Education is one of the compulsory sections on the AQA Sociology specification and often it is the easiest for students to grasp – after all they are in education. Many of the concepts will be easily applied to real life situations and this module makes sociology very engaging for students. Some of the key debates students will need to be aware of on this section of the A level are:
This is an overview of some of the content and if useful for students to see the bigger picture of why education is important to sociologists. A more prescriptive checklist can be found by clicking on the link below:
One of the first debates concerns the purpose of education. Most state education systems did not come into place until after the Industrial Revolution and the associated social changes that came alongside it. Mass urbanisation and Industrialisation changed society and Functionalists believed that education played a key role in restoring a sense of solidarity in this changing society. Education also promoted ideas of meritocracy to enable the most capable students to take on the most demanding roles in society – an idea referred to as Role Allocation. An overview of the functionalist ideas can be found below:
Marxists however are more critical of the education system. They believe that education acts as an Ideological State Apparatus that legitimises inequality by making working class students believe they are not as capable as their middle class counterparts. This is facilitated through the ‘myth of meritocracy’ and enables the reproduction of inequality in society – Working class kids get working class jobs, while the elites retain control. This allows children to be socialised into the world of work – through the hidden curriculum and correspondence principle. An overview of the Marxist ideas can be found below:
Educational policy is a key feature of the specification and although (to 2019) it has yet to appear as a 30 mark question on the Paper 1 exam, educational policy is useful to understand how some of the changes in the education system over the past 125 years have changed education, whilst still attempting to fulfill the functions of education. Knowing educational policy is important in being able to apply the ideas of education to contemporary society. Whether it is to fit in with neo-liberal and New Right ideologies of privatisation and marketisation, as a reaction to the challenges of a more global society, or wehter it is trying to tackle social inequality, these can usually be tracked back to educational policies. Below, is an attempt to make the policies fit into those broad criteria and although policy from before 1988 is important, it is less relevant to contemporary education.