The Marxist view on the role of education

Marxists view education as having a beneficial role for the powerful people in our society and brainwashing people to follow capitalist norms and values.

Role of education: Marxists believe that education reinforces the class system by ensuring children of the poor learn the skills for low-paid jobs.

Job opportunities from education: Marxists do not believe education provides equal opportunities for all.

Socialisation from education: Marxists see education as socialising individuals into accepting the values of the most powerful group.

Social control – teaching acceptance of rules and authority:  social control in schools as reflecting social control in the wider society, which benefits the most powerful group.

The political role – teaching people to be effective citizens:  certain political opinions and ideas are tolerated in education. Many of these ideas are from the powerful group. Marxists – powerful group is the ruling class

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The functionalist view on the role of education

Functionalists believe that education is seen as performing a beneficial role in society.

Role of education: Functionalists believe that schools teach the key skills and knowledge necessary for a modern, technical society

Job opportunities: Functionalists see the education system as a sieve, grading students according to ability and placing pupils into their most appropriate role in society.

Socialisation from education: Functionalists believe education plays an important role in teaching the values and norms of society to each new generation.

Social control – teaching acceptance of rules and authority: Functionalists argue that for society to function smoothly there must be some regulation.

The political role – teaching people to be effective citizens: Functionalists see education as learning about society - through education pupils will accept the political system.

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The feminist view on the role of education

Feminists believe that education benefits men, ensuring that males remain more powerful in society by teaching patriarchal norms and values, such as women’s role as carers and restricting access to certain subjects.

Role of education: Feminists believe that education reinforces patriarchy by ensuring that women learn the skills of lower paid jobs and unpaid work in the home.

Job opportunities: Feminists believe that education provides different opportunities to girls and boys, pushing them into studying different subjects based on their gender.

Sociaalisation from education: Feminists see education as continuing the process of gender role socialisation, ensuring that boys and girls act they way they should.

The political role – teaching people to be effective citizens:  only certain political opinions and ideas are tolerated in education. Many of these ideas are from the powerful group. Feminism- powerful group is men.

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Types of schools

  •  Independent schools are schools that are run privately and are not part of the state education system. These schools usually charge fees to parents and include boarding schools.
  •  Selective schools can be independent or state schools and are usually still called ‘grammar’ schools. These schools can select which pupils they accept at their school, based on ability, religion etc.
  •  Comprehensive schools are state schools run by the government and accept all children of all abilities and backgrounds.
  • Special schools are schools which are suited for children with special educational needs. they have specially trained staff and equiptment.
  • Religious schools are schools where the curriculum and other things may be focused on a religion e.g religious holidays, prayers ect.
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Gender and education

Sociologists look at the different experiences of males and females in education that are due to gender differences. These include different opportunities offered to boys and girls in subjects studied, differences in achievement in exams and differences in the gender of teachers at primary and secondary school.

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Ethnicity and education

Sociologists look at the different experiences of people from different ethnic groups in education that are due to their cultural background. These include differences in achievement, attitudes of teachers, parents and pupils related to cultural background or racism, racism in school rules and educational policies made by the government etc.

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Tripartite System

Up until the 1960s, high schools were divided into three types (tri-). Students were tested using the 11 Plus at the end of primary school to decide which type of school they should go to:

  • Grammar schools – those who passed the Eleven Plus were sent to grammar schools, as they were seen as the most academic and intelligent.
  • Technical schools – those who didn’t pass the Eleven Plus but showed a strong ability for highly skilled technical work (engineering, science etc.) were supposed to go to technical college. Unfortunately there were very few of these colleges, because they were supposed to be paid for by local industry and the funding wasn’t there.
  • Secondary Modern schools – anyone who didn’t go to grammar school or technical college went to a secondary modern school, where they would get a good basic education that would prepare them for less skilled jobs or managing the home.
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Comprehensive Schools

In the 1960s the Labour Government started to open comprehensive schools. These were open to all children regardless of ability and by 1976 the Eleven Plus was abolished and the comprehensive school was the main type of school, although there are still a number of grammar schools around the UK, some of which are independent (privately funded). Existing grammar schools still select students on the basis of their academic ability.

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 In the 1980s the Conservative Government changed the school leaving qualifications to the GCSE. Before this students would sit O’ Levels if they were of higher ability or CSEs if they were of lower ability. The top grade on a CSE (grade 1) was the same as a grade C at O’ Level. The reason for the change to GCSEs was that it was supposed to give all students an equal chance to achieve. However, many GCSEs still have Higher, Intermediate and Foundation level papers, so this still means that students are entered for different exams depending on their ability – this is a problem because of labelling and the self-fulfilling prophecy (see the previous section about the effect of this).

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Middle class children do better in education than working class children. There are a number of reasons suggested for this:

  • Cultural capital (i.e. the level of educational resources and knowledge provided by the family). This means that middle class students have more financial and practice support and encouragement than working class students.middle class may go theatre, museums ect.
  • Better living conditions – middle class students are likely to have better diets, their own space to work in, access to computers and the internet. All of this means they are in a better position to study and learn.
  • Higher level of aspiration – middle class students are more likely to aim for higher status jobs, such as becoming doctors, lawyers etc. This is because their parents are also more likely to work in these jobs.
  • The halo-effect from (middle-class) teachers – middle class students are seen as being more intelligent because they share the same norms and values as their teachers and are able to use the same language. This leads to labelling and the self-fulfilling prophecy.
  • Peer values that encourage a more studious approach to schoolwork – students choose friends who are like them, so middle class children have middle class friends, who share the same norms and values. This is also true for working class students and their working class friends
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On average girls do better than boys, although this was not the case in the past. In the 1970s boys did better than girls and feminist sociologists showed that one of the reasons was that girls had different ambitions to boys. When interviewed girls said they wanted to get married and have a family rather than a career. In the 1990s, the same researcher repeated her research and found that this had changed, with more girls saying they wanted a career. Some other reasons for this change are:

  • There is less restriction on the subjects that girls and boys can study. Nowadays it is more acceptable for girls to study resistant materials and go into engineering and for boys to study health and social care and go into nursing. However, the gender bias is not gone entirely.
  • Girls are more likely to take greater pride in their work – this might be linked to the greater value that girls place on personal appearance, which is encouraged by other institutions such as the mass media.
  • Some sociologists suggest that boys have developed an anti-school culture, where it is seen as ‘cool’ to not do work. However, some girls are also part of this culture, which suggests that gender is not the only thing that matters.
  • girls are more suited to education due to being socialised to be passive. whereas boys active.
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Research has shown that even when teachers are not deliberately racist, they still discriminate against children from different cultural / ethnic backgrounds. This is because they of their interpretation of differences in body language, speech, dress and styles of walking - some teachers may see this as a challenge to their authority. • Not all ethnic minorities do badly in education, for example Indian pupils get very good exam results. • The main ethnic minority groups who underachieve in education are Afro Carribbeans

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barriers to success in education

  • language barrier ( students may not be able to ask for help or understand the work/homework. parents may not be able to help or be as involved in their childs education as they would have wanted)
  • cultural capital (higher class children may experience more eg museums, theatre ect. which would help them in education)
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Comprehensive Schools


  • They try to break down social barriers between classes, genders and ethnic groups.
  • Offer opportunities to all students regardless of background.


  • They accept lower standards.
  • larger class sizes means less teacher-student interactions
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Independent Schools


  • Smaller classes and better facilities resulting in better education for children.
  • Better examination results.


  • Only accessible to the rich ( so Do not mix with people from different backgrounds.)
  • Students have to travel very long distances to school.
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A real thank you in who made this is was a real help !!! :)



great website, really helpful

Adam Abdoullahi



Adam Abdoullahi



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