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Assess the view that the main function of education is to reproduce and legitimise social inequality.

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Introduction

´╗┐Shawda Aziz Sunday, 24 November 2013 Assess the view that the main function of education is to reproduce and legitimise social inequality. (20 marks) This is a classic debate in sociology between gender, class and ethnicity. In this essay, I will analyse the theories relating to this issue. The social class structure is reproduced in several ways, in society. An example of this is through education. Many theorists believe that the pivotal function of education is not to educate the younger generation, but to replicate the social class structure from one generation after the other, in order to legitimise social hierarchy. Marxists and feminists assume such an idea. On the contrary, functionalists believe that educational institutions provide societal needs and are needed for the maintenance of society. Certainly, many contrasting opinions have been expressed by different sociologists and explanations are made to justify their point of view. Marxists adopt the idea that education serves the needs of the economic foundation of society, along with other principles such as family, mass media, religion and politics. Without education and the listed ideals as a superstructure, society would collapse when only the means of production existing as the economic base. ...read more.

Middle

Definitively, this suggests that educational institutions are majorly controlled by male figures and are used to maintain the patriarchal dominance which is currently present within society. This is done by the process of canalisation and gender role socialisation. Pupils are encouraged to partake in subjects and activities according to their gender, for instance female students are likely to be pushed into doing subjects shadowing domestic skills such as food technology and male students may take up manual labour-related subjects e.g. woodwork. This means that pupils are socialised with skills which are taught from the subjects which are then used in the future, e.g. a woman having the major domestic roles within a household and a man working manual jobs. This emphasis on gender role allocation is what legitimises social inequality and reproduces it. However, this view upon education cannot be taken completely into consideration as evidence shows that females are performing better in education than males, suggesting that this theory needs to be updated. There as various explanations for this, an example being the introduction of coursework which has shown to be more favourable by female students. ...read more.

Conclusion

A model of this is the organic analogy which assumes that every individual of society has a role in order for it to run smoothly; this is personified into the different components of a human body ? different organs are needed in order to complete different jobs. In addition, education offers individuals with opportunities to find out their main skills, which are then sorted accordingly and allocated into an occupational role within the division of labour. This also links with the organic analogy, suggesting there are several different jobs available within society. Furthermore, the government have made multiple changes in order to prevent social inequality, for instance the introduction of EMAs which was to help students from low income families to cover college costs so that they do not have to manage a job at the same time and can afford all of the resources needed for their course. In conclusion, different theorists have opposing views upon the main function of education being to reproduce and legitimise social inequality. Marxists and feminists portray education as being a negative aspect of society which merely promotes social inequality and social class and gender role reproduction. However, functionalists have a contrasting opinion as they believe that differences in social class or status are required as different members of society possess different roles (organic analogy). ...read more.

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