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Changes in the social structure of education and its impact on class and gender inequalities

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CHANGES IN THE SOCIAL STRUCTURE OF EDUCATION AND THE IMPACT ON CLASS AND GENDER INEQUALITIES Social structures are constructed frameworks of institutions within a social group that shape their members' behaviours and identities. The social context of our lives is not just a series of random events but is patterned in distinct ways and regulates the way we behave and how we develop relationships with one another. Knowledge of social structures and processes, whether they are economic, political, educational, military or religious, makes us aware of the forces that shape our lives and enable us to resist them or set about changes. The organisations and activities of these structures become the norms for our society. Every structure of society will have a relationship between that structure and social divisions and inequalities within society. Social divisions are defined as "substantial social differences between two or more categories of people" (Payne, G, 2006, p. 3). Divisions can overlap and interrelate and can consist of material and cultural differences. Since World War II reforms and political strategies have been put in place to attempt to provide more equality in our society but have they succeeded or simply heightened social inequality? Education is an important issue as it is through education that children learn the common values in their society, religious and moral beliefs and the social rules. It plays an important part in the socialisation of children as well as providing them with skills and knowledge for occupations and the British education system has developed to fill various specialised roles in the workplace economy. The relationship between education and social inequalities, particularly class and gender, is one of the main sociological issues in Britain today. State educational provision had its origin in the desire of one class to control the attitudes and beliefs of another class, "The habit of obedience to authority, of immediate obedience to commands, may teach the working classes a lesson which many so sadly need.....not the vulgar and pernicious doctrine that one man is as good as another" (Newcastle Commission on Education, 1861). ...read more.


Under the banner of 'choice and diversity', Thatcher's Tory government aimed to undermine comprehensive education with the growth of separate categories of schools such as grant-maintained schools and City Technology Colleges. The introduction of LMS, 'Local Management of Schools', where schools had to manage their own budgets with funding dependent on the number of pupils on roll, forced school governors to take on the burden of managing the cuts in public spending inflicted by the Tories. -4- The reforms required schools and local authorities to publish information about school programs and student achievement and created a national curriculum and a testing program with publication of school results of tests to help parents choose schools. Although the reforms supposedly gave parents choice as to what school their child would attend, the LMS encouraged schools to carry out both overt and covert selection of pupils to make themselves more attractive to local parents and to maintain their position in the new school league tables of exam results. Many church schools, for example, have abused their right to hold interviews - supposedly to clarify 'religious conviction' - to select their intake. The result was a further polarisation between schools at the top and bottom of the league tables, largely at the expense of working-class children. The 'new vocationalism' resulted in most middle class pupils still following the academic education route to higher pay and status employment whereas working class pupils were encouraged to take vocational routes to lower paid and lower status work. Post 1997 New Labour has essentially maintained the thrust of the Tory education policy. LMS and underfunding have continued. In 1998 and 1999 spending on education fell to just 4.5% of gross domestic product (GDP) - the lowest proportion for 40 years. (Guardian, 4 September, 2001). They have embraced the national curriculum, insisting schools meet tough targets for SATs, GCSEs, numeracy and literacy scores. ...read more.


The introduction of coursework is the consistent and conscientious work characteristic of females. Influence of feminism and the women's movement on girls' self-esteem and expectations challenges traditional stereotypes of women. The growing employment of women has changed girls' expectations and confidence and the decline of traditional male jobs has led to dissatisfaction of many boys who no longer bother to achieve in education. For many girls though, this does not mean more girls moving into professional jobs. In a link with class, many are moving into low paid jobs which are combined with their traditional domestic roles. There has been concern about the need for boys to catch up, with worries about their educational performance combining with concerns about their much higher rate of behavioural problems at school, in recent years four times as many boys as girls have been excluded for misbehaviour. 'Failing boys' have also been linked to larger social issues such as crime, unemployment, drugs and absent fathers. -7- These factors have combined to describe what is called the 'crisis in masculinity'. Boys who leave school early or with no educational results are less likely to find good jobs and create stable families and in economic terms, as fewer unskilled manual jobs are available, this is disastrous. Critics contend however that concentrating on failing boys is misleading as underachievement of working class boys may have less to do with their gender and more to do with their social class. Expectations of parents, children and teachers are still shaped by stereotypes of class and gender, sometimes expressed openly but often hidden in organisational structures or the hidden curriculum. In all the reforms in education since 1944 there still has not been a redistribution of social opportunity. Class differences in educational achievement have remained largely the same, the changes in the organisation of education only appearing to have had a marginal effect. In contrast girls and women have made major educational gains in recent years and now are achieving higher attainments than boys at every level of education although gender differences remain in the achievement in certain subjects. (3301) ...read more.

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