How has education changed in the age of postmodernity?
Postmodern society is more diverse, consumerist, fragmented, media-saturated (hyperreal) and allows individuals much more freedom of choice than in the previous modern society. You might like to review this article on modern and postmodern society before continuing.
A few examples of some of the ways education could be said to have responded postmodernisation include:
Schools are more ‘consumerist’ and provide more individual choice
With the introduction of marketisation and open enrollment, parents now have more choice over which school to send their child to. Marketisation has effectively made schools into businesses and parents/ pupils into consumers. When choosing primary or secondary schools, parents and pupils now get to peruse school prospectuses and attend open evenings, ‘browsing’ for the school of their choice. Parents are also free to enroll their children at alternative schools, or home educate if their ‘consumer needs’ are not met by their current school.
Education has become more individualized
Teachers are expected to use a variety of teaching approaches in their delivery of lesson, to take account of the variety of ‘learning styles’ of students, and where possible ‘facilitate’ lessons so that they are learner centered.
Tutors also spend time working out ‘learner pathways’ with students, so that their educational path is tailored to suit their future career aims.
Education is more diverse
Since New Labour the U.K. has seen an increasing diversity of school types – there has been an increase in ‘specialist schools’ which specialise in one subject in particular (such as maths), many more faith schools, and more recently a dramatic increase in the number of academies and free schools.
There are also many more education providers today – the dramatic increase in apprenticeship places in the last decade means that there are now thousands of employers offering training to 16-24-year olds.
Despite the national curriculum, the experience of education has become more fragmented – privately educated school children generally enjoy a very cosy education, with clearly structured lessons and school years meaning they can realise their full potential by the time they leave school. At the other end of the social class spectrum, children mostly from lower working-class backgrounds feel alienated by a middle-class school system and they may experience disruption to their learning from badly behaved students.
The recent increase in home-schooling is also a good example of education becoming more fragmented.
Education is more ‘Hyperreal’
A fairly obvious example of this that schools are making much more use of ICT in education, and students are increasingly being directed to online sources for learning support, or even as the main source of tuition for some courses.
Relevance of the postmodernisation of education to A-level sociology
It’s fairly unlikely that you’ll get an exam question asking you directly about postmodernism and education, the most likely use you can make of the above material is to criticise the functionalist view of education – for example, if education is more fragmented, it is unlikely that education can perform the function of creating value consensus in a society!