Sociology and Education

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Social class is based on socio-economic status, which is the key part of social stratification in Ireland and western industrialised societies today and is categorised using an International Classification Code (Donohoe and Gaynor, 2007).

A child’s social class is obtained from their parent’s occupation. Until the 1981 census women’s social class was assigned to them according to the occupation of their father or their husband. However, nowadays, woman’s social class is obtained primarily from her own occupation (Donohoe and Gaynor, 2007).

The most important part of the social class system is the inequality that is present between social classes in the distribution of both wealth and income. An estimated 10% of the population own nearly half the wealth in Ireland. This means that 90% of the population share the other half. However, this is not distributed equally (Donohoe and Gaynor, 2007).

Education has become an extremely significant in occupational attainment in modern society. This takes up the main position in the analysis of stratification and social mobility (Collins, 2007).

For this assignment, the topic that is going to be discussed is whether class background related to educational success. In order to do this, I will discuss two theorists in relation to the sociology of education. I will then go onto discuss the importance of social class in relation to educational attainment in Ireland and educational disadvantage.

Collins (2007) states that education has become extremely important in order to get a job in modern society and this takes centre place in the analysis of both social stratification and mobility. Bilton, Bonnett, Jones, Skinner, Stanworth, and Webster, (2002) refers to education as one of the most significant social institutions in one’s life. A variety of studies have shown that in society, the longer you spend in education the better the job you will achieve, with your social background constant. These studies have also shown that social background affects your educational and employment success after the completion of education. There are significant differences in employment opportunities independent of social background between graduates of more well-known and less well-known secondary school, colleges, graduate and law schools (Collins, 2007). The educational requirements for employment have become progressively extensive, not only for the best jobs but also for jobs from the bottom of hierarchy (Collins, 2007). Smyth and McCoy (2007: p. 8) state that young people who come from manual backgrounds are unlikely to get at least one honour in the Leaving Certificate. However, students from higher professional backgrounds get four or more honours in the Leaving Certificate, 16% of those from semi and unskilled backgrounds. The sociology of education has reflected the bigger theoretical debates of sociology. The traditional sociology of Karl Marx, Max Weber and Emile Durkheim, to the modern influences of ‘symbolic interactionism, postmodernism and critical theory, sociology of education, research has been influenced by a number of different theoretical perspectives (Sadovnik, 2007: p. 3). Two theoretical perspectives in the sociology of education that will be discussed in this assignment are the functionalist perspective and the conflict perspective. The functionalist perspective is linked with Durkheim and Parsons, which is based on a relationship between both the social systems and organic systems. This perspective states that the character of a society’s various institutions must be recognised in terms of the function each performs in order for society as a whole to run smoothly. Whereas, the conflict perspective is associated with Karl Marx, which focuses on the idea that society is based on an unequal distribution of advantage (Bilton et al., 2002).

Functional Theory
Functionalist sociologists begin with an idea of society that emphasises the link between the social system....
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