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Education & Society - How fair are educational systems? - Are they meritocratic? - Does it matter what your social class background is?

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Presentation on theme: "Education & Society - How fair are educational systems? - Are they meritocratic? - Does it matter what your social class background is?"— Presentation transcript:

1 Education & Society - How fair are educational systems? - Are they meritocratic? - Does it matter what your social class background is?

2 Why do working class children tend to perform worse than middle class children at school? 2002 – General Household Survey Social class 1 (higher professionals) -78% have university qualifications -3% have no qualifications Social class 6 (unskilled working class) -1% have university qualifications -74% have no qualifications

3 LECTURE OUTLINE 1.What is education? 2.History of education (in Britain) 3.Functionalist views of education 4.Critical theories of education Education and social class -Bowles & Gintis, Willis, Bernstein, Bourdieu 5. Evaluation

4 WHAT IS EDUCATION? 1) Primary Socialisation - Childhood - family 2) Secondary Socialisation -Childhood - outside family a) Informal: Peer groups, mass media b) Formal: Education system

5 WHAT IS EDUCATION? Education – the social institution guiding the transmission of knowledge, job skills, cultural norms and values (Macionis & Plummer) Schooling – formal instruction under the direction of specially trained teachers (Macionis & Plummer)

6 WHAT IS EDUCATION? Modern formal education is specific to modern societies Pre- and non-modern societies Informal Practical skills / non-abstract Modern formal education Abstraction & Standardisation Bureaucracy Credentialism Meritocracy

7 HISTORY OF EDUCATION (in Britain) Prior to mid-19 th century: -Only elites receive a formal education -Gendered: Gentlemen Ladies

8 From mid-19th century onwards: Development of the Industrial Revolution - need more skilled workers mass education 1)basic literacy and numeracy 2)citizenship skills

9 Into the 20th century FREE and COMPULSORY primary education for all (up to 11 years old ) THEN FREE and COMPULSORY primary AND secondary education for all (up to 15 years old) THEN 1972 – School leaving age raised to 16 years old

10 FUNCTIONALIST VIEWS Emile Durkheim; Talcott Parsons 1.Each part of a society (a social institution) contributes to the smooth- running operation of the whole society 2.Each of the parts must work together effectively with all the other parts 3.Education helps keep the whole society functioning 4.Education works together with the other social institutions (e.g. economy, political system)

11 a) Education teaches work skills - Necessary for the economy b) Education teaches citizenship -Necessary for the political system c) Education teaches shared ideas, values and morals -Necessary for society as a whole

12 Modern societies are meritocracies NATURAL INTELLIGENCE + EFFORT = EDUCATIONAL SUCCESS SUCCESS = good qualifications = high-level employment = wealth & high social status Social background is irrelevant

13 CRITICAL THEORIES 1.Education reflects the nature of an unequal and unfair society 2.Education helps the socially highly privileged retain their wealth & power 3.Education works such that the less privileged continue to lack wealth & power 4. Meritocracy is more myth than reality

14 Education & Social Class Karl Marx (mid 19 th century) a) Capitalist society is run in the interests of powerful groups - Ruling classes / working classes b) Social institutions - both individually and together - work to: -maintain the power of the powerful -keep the less powerful in their place

15 Education & the economy - Ensures workforce is passive and compliant - Workforce accepts being exploited Education and the political system - Ensures working classes accept the political system as legitimate (which is controlled by the ruling classes) - Prevents revolutions and rebellions

16 Education and ideas, values and morals i)Reflect ruling class interests / thoroughly biased ii)Education enforces ruling class ideas and values among the working classes iii)Often done in a hidden way: Hidden agendas within school curriculum

17 Education & Society 2 - Are education systemsmeritocratic? - YES: functionalist views - NO: critical theories - Marx: - education is a tool of the ruling classes - working classes socialised

18 BOWLES & GINTIS Hidden curriculum Education apparently teaches ideas and skills Education actually socialises people into certain sorts of attitudes (about themselves and society) Done subconsciously & unintentionally

19 Upper middle class (ruling class) (Often in private education) -Think for themselves -Leaders / holding authority Working classes -Obedience Teachers as authority figures Time is managed Accepting orders Lower middle class -Obey orders from those above -Give orders to those below

20 Paul Willis Learning to Labour (1977) - How Working Class Kids Get Working Class Jobs An English secondary school Two main types of male pupil: a)The Lads - bad behaviour; academic failures b)The Swots – good behaviour; academic successes

21 1) Bad behaviour is socially created -lads are lower working class (unskilled) -see little point in formal education -see no hope of social advancement 2) Bad behaviour is useful for capitalist society - capitalist economy - unskilled jobs -capitalist system REQUIRES some people to fail - happens mostly unintentionally

22 BASIL BERNSTEIN WORKING CLASS SPEECH RESTRICTED CODE -Simple words -Not fully grammatical -Slang & regional dialect -Strong local accents MIDDLE CLASS SPEECH ELABORATE CODE -More complicated words -Fully grammatical -Use of standard English -Weak local accents

23 Elaborate Code Used in school -Teachers use it -Courses taught -Essays & exams Pupils rewarded Academic success Restricted code Pupils punished Academic failure


25 SUCCESS OR FAILURE - -CAPITAL -WHAT TYPES? HOW MUCH OF EACH? DEPENDS ON HOW MUCH CAPITAL PARENTS PASS ONTO CHILD Types of capital: 1) Economic capital (money) 2) Social capital (social connections and networks) 3) Cultural capital ( a) knowledge of high culture; b) refined manners & language)

26 Upper middle class (e.g. high-level lawyers): -High levels of all 3 types of capital Lower middle class (e.g. primary school teachers) -Middling levels of all 3 types of capital Working class (e.g. bus drivers) -Low levels of all 3 types of capital (Exceptions – e.g. working class people with quite high economic capital but low cultural capital – nouveau riche)

27 Education works in ways that: a) Retain upper middle class wealth & privilege b) Preserve working class lack of these c) Keep lower middle class in the middle

28 EDUCATION IS BIASED TOWARDS FAVOURING UPPER MIDDLE CLASS CHILDREN: 1) Economic capital Can buy educational success -Private school -Good state school -Property prices – school catchment area 2) Social capital -Parents use social connections to get children into school of their choice -Children make useful social connections at school -Old school tie

29 3. Cultural capital i) High cultural capital: -well-spoken -sophisticated language -good manners -seem intelligent -confidence generally and in class ii) Teachers and exam systems reward pupils with high cultural capital They penalise those with low cultural capital iii) Mostly unintentional and done subconsciously

30 Effects: Self-fulfilling prophecies a)Children with high cultural capital positively evaluated by teachers - High self-esteem – talented - Good class and exam performances b) Children with low cultural capital negatively evaluated by teachers - Low self-esteem – not talented - Poor class and exam performances SOCIAL CLASS BACKGROUND TRANSFORMED INTO PERSONAL TALENT

31 BOURDIEUS CONCLUSIONS 1.We do not live in a meritocracy 2.Education system seriously biased in favour of upper middle class 3.This is mostly unintentional 4.Amount and level of qualifications: - natural intelligence is much less important than social background 5.Some working class children achieve educational success – but its a very small minority

32 EVALUATION OF CRITICAL THEORIES 1.Out-dated? Written in 1970s. Class structure now less static. 2.Over-emphasise power of upper middle class to retain educational privileges? 3.Under-emphasise educations role in allowing social mobility 4.Enlargement of University sector - rising working-class participation in University education

33 5. Appearance of more teachers of working class origins 6.Cant explain gender differences in educational achievement - cant explain why girls OF ALL SOCIAL CLASSES now doing better than boys

34 EVALUATION OF CRITICAL THEORIES 1) Gap between rich and poor widening - Less social mobility than 30 years ago 2) Universities: -Most entrants to elite universities still from elite schools and upper middle classes -Lower class students tend towards less prestigious universities -Trend towards postgraduate qualifications

35 TO WHAT DEGREE is education meritocratic? LOOK AT THE STATISTICAL TABLES IN THE BOOKS EVALUATE the theories in light of EVIDENCE

36 Education & Society 2 Functionalist views: modern education systems are meritocratic / class background irrelevant to achievement Critical theories: modern education systems are very biased in favour of the higher classes

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