The links between social class and educational achievement
There have been many theories about social class and educational achievement and this essay will concentrate on the conflict theory and the functionalist theory.
This essay will examine the links between class and achievement. It will describe and critically analyse the different sociological theories on education relating to class, and apply these theories to educational experiences, structure and practices. The different perspectives will be used to analyse inequality in relation to different social classes in the UK. This essay will also provide evidence of inequality in British education and identify and evaluate key policy developments in education provision in relation to social class
Functionalist theory focuses on the ways the education system as a whole meets the needs of society. It emphasises the interdependence of the social system and stresses the process and behaviours that maintain it. Durkheim (cited in Haralambos et al: 2000:777) ‘saw the major function of education as the transmission of society’s norms and values’. Functionalist theory believes that schools should serve intellectual, political and social purposes (Sadovnik et al: 2001).
Functionalists believe that schools ‘foster the value of equality of opportunity’ by placing pupils in the same situation in the classroom (Haralambos et al: 779). They maintain that education sorts students based on their ability, as argued by Parsons:
…[students] conduct is assessed against the yardstick of the school
rules; their achievement is measured by their performance in
examinations…the same standards are applied to all
students regardless of ascribed characteristics such as sex, race, family background or class of origin (Haralambos et al:2000:779).
Haralambos and Holborn (2000) explain that individuals are given tests in order to find out how intelligent they are and the abilities they have by basing on the results...