The Perspectives on Education
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:
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- Gendered curriculum: A situation where females and males choose or are given different subjects to study.
- 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:
- Independence - Allowing schools to run themselves how they see fit.
- Competition - Making schools compete with each other for students.
- Choice - Giving parents and students more choice in where they go to school.
3 Elements of Quality Control:
- Ofsted inspections.
- League tables and exam results.
- National curriculum - baseline for what is taught.
Education Policies Promoting Marketisation:
- Conservative government
- League tables.
- Local management schools and City Technology Colleges.
- Funding formula.
- Open enrolment.
- Ofsted ratings.
- Labour government
- Business-sponsored academies.
- Specialist schools.
- Comprehensive schools.
- The coalition government
- Free schools.
- New-style academies.
Evaluation of Marketisation Policies & New Rights’ View:
- 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 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.
- 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.
- 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.
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.
- 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:
- 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.
- 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.
- Neo-Liberals: Saunders claims that middle-class educational achievement is due to biological differences.
- 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.
- 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.
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:
- Boys were represented as being more adventurous than girls. More physically stronger, and as having more choices.
- 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
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:
- Private schools - Independent of the regulations which apply to state-funded schools. They can choose which curriculum to follow and which exam to do.
- Public schools - Long established; fee-paying; requires an entrance exam in order to attend.
- 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:
- 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.
- Special Education schools - Schools for students with learning difficulties, physical disabilities, or behavioural problems. These schools are also known as contemporary schools.
3 Aims of education policy in the UK:
- Economic Efficiency - Develop skills of the young to improve the labour force. This makes the education system meet the needs of industry & workplace.
- Raising Educational Standards - UK education needs to compete in a global education market and is ranked against other countries. Eg. PISA.
- Creating equality of educational oppoortuinities - Ensuring that all students get the best educational opportunities.