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Different Developments in the British Sociology of Education Exploratory Essay

Up until recently, education was only accessible to only those who could afford it: The upper middle class and some few people from the middle class group. As it is currently evident, education stands out as one among the key commodities that every person must possess to cope with the ever-changing world.

As a result and especially in Britain, there are remarkable developments that are evident in the British sociology of education, as this essay will reveal. There is little doubt that being educated is a great life changing practice. Education as a social institution changes the society.

This report will examine the structuralist, interactionist, and postmodernism perspectives of education in Britain (Bank 2011). This will help to explore the purpose of formal education in the contemporary British society.

An essential legislation with regard to the education policy in the United Kingdom is the 1870 Education Act (Haralambos, & Holborn 2000). This act is the first official legislation that specifically addressed the British education policy. More importantly, this law portrays the commitment of the government to education nationwide (Haralambos, & Holborn 2000).

This legislation allowed voluntary schools to continue unaffected. However, it established an education system of management, School Boards, which constructed schools and managed them in places that they were needed (Haralambos, & Holborn 2000).

The role of introducing free compulsory education was to prevent child labour, to ensure that all Britons had the basic education, to ensure sustainability of the British workforce, and for Britain to continue leading in development issues.

Legislations that govern education have continued to change to manage education policies. In 1918, they placed the management of secondary education under the Fisher Education Act.

This act made school attendance compulsory for children up to the age of 14 years (Haralambos, & Holborn 2000). The age to leave school went up to 15 years in 1947. In 1972, it went to 16 years. Expansion of schools to ensure more skilled workforce accompanied these changes.

In this essay, I give special focus on two important things. The first is the role of education in the United Kingdom. There are several points of view when addressing the functions of education in any society and its implications. Second, will be the question as to why it happens that some social groups seem to be enjoying more education success in relation to others (Haralambos, & Holborn 2000).

Going back to the functionalist perspective, there are two issues that the theory seeks to address. First, it addresses the functions of education in the society. Putting into consideration the functionalist perspective of need of the social system, the issue leads to the analysis of the contributions that education has made in creation of value and social harmony (Haralambos, & Holborn 2000, p. 726).

Second, the functional relationships that education has with other social systems. This results in assessment of the connection between the economic system and education, and contemplation of how these relationship, help in integration of the society as a whole (Haralambos, & Holborn 2000).

In the beginning of the 20th century, schools grew to become major societal institutions. Sociologists since then focused incessant, concerted effort towards comprehension of the structure and the impact this had on society (Arum, et al. 2010). Sociologists of the 21st century, Max Weber, John Meyer, James Coleman, and Pierre Bourdieu among others have developed theoretical frameworks for education.

Whereas some researchers concentrated on economic aspects of education, others concentrated on the associated issues of socialization. For studies in sociology of education, these differences are very important. Education is a very important social investment. It has a very huge role in the society.

Whether, a person looks at it pessimistically or optimistically, there is a range of perspectives that are important for understanding – for instance, structuralism, post-modern and interractionism. These perspectives are important in defining the function of formal education in contemporary British society.

Structuralist theory has three perspectives: the functionalist, feminism, and Marxism. Though functionalist theory application has greatly reduced sociological importance in Britain, for over two decades, it had already made remarkable influence on Britain’s educational policy.

Thus, it played an important role of shaping the current education system and this should not be underestimated. The design of the British education teaches competition, consensus and success based on merit (Bradley, et al. 2001).

From the functionalist perspective, there are two important aspects in the role of education namely institutional relationship and subsequent connection to the larger society. In this regard, therefore, emphasis is on the way education connects outer institutions like workplaces. As intricate as the modern social system, the education system is a link between institutions in a number of ways (Bradley, et al. 2001).

Firstly, at institutional level, the systems must have human resource management strategies for doctors, managers, police, and accountants among other professionals. It would make no sense if the system produces many employees yet the government cannot find demand for them (Bradley, et al. 2001). Secondly, on the individual level, education systems offer an agency of secondary socialization.

Secondary socialization -this describes a process of emancipating students from primary attachment to their families to workplace roles. This concept of education helps in connecting childhood to adulthood. Schools offer a range of secondary socialization opportunities, abilities and means (Bradley, et al. 2001).

When people grow up, most of their relationships take the form of ‘give and take’ where they form allies based on what they can do for them in return for some other favours. This relationship is not similar to affective association between people in close friendship.

Meritocracy – this concept is a reflection of reward of ideas like jobs, better pay and high social status earned because of efforts and capabilities (Dewey 1997). Efforts and capabilities include hard work in school and acquired academic credentials instead of the allotted based on connection and family links.

Merit based education system are also naturally competitive since different degrees of reward for different heights of academic attainment makes students want to continually prove themselves for the reward (Bourdieu 1986). In the contemporary Britain system of education, like rewards relating to academic qualifications (for instance, A-levels and GCSE) in turn allow students to be eligible for entry into certain job types.

Meritocracy functions well when equality of opportunity prevails. This means that no disadvantaged parties face discrimination or the depriving of their opportunity to express their worth (Bourdieu 1986). Differential rewards for different levels of achievement are reasonable as long as the competition offers equal access to opportunities.

Functionalist view also allows children to learn the acceptable and unacceptable conduct in the society. Students hence gain self-control. This includes deferred gratification (opposite of immediate reward) as well as internalization of certain societal values and norms (Powers, & Wojtkiewicz 2004).

Besides secondary socialization, there is coordination of human resources, which connect to the larger society, and it includes things that prepare students for different future careers and social differentiation since different individuals are good at difference roles in the society (Powers, & Wojtkiewicz 2004).

The post-structuralism is not easy to characterise since it is very diverse. Most of its representations do not take the form that allows characterization of any kind (Cole 2008). The post-structuralism and post-modernism have a wider array of interpretations (Bank 2011). The post structural views on the United Kingdom’s education are harder to categorise as well (Bank 2011).

Post-structuralism describes cultural changes that happen in the modern world (Cole 2008). Post modernist views do not have a specified perception as such on the part of function of education since that would mean a question of right or wrong. That might spark competition between two ideologies and tension.

Modern institutions like schools fall under this theory especially those that developed out of the industrial revolution and emergence of the contemporary society (Cole 2008). As a result, they exist for certain causes all of which Foucault describes as being because of power. The power doctrine in this context relates to how modern Britain attempts to exert social control by use of educational institutions.

The post-modernism aspect of this theory is that there is “a resistance and decentralization attitudes of students and educators to the tendency of contemporary education system to centralize issues” (Bank 2011, p. 78). The national curriculum is an example of the means the state used to take control by setting out what is worth teaching in schools.

The interpretivist theory notes that, for one to comprehend the phenomenon, the entire system must be analysed. From this viewpoint, one can declare interperetivism better than positivism as it targets understanding as a whole, as Neill points out (Neill 2006).

In order to understand the problems in the education system, one can only understand the real problems when we address the entire education system. This has seen the theory address issues ranging from curriculum, function of education, educators, students, and government participation. This theory offers answers to anything that education should have critically addressed (Tozer, Violas & Senese 2002).

Marxist perspective has not been dominant in the Britain’s government policies – this barely surprises because Britain has been critical of capitalist societies. Expanding further the Marxist perspective for the function of education in the capitalist society identifies several ideas (Rikowski 1999).

Althusser (1971) did not simply address ‘cultural reproduction’ in the society and how it related to the problem of societies replacing itself over time (transfer of cultural values to the next generation) rather, he also discussed how the dominant social class managed to stay in control by reproducing its social and political power (Althusser 1971).

He argues that one of the most efficient ways of controlling is through education. Thus, education is an instrument of class suppression and domination. He however included other institutions like media and religion to seem fair.

Today, the ruling class limit access to education by restricting or regulating the subjects that are included in the curriculum (Taylor, & Smithers 2005). The higher students advance in education, the wider the access to knowledge base (Apple 1995). This helps to restrict students’ ambitions and expectations. The fact that education has a structure that appears in a way that it has different levels of qualifications facilitates restriction.

In many cases, in the British curriculum, students have to prove their capabilities to handle the challenges of the next step in their education through sitting for transitional examinations. These examinations act as selection instruments that pick only those capable of making it to the next level.

According to the Marxists, this is entirely in place strategically as a plot to justify the oppression that befalls those unable to proceed further in their studies as those that the system favours use them as menial labourers.

In addition, there is theory versus practical knowledge. Schools help to institute social control where students learn respect for authorities. The attainment of commoditization of education makes it more expansive as it is possible to custom it to some level (Apple 1995). By having examinations as part of education, schooling receives monetary value. Hence, there is the possibility of selling education.

With the contemporary system of education in Britain favouring commercialized education, capitalists are taking advantage of this scenario to oppress the masses that are in search of skills to better their situations. With the school owners being the owners of the means of production, the educational facility, rather than serving its function of freeing the people from ignorance further, oppresses people by taking all that they had.

Cultural reproduction is a concept based on secondary socialization but with a new look. Marxists like Althusser argue that, the reproduction of capitalism occurs via education to next generations.

The reason is that future generations have to acquire life skills to enable them to take up positions in the workforce (Althusser 1971). The new look here is that schools cannot just select, allot and differentiate students for these roles even through public examination is in the interest of the society. This puts education on the spot as not being meritocratic (Marx 1977).

The role of education is to facilitate children from powerful class to attain education level that would allow them to work as professionals. The trick here is “to educate many children ‘just enough’ to qualify as useful worker and few, ‘more than enough’ to qualify for high-powered jobs” (Bourdieu, 1977, p.85).

Cultural reproduction theory explains why there is relatively low to lack of mobility at the lower-class levels in the British society. Education in this case, therefore, only serves in the interest of the ruling class in that only the children from the ruling classes receive the best form of education that would enable them to rule over the others in the lower social classes.

With the current education systems in Britain only granting free education on the lower levels of the system and then very expensive education in the higher levels, according to the Marxists, the system is destined to fail just as the capitalist rule in the world. Bowles and Gintis (2002) and Willis (2003) cite cultural reproduction as the ideology leading to elite self-recruitment making the top players to close mobility for the lower class.

Though the main focus of the feminist educational research has not changed significantly over the past two decades, its emphasis has slightly shifted from the vague explanations as to why girls’ performance is poor compared to boys’ (reason being they don’t anymore) to explanations of how girls cope with school and workplace obstacle -mainly prejudice based on gender (Bourdieu 1977).

This subtle shift should not imply that historically feminist theory’s impact on Britain’s education was insignificant. Its study remains relevant for explaining the differences in higher education choice of courses and career choices too (Blanden, & Machin 2004). Feminist impact on modern British education is on socialization, hidden curriculum and the societal norms.

Different socialization experiences and subsequent varied social expectation between male and females, direct them to different gender identities and role performance.

The education system in the past contributed to the way women perceived their primary role in the family as wives and mothers. Despite the seemingly widened female horizons, feminist argue the traditional mindsets about masculinity and femininity still affects family and work relationships (McKenzie 1997).

Feminist perspective is reflected in sociology of education in two ways – work and gender stereotypes. There is a consistent sidelining of women at the work place regardless of their academic credentials. Treneman (1998) has shown that statistical under-performance in schools does not match the statistical over-achievement of men at workplaces. The differences are evident in their earnings.

In Britain, it remains illegal to pay women and men different wages for the same job or comparable jobs (Treneman 1998). This was effective following the passing of the equal pay act of 1970. However, women still earn averagely 17.2% less per hour, Annual Survey of Hours and Earnings (2006) revealed. Women graduates get less payments right from the very beginning when they join employment (McKenzie 1997).

Gender stereotyping, on the other hand, stands out in career aspirations from school. Warrington and Younger (2000, p.495) noted men and women chose careers based on stereotypes for or against them.

Women tended to focus on secretarial jobs, caregivers, nursing, and hairdressing, men in the other hand tended to pursue plumbing, accounting etc (Powers, & Wojtkiewicz, 2004). Gordon (1996) says that teachers in Britain focused more attention on boys as they seemed interesting to teach, though they frequently praised girls for their efforts.

The equal opportunities Commission (2007) argue that girls’ education credentials do not necessarily help them to attain well-paying jobs. Roger and Duffield have identified several causes of the tendency to avoid sciences among girls. Primary socialization ingrains certain gender identity concepts in boys and girls (Roger & Duffield, 2000). Reay (2001) showed a variety of female identities that developed from the primary classroom.

The most interesting is that girls wanted to be like boys. In primary, most teachers are female, about 90% (Reay 2001). In the early childhood education level, for instance, it has been on the record that more women teach at the preparatory schools than men have. One can attribute this to the stereotypes on women as being better placed to watch children as they grow than men.

They exemplify the role model concept, which connects gender, and work hence building this notion in students (Feinstein, 2003). Besides, career advisers from early ages have a propensity of reinforcing traditional men/women roles and separation of tasks (Roger & Duffield, 2000).

Lauder et al. (2009) looks through the history of British sociology of education since 1950s to the current system. They explain how the main audience for research has changed from the policy creators in 1970s to teachers in today’s system, Shain and Ozga share similar sentiments.

They argue that, “the close association with teachers and education was an important factor in causing a shift of the sociology of education from the mainstream sociology” (2001, p. 110). This was part of the paradigm shift from mere tutoring to training – this meant that sociologists of education in effect lost most of their followers and audience.

As Shain, and Ozga (2001, p.114) point out, “A dramatic cultural turn from the old socialization theories to the more flexible accounts of identity, together with the shift towards new policies in 1990s and 2000s shows that whereas the concept of social justice remained, there was no central audience for the sociology of education”.

Lauder et al (2009, p.580) argues that the severe nature of the sociology of education made the discipline unpleasant. This also means it was challenging to the policy makers and educators. A wider, more applicable, interdisciplinary, and pedagogically determined faculty of education studies was developed to realise the need of practice and policy (James 2010).

These primarily targeted problem solving instead of criticising the systems. This was characteristic of previous theories and an inspiration for evidence based practice regulation (James 2010 Shain, & Ozga 2001).

Whereas the traditional sociology of education in Britain has successfully allowed incorporation of its concepts in other fields, its current availability to maintain dialogue with such workers and decision makers is greatly compromised (James, 2010).

Most researches in sociology of education focus on explaining why some social groups tend to attain higher education more easily than others do (Blanden, & Machin, 2004). Experts measure education level achievement in terms of academic qualifications. More attention is placed on the differences existing between the social classes (high, middle and lower), on the gender (boys and girls) and sometimes ethnic groups.

Attempts to explain this uses the interactionist concept. The differential achievements studied so far show that factors that the students have no control over affect their progress in education, for instance, social background and intelligence (Machin, & Vignoles 2004). However, the most obvious place where one can find explanations in the education system itself.

The previous approaches explaining differences in performance did not address schooling itself. The scholars then partially assumed that schools played a crucial role in the determination of educational success or failure. Families that could afford paying for education spent large amounts of money paying for their children’s education in fee-paying institutions (Machin, & Vignoles 2004).

The main reason for parents to do this was that they believed that such schools as opposed to free public school offered the best education hence an advantage to their children. This, however, never happened as hoped. Despite these schools, social class inequality remains this has shifted focus on the studying of the differential treatment of students even when they attend same schools (Blanden, & Machin 2004).

For Marxists, British education system is an ideological instrument of the government (Rikowski 1999). That means education serves in disseminating the upper class or ruling class ideologies. Education creates myths and its existence promotes incongruous ideas. This is similar to the arguments presented by Louis Althusser, one of the staunch French Marxists (Althusser 1971).

Accordingly, Althusser (1971) claims that, no class can be able to stay in power forever exclusively using threats. Therefore, ideology offers the most efficient tool for attaining long-term control. Educational facilities such as schools serve as places to teach ideologies that aim at brainwashing the students and justifying the oppressive systems.

In these institutions, students learn taught never to question the authorities even when the decisions of such authorities are not in their favour. Marxists are of the believe that educational system and facilities are only important when they are involved in highlighting the masses and giving them the necessary knowledge of their oppressed conditions and the hope that one day they will overcome the oppression.

When the state is able to control what people think, it can then control what they do, hence making this the downright type of control. Education systems have taken over religion as the major agent of disseminating ideologies, which is a prerequisite for maintaining capitalist economic structure (Althusser 1971).

It is evident that the higher your family’s social class, the higher you would probably attain education qualification and the longer you stay in school (Willis 1977). Class still determined where one ended up in most of the cases. The education system propagates the concept, nonetheless, that success is mainly due to hard work and intelligence (White 1990).

According to people like Althusser who upheld the Marxist view of education, education systems in this way deprive the students of the knowledge that they can still succeed even in the absence of the education offered in classroom.

This is a fallacy according to Althusser (1971), as it aims at killing the hopes to succeed for the students who are naturally lazy or not intelligent. This targets making them to be quiet observers of their destiny, as the society turns against them and starts oppressing them.

Status attainment studies in general supports the individual and personal collective benefits when individuals attain higher educational levels (Dale 2009). From the policy point of view, the social challenge or social concern is expansion of the educational opportunities and promotion of greater efficiency in schools and universities.

Opponents of the status attainment paradigm nonetheless dispute the reliability and legitimacy of schools as mechanism of dissemination of social resource and promotion of socio-economic welfare, at least as they are currently operating.

Even though sociologists continue to debate the purpose and function of education, most agree that education gives students the qualifications and opportunities for survival in the job market (Dale 2009).

Addressing policies pertaining to school choices, curriculum and finance is important. Britain is said to be a capitalist society therefore it justifies social inequality especially wealth, opportunity to access resources and power (Blanden, & Machin 2004). If ever a person questions these inequalities, as well as the way people manifest them, then that could result in erosion and replacement of the capitalist economies.

One can prevent such a situation by promoting the ideology that inequalities are acceptable. Education system in the UK makes inequality more socially right by spreading the myth that education provided equal opportunity to everyone (Blanden, & Machin, 2004).

Is there any response from the British government? Today in Britain, all children are entitled to state education. The argument is therefore that, those who attain the best qualifications qualify for top jobs and that they deserve success because they are brilliant and more hardworking than classmates who did not perform as well as they did (White 1990).

Education fosters this viewpoint leading people to think that they fall along such classes simply because they exist. Bowles and Gintis (2002) identify that chances of educational prowess were closely linked to the class the family student comes from. Children from rich families stayed longer in schools and performed better. The evidence that educational qualification is proportional to intelligence is at stake with such perceptions.

Research truly shows that students with higher IQs performed better in relation to those with average IQs. Rich families can also afford other educational resources for their children like textbooks, which have been growing very expensive each day (Machin, & Vignoles 2004).

Students can be able to access a computer and internet and a printer, which could play a big role in how they handle their homework and their knowledge base as well as enhance creativity.

Despite what the teacher may say, the style of presenting school assignments is important just as the content of the assignments (Machin, & Vignoles 2004). According to Bowles & Gintis (2002), the relationship between intelligence and academic achievement is not a casual one. Intelligence does not necessarily determine academic prowess Bowles and Gintis (2002).

Education ideology promotes specific values that function to ensure the continuation of capitalism. The ideology therein consists, not only of certain distorted beliefs, but also promotes functions, which work to preserve the status quo. One of these values prevalent in Britain is competition (Bradley, et al., 1997). Education offers a platform for competing with educators as judges.

These competitions have also incorporated sports where students participate in sports like rugby, and football (Bradley, et al., 1997). In any case, where there are two opposing ideas, there is also bound to be winners and losers. This happens because each side would try to outsmart the opponent.

The UK’s education also fosters another ideology, which is socialization as mentioned in preceding paragraphs. Much of what people know came from education in schools and colleges. However, only certain things that the state wants students to know are included in the curriculum.

Therefore, people should not see it as coming from teachers as reactionary outcomes because they are middle class (Carchedi 1975) even though most are, but because they teach a curriculum designed by the government. The government dictates teaching. Therefore, even though teachers may which to teach socialism, anarchy, and negative consequences of free enterprise structures, they cannot risk it (Machin, & Vignoles 2004).

In terms of the material wealth, the effect on education is profound and it evidently plays a crucial role in education prowess. A rich parent can afford to take his/her children to good fee-paying schools despite how undeserving the children maybe. With good schools, they have an assurance of academic prowess (Machin, & Vignoles 2004).

It is rumoured that in Britain, the ‘Toffs’ normally have their examinations marked more leniently that their counterparts from state schools. Whether true or false, the standards of teaching are certainly higher in the public schools compared to the poorly financed comprehensive schools with demoralized staff (Machin, & Vignoles 2004).

Even in cases where parents cannot fully afford to pay for their children’s education in public schools, they can hire private tutors to subsidize for the comprehensive education. When this tuition took place with teacher paying close attention to the students and over a long period, it brings out better results of academic success.

One of the areas that concerned the policymakers in the UK was the general lack of basic skills among its workforce, particularly younger employees. The government responded to this problem by the introduction of standardized national curriculum for all students between ages 7 and 16 years (Provenzo, 2002, p.65).

This was set to make sure that the students had minimum depth and breadth of the curriculum. In the 1990s, there was the introduction of another policy to ensure students were very qualified in terms of basic skills. This policy, referred to as numeracy and literacy policy, described how the primary school teachers should teach (National Literacy Trust 2004).

It stipulated a minimum of one hour every day to be set for numeracy and literacy. The evidence of these policy reforms is not ample. The national evaluation of the national curriculum has been impossible. In terms of literacy, the students graduating since then have improved reading ability and English prowess (Ryan, & Bohlin 1999).

The other important policy relies on the relatively small number of students persisting in education past 16 years and therefore less number of students graduating from second and third levels compared to other developed countries. Britain introduced two educational policies to increase the number students participating in post compulsory education (Clark, et al., 2005).

The first policy was Vocational qualifications for entry job for new employees designed based on national vocational qualification. The second policy for this was maintenance allowance paid to students aged 16 to 19 (Dixit 2002) from disadvantaged background to encourage their continued participation in fulltime education (Clark, et al., 2005).

Another important policy subjected to reform is higher education. Traditionally, British higher education had been a preserve for few people in the higher social class (Blanden, & Machin 2004).

Even though enrolment in higher education has increased considerably over the past few years, the low class is still under-represented, as their enrolment remains low. The policy seeks to expand the higher education opportunities further to increase access to encompass the previously under-represented social classes (Blanden, & Machin 2004).

Durkheim’s theories have had a critical impact on the modern sociology and education. Durkheim’s viewpoint has been that the contemporary schools have placed attention on building individuals and less attention on the roles and responsibilities that these individuals should perform towards group life (Durkheim, & Emirbaye, 2003).

In order to attain dignity, an individual has to attain a sense of competence, a sense of contributing to something and of getting appreciation from the society where he/she belongs.

There needs to be changes in curriculum that will address these feelings. Critics have declared Durkheim’s views as far from clear that Modern education in Britain has been effective in transmitting shared values, promoting personal discipline, and reinforcing social solidarity (Durkheim, & Emirbaye 2003).

Politically, the social gap that the education in Britain has not been able to bridge has received the policy concern from all the three major political parties. All these parties have been involved in the important discussions as to whether the education system as it is has played any significant role in the effort to bridge the social gap or it has simply been an impediment to social mobility and meritocracy(Chevalier & Dolton 2005).

There are several discoveries made though about the reasons why the education system has failed the test of time in ensuring greater engagement in education from the working class.

These include the realization that the curriculum has been enforced to the people in what is called the top- down approach whereby no sufficient research was conducted to identify the most felt needs of the people that could possibly be addressed by the system of education (Apple, 1995).

There are differing contexts that require unique treatment as realized through research conducted by several interested parties in the field. Because of this, most political debates that handled the topic of the effectiveness of the education system in Britain lie on the need to have a system that uniquely encourages the participation of students and eventually helps them in the process or at the end of the day (Shilling 1993).

Gillborn and Mirza (2000) argue that outcomes of many research studies conducted on this areas clearly point on the fact that academic prowess among British children is majorly connected to the occupations, wealth and influence of the parents.

This impacts to slowed class mobility as it is hard for students from the working class to compete with others on a level ground, as they are disadvantaged. According to the National Literacy Trust (2004), in some areas of Britain that are termed as disadvantaged, up to 50% of children reach the school going years without the required and necessary communication and language skills.

The Education secretary in a recent remark that triggered a lot of criticism directed to him, is recorded as saying to a Commons education committee that kids from rich families who are considerably thicker tend to perform much better that others from the poor families who are clever even before they attain the school going age.

Though most of those criticizing his remarks termed the language as unprofessionally blunt and emotive, there is indispensable truth in his words as far as the connection between poverty and underperformance is concerned.

Social democrats, for instance, are convinced that it is only through the intervention of the government that education will be of benefit to everyone. According to Crozier (2000), they constantly push the government to exercise control over the free market that result to inequalities in the education sector.

They in this manner totally disagree with their counterparts the functionalists who are of the argument that the education system in place in Britain encourages the genuine spirit of equal opportunity. As Gillborn and Mirza (2000) point out, “ To the social democrat, education in this sense fails to offer equal opportunities to the children from the lower social classes as compared to those in the upper social classes”.

Social democratic theorists argue that, if run properly, the education systems can, at the end of the day, produce better results as far as achieving social equality is concerned. Although the educational success in Britain majorly depends upon the social class background of the students, it cannot attain social mobility at any degree according to the Labour party politician Antony Crosland (Crozier, 2000).

Education is supposed to ensure that the society is more meritocratic and therefore enable one to attain his potential and eventually contribute to the overall development of the society. However, this is not the case in British education as the system is constantly shifting from the intentions that led to its development (Archer, 2007).

The social democrats are in this view also opposed to the functionalists who are very contented that the education system in place in Britain is serving its functions. These arguments constantly spark open-ended discussions in the political arena as far as the education of the British population is concerned.

Nonetheless, the stance of the social democrats and the theorists who support these arguments does not escape criticism based on the recorded evidence that proves that the education system is in a way working towards the increase in equal opportunities and social mobility.

One might ask, is there anything to boast about concerning the education system in Britain? Whether or not the education system in Britain and its positive developments over time have achieved anything in contributing to the growth of the economy has been a discussion in the political field since the days of the labour prime minister; James Callaghan in 1976.

In his speech at Ruskin College that particular year, Callaghan pointed out that the education system was failing in that it did not meet Britain’s’ industry needs. The criticism on the effectiveness of education continued further with the election into office of Margaret Thatcher in 1979.

This made the debate even more heated as the conservative right thinkers were of the opinion that the efforts to enforce equality of opportunity and also the liberal ideals in the existing education system was a blow to the education sector since they were degrading its value and standards (Bourdieu, 1977).

These efforts in their view were holding back the most talented in an effort to provide a basis of equality, which was a blow to the standards of education in Britain.

All the social education theorists, as well as politicians, however, share a similar assumption in their arguments on the developments and effectiveness in the British education system that it should work to the benefit of the society as a whole (Gillborn & Mirza, 2000).

Despite the fact that some critique the manner the education policies are implemented, they all share the hope that the existing education system can in a way be modified to the greater good and to ensure the realization of a society determined by merit either inside or outside the class environment.

The government and the different parties may have their differing opinions on the effectiveness of the education sector. By focusing on the function it plays on economic growth and its sustenance, they have to unite since the repercussions affect the nation equally without discriminating the rich or the poor (Apple, 1995).


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