This is one example of a 10 mark question and answer that might come up in the Education with Theory and Methods exam for A-level Sociology.
Applying material from item A and elsewhere analyse two reasons why marketization policies may have increased inequality of educational opportunities for some students (10)
- What you need to apply the hooks to
Item ASince the 1980s, a major aim of government policy has been to increase parental choice in education. In order to increase choice, the government introduced Open Enrolement, allowing parents to choose more than one school and league tables on school performance were also made publicly available.
However, critics of marketization argue that such polices have increased inequality of educational opportunity.
The first way is that although open enrolement gave parents the right to choose more than one school, technically giving all parents the right to choose the ‘best schools’, middle class children have more effective choice than working class parents.
Development/ analysis: This is because middle class parents have more cultural capital than working class parents – they are more comfortable with reading school literature, attending open evenings and filling in multiple application forms (where they can use their elaborated speech skills), while working class parents are less confident and just end up sending their children to the local schools.
Further development/ analysis: This is further compounded by the ‘school-parent alliance’ – schools want middle class children because they know they get better results, which
Further development/ analysis: An even more basic reason is selection by mortgage – schools have catchment areas, and the houses which fall inside these catchment areas are more expensive, meaning only wealthier children get selected for such schools.
Further development/ analysis: All of this means that ‘choice policies’ have resulted in unequal opportunities for working class children, because they are less likely to be selected for the best schools, not because of their individual potential, but because the higher levels of material and cultural capital of the middle classes gives them more effective choice and thus a greater opportunity to be selected for the best schools.
A second way is that league tables have resulted in schools tending to focus more on formal academic subjects such as English and maths which possibly disadvantages those children who are not good at formal academic subjects.
Development – Because schools are now concerned about their position in the league tables, which depends on their reports and exam results, they have narrowed the curriculum to focus more on core subjects such as English and Maths, putting more resources into these subjects – this is good for those pupils who like those subjects, but bad for students who are gifted in sports or creative subjects, as these are now relatively less funded, meaning there is no equality of opportunity for all students to fulfil their diverse potentials.
Development – Postmodernists would argue this is especially problematic in a postmodern society which is supposed to be more individualised – surely in such a society, if schools are to provide equality of opportunity then they would diversify the way their resources are distributed rather than focusing them more narrowly on ‘core subjects’ for the sake of going up the league tables.
Evaluation – Having said this, the above point only applies to schools: it is quite possible that students who are more creative or vocational will put less emphasis on the cores subjects and instead take advantage of the greater diversity of ‘learning opportunities’ now available outside school to explore their talents, such as online courses and apprenticeships, which you could say ‘fit in’ with the idea of ‘an education market’.
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