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How can you account sociologically for differences in educational achievement?

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Introduction

How can you account sociologically for differences in educational achievement? Educational institutions have two basic functions. On the one hand, they act as agencies of socialisation, transmitting social rules, norms and values; on the other hand, they are mechanisms of allocation, channels for selecting and training people to fill the many occupations of industrial economies. This dual function of socialisation and allocation is fulfilled to some degree by all educational systems. However, in a society with a complex division of labour there is often a contradiction between the two functions of socialisation and allocation. This essay will use both Marxist and Functionalist perspectives to question the educational system. Educational policies after the Second World War were primarily concerned with facilitating greater, and more equal, access to educational qualifications. This was attempted in R A Butlers 1944 Educational Act which sought to make entry to selective schools and universities meritocratic, that is dependent on ability rather than social status or wealth. The Act proposed a system in which children would be transferred at the age of eleven to grammar, secondary modern, or technical schools according to their 'age, aptitude and ability'. ...read more.

Middle

It was assumed that children coming from these backgrounds needed to become like the white populous as quickly as possible therefore little genuine progress was made (Finch, 1984). Perhaps this is due to the nature of the curriculum for example, history lessons concentrating on white European perspective with often-fanciful representations of ethnic cultures. Equally teachers and local authorities did not understand their growing presence in schools and it emerged that in some schools, Head teachers were refusing to admit more black pupils (Donald and Rattansi, 'Race', Culture and Difference, 1992 pg. 14). Professor John Rex, a leading figure in British Race Relations Research, accused 'black youth' of being "arrogant, rumbustious and contempurious" and having "...a certain fascination for violence". (Rex, New Debates in Black Politics 1990 pg. 18 and 33). It's hardly surprising that these students felt marginalised. In addition under achievement of ethnic groups appeared to be over looked- ...many of the teachers indicated they had never considered seriously the apparent failure or under achievement of working class or black children in the education system. (Lee, Pride and Prejudice; Teachers, Class and an Inner City Infants School, 1987 pg. ...read more.

Conclusion

By the time a young person leaves school at whatever age suits their abilities and aspirations, they should be a self confident and fulfilled individual. Each individual should have gained a wealth of knowledge, motivation for further development, life skills and exam success, which realistically reflects their capabilities. Equally a pupil should have had the opportunity to form friendships with peers and to have built relationships with teaching staff, thus providing a positive image of society at all levels. Everyone should have been exposed to new ideas and activities. This is an ideal; how many people having experienced the British Education system would relate their own schooling to this statement? For many this statement is totally alien to their experiences due to the inherent prejudices the institution reinforces such as the class structure, racism, sexism, beaurocracy and commercialism of schools. It is evident that British schooling has changed considerably since 1945, in many ways there has been great improvement for the majority of pupils. However still today there are a significant group covering ethnic minorities, girls and Special Educational Needs pupils who have largely been over looked so far. If Britain is to make the most from its human resources it is vital that attitudes change so that the individuals' potential, which is currently ignored, may be fulfilled. ...read more.

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