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To what extent is the Irish Education system meritocratic?

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To what extent is the Irish Education system meritocratic? In his book 'Sociology', Anthony Giddens defines meritocracy as a system where "rewards go naturally to those who are best able to 'perform' and achieve" 1The purpose of this essay is to find out if the Irish education system is meritocratic and if so to what extent. In order for us to do this, we must be able to properly evaluate the Irish education system. It is important for us to look at the theories that could be used to analysis the system. In their book 'A Sociology of Ireland', Hillary Trovey and Perry Share list a number of theoretical bases for the study of education. Some of these are; feminist analysis, rationalization and interactionalist approach2. However for the purpose of this essay it s important for us to only look at the theoretical bases, which believe that education systems are meritocratic. The functionalist view, as described by Trovey and Share, is "based upon the notion of meritocracy: it functions to distribute jobs and social positions to individuals based on their capacity, abilities and performance"3. This description of the functionalist view is furthered be Patrick Clancy when he stated in his paper 'Socialisation, Selection and Reproduction in Education' that "the functionalist analysis suggests that the school's commitment to meritocratic principles becomes the essential mechanism by which our society accepts the principle of differential rewards"4. ...read more.


In it they print a table11, which shows that 52.9% of those who achieved 5 or more honors in the Leaving Certificate were from 'higher professional' background. The reasoning behind these 'cram courses', which mostly only the wealthy can afford, is that as the education system is meritocratic, people will be willing to pay in order to receive the reward of a college place which will grant them the possibility of a high status in society, remaining in the category of 'higher professionals'. This competition and extra effort can be explained by Drudy and Lynch's equation of meritocracy, (IQ + effort = merit). From this we can see that the more effort put in by the candidate the greater the resulting merit will be. And we can see that this the case from the number of honor results ascertained in the Leaving Certificate examinations. Leaving Certificate examinations are not however the only time that this meritocracy can be seen. It can also be seen at the Junior Certificate examination level also. These 'cram courses' are also provided at this stage and again emphasis is placed upon attaining high results. This can be seen from the division of classes into different levels; honors level, ordinary level and foundation level. The Junior Certificate is seen in many ways as a chance to divide students into these different levels. ...read more.


This view also takes into account that there can be access problems to resources. We have seen that this is also the case with this system. Therefore we can possibly assess that the neo-Weberian theory is the theory that may be best applied to the Irish education system. This theory also believes that the system is meritocratic, but that it is only to the extent that it is necessary for society to continue and progress. It understands that not everything is equal but does not go to the extent that Marxists go to, believing that there is a constant cycle, which allows the wealthy to constantly stay the wealthy, but does believe that there is a chance for everyone. The government has attempted to further every students chances by stating in the 1969 report 'Ar nDaltai Uile: All Our Children' that "every child, without exception...will receive the best possible education suited to his or her individual talents". 15 While I have pointed out in this essay the Irish education system in meritocratic, this is possibly not a bad thing. Drudy and Lynch point out that the industrial and technological worlds are not rigid, but in fact are constantly changing. Therefore it is required that "positions of power, influence and decision-making be filled by the most able and most skilled"16. This can be done under the Irish education system as the meritocracy allows only those who are most able and skilled to attain these positions. ...read more.

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