure because capitalism requires an unskilled/semi-skilled workforce. Teacher-pupil relationships and vocational schools are processes that lead to working-class failure.
  • Private education prepares elite children for powerful positions.
  • The hidden curriculum and teacher-pupil relationships in the education system are shaped to assist middle-class achievement and deter working-class achievement.
  • The hidden curriculum encourages working-class pupils to passively accept the inevitability of hierarchy and class inequality.

The Correspondence Principle by Bowles and Gintis The correspondence principle suggests how the education system functions mirrors the world of work by enforcing punctuality and hierarchy, in order to prepare them for the workplace.

For example:

  • Students are encouraged to work for marks, not job satisfaction.
  • Students have no control over what they are taught.
  • Schools encourage the idea that some students are deserving of more status since they are more academically hardworking.
  • Students accept that schoolwork is dull and boring.

Education claims to be meritocratic, however, schools discriminate in favour of the middle class. For example, through language codes.

Evaluation of the Marxist view:

  1. Neo-Marxist Giroux:
    • The Marxist view is too deterministic - Rejects the view that the working-class passively accepts their position to become compliant workers.
    • The existence of anti-school sub-cultures, truancy and exclusion suggests that both the hidden curriculum and the correspondence principle have failed.
  2. Social Democrats: Floud & Martin suggest that Marxists exaggerate the effect education has on working-class achievement.
    They point out that government policies such as comprehensivisation have improved the chances of the working class.
  3. Neo-Liberals: Saunders claims that middle-class educational achievement is due to biological differences.
  4. New Rights: Chubb and Moe argue that Marxists fail to see that education has failed all social groups, not just the working-class. Education has failed to equip students with skills required for success in the global market place.
  5. Postmodernism: Marxists fail to realise that education reproduces diversity, not inequality. Morrow & Torres claim that students claim their own identity rather than being constrained by class.

Ideological State Apparatus (Althusser): A social institution whose main role is to pass on the dominant ideology of the ruling class.
Repressive State Apparatus (Gramsci): A social institution whose role is to enforce the dominant ideology by force or by threat of force.

Feminist Perspective
The feminist perspective focus on gender inequalities in society.
Colley found that despite all social changes in recent decades, traditional definitions of masculinity and femininity are still widespread.

Gender and education
From the feminist perspective, one of the main roles of education is to maintain gender inequality. Feminist research has revealed the extent of male domination in education.

The study by Riegle-Crumb & Humphries on exploring bias in math teachers’ perceptions of students’ ability by gender and race found evidence showing teachers hold the belief that math is just easier for white males than white females.

Gendered language - School textbooks use gendered language such as ‘he’, ‘him’, ‘man’, ‘men’, and ‘his’ when referring to a person, or people. This downgrades women and makes them invisible.

Gendered roles - School textbooks or reading schemes, especially from the 1960s and 1970s tend to present females as mothers or housewives.

Gendered stereotypes - Reading schemes present traditional gender stereotypes. For example, an analysis of 6 reading schemes from the 1960s and 1970s found that:

  1. Boys were represented as being more adventurous than girls. More physically stronger, and as having more choices.
  2. Girls were presented as more caring than boys; more interested in domestic matters; and as followers rather than leaders.

Women in the curriculum - In the curriculum taught to students, women tend to be represented way less than men.

Subject choice - Traditionally, less female students dominate math, science, and technology classes. Females go on to study psychology, sociology, and other such subjects. Lower market value and status are given to these subjects.

  • Self & Zealey (2007) note that more women than men studied subjects such as nursing, and more men than women studied business, admin services, engineering, technology, and computer sciences.
  • Warrington & Younger (2000) note career aspirations reflect traditional gender stereotypes such as childcare and nursing for girls, and accounting, and computing for boys.

Discrimination - There is evidence of discrimination against girls in education simply because of their gender. For example, when the 11+ exam was introduced in the 1940s, the pass mark was set lower for boys than for girls to get an equal number of boys and girls in grammar schools. Girls were artificially ‘failed’ so boys could ‘succeed’.

Further and higher education - In most cases, the number of female students going on to further and higher education has been lower than for boys. Stanworth found evidence that teachers often gave boys more encouragement than girls to go to university.

Workplace - Women are at a disadvantage in the workplace because of horizontal and vertical segregation that filters down through the education system.
Horizontal segregation refers to the idea that occupations are sex-segregated. Female-dominated occupations include teaching, nursing, and secretarial work, while male-dominated occupations include engineering and computing.
Vertical segregation refers to the hierarchy in a workplace. Oftentimes, men dominate higher managerial positions.

Vocational training and work experience place boys and girls into stereotyped jobs.
Mackenzie (1997) found the following:

  • 45% of girls were allocated to caring placements, but these did not always reflect their choices.
  • Boys who didn’t get their preferred role were placed into neutral or traditionally male occupations.
  • Girls who didn’t get their preferred role were placed into traditionally female roles.

Therefore, vocational training is more likely to result in people being channelled into occupations reflecting gender stereotypes.

Evaluation of the feminist perspective
The feminist perspective has been valuable for exposing gender inequality in education.
Partly as a result of sociological research, a lot has changed:

  • Much of the sexism in reading schemes has disappeared.
  • Grades of females at GCSE and A-Levels are significantly higher than those of male students.
  • More women than men are going on to higher education.

The Education System and Education Policies

The 5 Stages of Education in the UK - SWM.jpg

State Schools: Schools funded by the government.
Types of State Schools:

  • Community schools
  • Foundation & voluntary schools
  • City Technology Colleges (CTCs)
  • Grammar schools
  • Academy schools
  • Free schools
  • Faith schools
  • Single-sex videos
  • State boarding schools

Contemporary Education aims to tackle cultural deprivation by providing extra funds and resources to schools in deprived areas.

Private schools: Fee-paying schools.
3 Types of Fee Paying Schools:

  1. Private schools - Independent of the regulations which apply to state-funded schools. They can choose which curriculum to follow and which exam to do.
  2. Public schools - Long established; fee-paying; requires an entrance exam to attend.
  3. International schools - Follows an international curriculum such as International Baccalaureates or IGCSEs.

Alternate Provision: Schools for those that are unable to attend main stream education.
Types of Alternate Provisions:

  1. Pupil Referral Units (PRUs) - Children who attend PRUs might be those:
    • Permanently excluded for behavioural reasons.
    • Experiencing emotional behavioural difficulties.
    • Experiencing severe bullying.
    • Pregnant, or young moms.
  2. Special Education schools - Schools for students with learning difficulties, physical disabilities, or behavioural problems. These schools are also known as contemporary schools.
  3. Homeschooling

3 Aims of education policy in the UK:

  1. Economic Efficiency - Develop skills of the young to improve the labour force. This makes the education system meet the needs of industry & workplace.
  2. Raising Educational Standards - UK education needs to compete in a global education market and is ranked against other countries. Eg. PISA.
  3. Creating equality of educational opportunities - Ensuring that all students get the best educational opportunities.

Policies which increased equality in Education:

  1. 1988 Education Reform Act (ERA) - National Curriculum
    It increased equality as all schools had to teach the same core curriculum.
    Evaluation: Teaching the same core curriculum is not suitable to all pupils. It mainly suits more ‘academic’ pupils.
  2. 1965 Comprehensivisation Act
    Got rid of the 11+ exam. Comprehensive schools allow students to get ‘Parity of Esteem’ and ‘Equality’ within education.
    Evaluation: Comprehensives are large schools which lack the provision of individual attention.
  3. Schools Admissions Code
    Forbids discrimination in admitting pupils on grounds of socio-economic backgrounds or ability.
    • Covert selection still takes place by both schools and parents. Parents may choose to educate sons only.
    • Postcode lottery - Middle-class families in a geographically better location are privileged.
  4. Pupil Premium
    Additional funding for students from a poor socio-economic background.
  5. Reservation Policy
    In Indian colleges during the admission process, seats are reserved for pupils from tribes and backward classes.

    Gillborn and Youdell: 4 Aspects of Educational Equality:
    1. Equality of Access - All children should have equal opportunities to access education of similar quality, regardless of socio-economic background.
    2. Equality of Circumstance - All children should start school with a similar socio-economic background.
    3. Equality of Participation - All students should have an equal chance to participate in the process that makes up school life.
    4. Equality of Outcome - All students should have the same chances of achievement in education regardless of socio-economic background.
  6. Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972
    It was passed in the USA. It prohibits sex discrimination in any education program, or school, that receives funding from the general government.
  7. Gender Equity Education Act
    It was passed in Taiwan in 2004. The Act aims to promote gender equality, eliminate gender discrimination, empower girls and boys with life skills, and ultimately lead to the elimination of wage gaps.

Selection and Admission Policies
3 selection types:

  1. Selection by ability - Entrance tests.
  2. Selection by aptitude - Talents.
  3. Selection by faith.

Arguments in favour of selection:

  • Allows high-achievers to benefit.
  • Specialised and focused teaching can take place.

Arguments against selection (evaluation):

  • Slow learners do not benefit.
  • High achievers can act as an inspiration to others.
  • Reduced risk of negative labelling, and subsequently self-fulfilling prophecy.
  • Social cohesion is fostered when students of mixed ability mingle, and so this is missed out on.

Open Enrolment Policies & Parental Choice
Open Enrolment Policies (OEP) mean that parents can apply to any area, and if the school is undersubscribed, they must take the child. However, oversubscribed schools fill up quickly, so many parents don’t get their first choice.
When a school is oversubscribed, priority is given to:

  • Children in care ➜ Children that live in the care of local authority or foster parents.
  • Pupil premium ➜ Students availing this benefit.
  • Siblings (with the local authority’s permission).
  • Catchment areas ➜ People who live closest are chosen first.
  • Faith.

Covert Selection
Tough and Brooks found out that backdoor social selection is conducted to cherry-pick students. The process included discouraging working-class parents from enrolling their children by having high uniform prices, making the literature hard to understand, and not advertising in poor areas.
They also found that faith schools require a letter from a spiritual leader to gain insight into the potential student's family and their commitment to both the faith and school ethos.

Educational Achievement and Intelligence Intelligence is the ability to:

  • Use the capacities a person has to process information and choose appropriate responses, depending on the situation.
  • Perform particular tasks and solve specific problems.

Aspects of intelligence such as mathematical and verbal abilities are reliably and validly measured using an intelligence quotient test.

IQ tests claim to reliably and validly measure 'intelligence'. They also claim to not have cultural influences such as class, gender, age, or ethnicity. This is based on the nature theory that people are born with a certain level of intelligence, and this suggests that if the education system is meritocratic, differences in achievement are due to natural differences in intelligence.

Intelligence quotient (IQ): A specific measure of individual intelligence, where a score of 100 is the average. It's made up of tests on mathematical, verbal, and spatial skills.

IQ Testing in the UK
Extensively used between the 1950s and the mid-1970s to separate children into different schools at the age of 11. The 11+ IQ exam was used, and if students passed it, they attended grammar schools. If they failed it, they went to secondary schools which followed a broadly vocational curriculum.

IQ Testing in the USA
Entrance to higher education is partly controlled through the Scholastic Aptitude Tests (SATs). It covers critical reading, essay writing, and mathematical skills.


  • IQ tests claim to be 'culture-free'/'culture-neutral', however, instead of measuring intelligence, IQ tests are a measure of cultural learning.
  • Murray: Middle-class students who are familiar with question formats and have had previous practice by paying extra for IQ test prep and tutoring, are more likely to perform better at timed IQ tests. Working-class students are at a disadvantage in this case.
  • Tests of verbal reasoning make cultural assumptions. Questions on the test might assume that something is common knowledge, whereas it may not be known to those from minority cultures.
  • Kaplan: How well a person does on an IQ test depends not solely on natural intelligence. It also depends on factors such as education, reading habits, experience with taking tests, cultural upbringing, and mental & physical health.
  • Marxists: IQ tests are part of cultural reproduction, and a form of an ideological state apparatus since it enforces the idea that intelligence differs naturally, and this can be a powerful form of social control.

Education and Social Mobility
Aldridge defined social mobility in the following manner:
Social Mobility: The ability to move up or down the social class structure.

2 ways to measure social mobility:

  • Intergenerational mobility: Movement between generations.
    It's the difference between a parent and their adult child's occupational position.
  • Intragenerational mobility: An individual's mobility throughout their life.
    For example, comparing an individual's starting occupation and their occupation at their time of retirement.

Meritocracy: System in which people are sifted and sorted into positions of success, and power based on their merit and abilities.

Functionalists on social mobility:

  • Social mobility is functionally necessary to ensure that important social positions are filled by those most qualified.
  • Upward mobility is earned through demonstrating/exhibiting individual merit.
  • Davis and Moore argue that education is the proving ground for ability and hence the best selection agency for placing people in different statuses according to their abilities.

Contest mobility: A system of social mobility where all individuals are seen as competing for elite statuses which is the end goal.

Sponsored mobility: System of social mobility where elite individuals in society, select and admit recruits into high-status groups.

Evaluations of the functionalist view

  • Inequalities of educational outcomes that affect social mobility are justified by meritocratic competition.
  • However, the education system is not always meritocratic. The working class and ethnic minorities force systematic disadvantage.
  • Neo-Marxists Bowles and Gintis argue that sponsored mobility takes place in the education system. The upper and middle classes enjoy privileges such as private tuition which their working-class peers cannot afford. Middle-class students' parents ' backgrounds help them achieve a high paid and high-status employment.
  • The relationship between educational achievement and economic success is not significant.

Neo-Functionalists/New Rights on social mobility

  • Neo-functionalist Saunders argues that middle-class parents invest in their children's education, and this 'investment' in the child's hard work helps safeguard against downward mobility.
  • Neo-functionalists believe that individual life choices dictate whether or not they receive success and social mobility. Those who succeed in a meritocratic society are based on individual choice, not by class, gender, or ethnicity.
    (Explanation: This is because if everyone were given the same educational opportunities, then the different results are based on the different choices people make.)
  • Neo-functionalists encourage marketisation and argue that schools should be privately owned rather than state-controlled.

Evaluations of the Neo-Functionalists/New Rights View
Shepherd and Rogers found that Christian faith schools took a lower proportion of working-class children than their catchment area suggests they should.
Hence, consumer choice is only really available to those who have the money and resources to make such choices. In schools which conduct entrance exams, middle-class students succeed, because their parents provide them with cultural capital.

Marxists on social mobility
Marxists argue that the main role of education is cultural reproduction.

Cultural Reproduction: Marxist view that the ruling class is reproduced as a result of investing time, money, and resources in the education of their offspring.

In relation to social mobility, Marxists argue that education is not a strong means to social mobility because as more students start performing highly well, the powerful groups and ruling class simply raise the entry requirements for elite/high-status occupations. This lowers the level of occupational mobility.

Neo-Marxists on social mobility
Neo-Marxists view education as a tool used by the ruling class to maintain dominance and control. They say that the ruling class uses the media to show that the education system is meritocratic when it's actually not. Hence, the individual is blamed, and not the education system.

Bowles and Gintis claim that cultural reproduction is secured through the correspondence (similarity) between workplace and educational institutes (schools).
Hegemony: Dominance of a social class. It's often the ruling class that has the hegemonic control.

Hegemonic (ruling-class) control explains why some working-class pupils succeed. These pupils who overcome the educational barriers, also help to maintain the 'myth of meritocracy'.

Evaluations of the Neo-Functionalists/New Rights View

  • The correspondence between education and work is based on superficial similarities.
  • Many students see they are destined for low-status work and see little point in learning what the education system teaches.

Social Inequality & Educational Opportunity & Achievement
Cultural Deprivation: Having inferior norms, values, skills and knowledge that make it difficult to access education.
Material Deprivation: Not having the resources or spaces available to do well in school.
External Factors: Factors outside the school which affect educational achievements.

Cultural Deprivation

  1. Language - The way parents communicate with their children is an essential part of competitive development.

    Hubbs-Tait suggested that parents who challenge their children to evaluate their thinking are more likely to have higher cognitive ability.
    Feinstein said this is more likely to happen in middle-class families as they are more educated.
    Bernstein: Language Codes
    Bernstein identified that the working class and middle class have different language codes.
    The working class uses a restricted code which involves simple grammar, limited vocabulary, and gestures.
    The middle class uses an elaborate code which involves complex grammar, full sentences, and abstract ideas.
  2. Parents Education - Douglas
    Douglas argues that a child’s educational achievement is influenced by the patient’s attitude towards education and their own level of education.
    Argues that working-class parents place less value on education, and thus, are less likely to push their children towards academic success. As a result, children have lower levels of motivation and low achievement.
    Feinstein also states that parents’ education level impacts pupils’ educational achievement because middle-class parents consistently discipline children.
  3. Different Subculture - Sugarman
    Sugarman argues that the working class has a culture different from the middle class.

    4 Elements of this Subculture:
    1. Fatalism - They believe there is nothing they can do to change their status.
    2. Collectivism - The working class valued being part of a group rather than succeeding as an individual.
    3. Immediate Gratification - Demanding immediate pleasure rather than waiting for better quality rewards later.
      An example of immediate gratification would be that children from working-class households may be told to wait to work in the fields to make extra cash. They do not realise how financially beneficial it can be to go to school in the long-term.
    4. Present Time Orientation - Working-class individuals see the present as more important than the future, thus they cannot form long-term goals.

Material Deprivation
The working class is likely to have a low household income and inadequate housing can lead to low educational achievement.

  1. Cost of Education
    • Although education may be free, there are many hidden costs (transport, books, etc.)
    • Flaherty suggests there’s a stigma around being a Free School Meal (FSM) pupil.
    • Smith and Nobel suggest working class may not be able to pay for private tuition.
    • Ridge highlights that working-class pupils might need to take on paid work whilst still at school, to help the household. This reduces the time studied.
  2. Housing and Health
    Housing and health have both a direct and indirect effect on education. Overcrowding (direct) can result in a lack of space for study and disturbed sleep. It can also affect children’s health and welfare.

    Factors which disadvantage working-class students:
    • Poor diet/nutrition.
    • Lack of private study facilities and resources.
    • They need to work to support their family, instead of going to school.
    Ramachandran argues that in India,
    • 50% of schools have no water supply and have leaky roofs.
    • 35% of schools have no blackboards or furniture.
    • Malnutrition, hunger, and poor health affect attendance and class performance.
    • The burden of home chores leads them to drop out.
    Howard noted that children from poor families have high absence rates as they have poor diets.

    Wilkinson noted that 10-year-olds from lower-income backgrounds are more likely to be hyperactive and have ADHD, which can lead to issues with education.

Bourdieu and Capital
Bourdieu states there are 3 types of capital which explains why middle-class students do better than their working-class counterparts.

Bourdieu’s 3 Capital Types:

  1. Cultural capital - Refers to the knowledge, behaviour, values, and abilities of the middle class.
  2. Economic capital - Refers to money and household income.
  3. Education capital - Educational experience and knowledge which helps in going up the academic ladder.

Alice Sullivan ➜ Conducted a survey to assess students’ cultural capital by using questionnaires, and pupils across 4 schools completed them. She found that those who showed greater cultural capital were children of graduates who had high job statuses.

However, cultural capital is only one of the reasons for differences in educational achievement by social class.

Criticisms of cultural capital theory

  • Much research suggests material deprivation and a lack of economic capital significantly affect educational achievement compared to cultural capital.
  • It may be unfair to blame schools for being biased against working-class children since many schools put effort into helping working-class children.

Social Construction of Knowledge & Curriculum

Language, Deprivation, & Knowledge

Teacher-Pupil Relationships
Unlike other sociologists who focus on factors outside school, interactionists focus on the factors inside school.

Interactionists don’t see pupils as passive victims of ‘material’ or ‘cultural’ forces, but as active in their relationships with teachers and schools through:

  • Their school organisation
  • Teacher-pupil interactions, which includes:
    • Labelling
    • Halo-effect
    • Self-fulfilling prophecy
  • Pupil sub-cultures
    • Gender and ethnicity based sub-cultures.
    • Anti- and pro-school sub-cultures.

Processes which take place in schools:

  • Labelling
  • Setting
  • Streaming

The aforementioned processes result in the halo-effect, self-fulfilling prophecy, and anti- and pro-school subcultures.

Stereotype: To assign a particular characteristic to a whole group, regardless of their individual differences.
Stereotyping in schools: Teachers constantly judge and classify pupils as being bright, and this affects future pupil-teacher relations.
Stereotyping – Teachers’ non-academic evaluations of pupils. The following are the ways in which pupils are stereotyped:

  • The way a pupil speaks and dresses
  • Their personality (helpful/unhelpful)
  • Enthusiasm for work
  • Level of co-operation
  • Social class.

Teachers’ non-academic stereotypes of working-class pupils:

  • Highly motivated
  • Having greater potential
  • Articulate
  • Ideal pupil, smarter in appearance
  • More able (even if not very bright).

Problems with stereotyping:

  • Bright working-class pupils can be ignored by teachers due to stereotyping as they’re not given the ‘halo’, hence they are given less support and encouraged.
  • Thick middle-class pupils are supported and encouraged because they’re given the ‘halo’, because most teachers are middle-class, and they have a greater natural liking to these students.
  • The halo effect is very similar to the labelling effect.

Labelling TheoryBecker
Labelling theory suggest that teachers often attach a label to a pupil that is not based on academic achievements. They form an opinion based on how close the students fit the ideal pupil.

Becker suggests that teacher-pupil interactions are based on these labels and can lead to a self-fulfilling prophecy where the students take on the label and act accordingly.

Evaluations of the Labelling theory:

  • Deterministic ➜ Too much importance is given to ‘teacher agency’ (the power of teachers to influence and affect pupils). Positivists might argue that the institution of ‘school’ encourage teachers to label students.
  • Focuses on the negative affects only.
  • Teacher training.

Effects of the labelling theory:

  • Self-fulfilling prophecy – When a pupil takes on the label that they have been given by the school and acts accordingly.
  • Polarisation – Students become divided into 2 opposing groups. Those in the top stream achieve high status and develop a pro-school sub-culture. Those in the bottom set are labelled as failures and have a low-status. They may develop an anti-school sub-culture.
  • Halo-effect
  • Becomes an ideal pupil.
  • Rejection of the label – Margaret Fuller’s research on black girls in a London Comprehensive school found that the black girls she researched were labelled as low-achievers, but their response was to knuckle down and study hard to prove their teachers and the school wrong.

An example of the Self-fulfilling prophecy in action: A student is first labelled as bright. As they’re bright, the teacher continuously encourages you to answer in class. Because of this positive interaction, the student grows in confidence, and tries harder. They get more enthusiastic and sees themselves as being bright. This confirms what the teacher originally thought and labelled.

Case Studies

  1. David Hargreaves (1967): The emergence of sub-cultures due to labelling and streaming
    Pupils labelled ‘troublemakers’ were placed in the lower stream; they were labelled as ‘failures’. Those with acceptable behaviours were placed in higher streams. Those labelled troublemakers sought out each other’s company and developed an anti-school sub-culture. Within their group, high status was given to those who broke school rules. According to Hargreaves, 2 distinct sub-cultures emerged: the conformists, and the non-conformist delinquents.
  2. Peter Woods did not support Hargreaves. He found that schools are more complex. Woods conducted a study on ‘Lowfield’, a secondary modern school from which he concluded that the pupils’ way of dealing with school life depends on whether they accept or reject the aim of academic success and the appropriate behaviour in school.
  3. Rosenthal & Jacobson: Pygmalion Effect in the Classroom
    A fake IQ was given to students. A random 20% of students were identified as ‘bright-bloomers’. After a year, researchers went back and found that these students had made more progress than others. 47 % of the 20% identified as ‘growth spurters’, had significantly improved their academic performance.
  4. Ray Rist
    Rist observed how a classroom teacher placed her students in 3 learning groups. The ‘fast-learners’, ‘middle-learners’, and ‘slow-learners’ were the groups. Rist notes that social class was a predictor of placement. Middle class students made up the group of ‘fast-learners’ and working class students made up the other 2 groups. The labels given to these children carried through older years.
  5. Hempel Jorgensen on Ideal Pupils
    Studied 2 primary schools, one from a working-class area, and the other from a middle-class area. Researcher found that teachers from working class saw the ‘ideal pupil’ as passive and behaving, whereas teachers from the middle class identified the ‘ideal pupil’ based off of their academic success.
  6. Becker: Labelling
    Based on 60 Chicago high-school, found that teachers judged pupils depending on how they fit the ‘ideal pupil’.

Pupil Subcultures

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