Sociology Theories on Education

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AS Sociology For AQA
[2nd Edition]

Unit 2: Education

Chris. Livesey and Tony Lawson

Unit 2: Education

Contents 1. The role and purpose of education, including vocational education and training, in contemporary society. 2. Differential educational achievement of social groups by social class, gender and ethnicity in contemporary society. 3. The significance of educational policies, including selection, comprehensivisation and marketisation, for an understanding of the structure, role, impact and experience of education. 4. Relationships and processes within schools, with particular reference to teacher / pupil relationships, pupil subcultures, the hidden curriculum, and the organisation of teaching and learning. 2 21 42

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1. The role and purpose of education, including vocational education and training, in contemporary society. employment because there’s no demand for their services. Secondly, on an individual level (in the sense of how people actually experience the impact of institutional arrangements and relationships) the education system functions as an agency of: Secondary Socialisation: In this respect, education is an institution that "broadens the individual's experience" of the social world and, in so doing, prepares children for adult role relationships in the workplace and wider society. For the education system to function properly on both levels it must, according to Functionalists, be: Under this general heading we can outline and examine three main Structuralist perspectives - Functionalism, Marxism and Feminism - and we can begin by identifying the major ideas that characterise each perspective. Meritocratic - a concept that reflects the idea rewards (such as high pay, high status, jobs) are earned on the basis of our abilities and efforts (working hard in school to gain qualifications, for example) rather than simply allocated on the basis of who you know, your family background and so forth. Merit-based systems are also, by their very nature, competitive systems in the sense that different levels of reward and given for different levels of achievement – and children, in this respect, have to continually prove themselves willing to “work to achieve” whatever rewards are on offer. In the contemporary UK educational system, for example, these rewards relate to things like educational qualifications (such as GCSEs and A-levels) that in turn qualify students for certain types of work or entrance to different Universities. Module Link Stratification and Differentiation

The Role of Education: Introduction
There’s little doubt that education, as a social institution, has an important role to play in our society. Whether you view that role positively or negatively, we need to examine a range of perspectives (Structuralist, Interactionist, Postmodern and New Right) that explore the role and purpose of the formal education system in contemporary UK society.

Structuralist Perspectives: Observations

Functionalism
Although Functionalist theory has generally declined in sociological importance in the UK over the past 20 or so years, its influence in shaping educational policy – and hence the role played by the education system shouldn’t be underestimated. This is partly because the basic ideas that sit at the heart of this perspective ideas about consensus, competition and achievement through merit, for example - sit relatively comfortably with modern Conservative, Liberal and Labour political ideas. As a Structuralist perspective (one that focuses on broad groups of people and their behaviour) Functionalist arguments about the role of education focus on: Institutional relationships and functional linkages with wider society. In this respect, therefore, the emphasis here is on how education links to other social institutions, such as the family and the workplace. The complexity of modern social systems means the education system becomes, in effect, a bridge between these institutions in a...
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