Below is a pared-down general mark-scheme for 20 and 30 mark sociology essays, adapted from the AQA’s more specific mark-schemes from the 2016-17 specimen A level papers.
Sound, conceptually detailed knowledge of a range of relevant material, good sophisticated understanding of the question and of the presented material. Appropriate material applied accurately and with sensitivity to the issues raised by the question.
Analysis and evaluation will be explicit and relevant. Evaluation may be developed for example through a debate between different perspectives, e.g. by comparing or contrasting different perspectives. Analysis will show clear explanation. Appropriate conclusions will be drawn.
Accurate, broad and/or deep but incomplete knowledge. Understands a number of significant aspects of the question; good understanding of the presented material.
Application of material is largely explicitly relevant to the question, though some material may be inadequately focused.
Some limited explicit evaluation e.g. the debate about the symmetrical family and/or some appropriate analysis, e.g. clear explanations of some of the presented material.
Largely accurate knowledge but limited range and depth, e.g. a broadly accurate knowledge of relevant concepts and theories. Understands some limited but significant aspects of the question; superficial understanding of the presented material.
Applying listed material from the general topic area but with limited regard for its relevance to the issues raised by the question, or applying a narrow range of more relevant material.
Evaluation limited at most to juxtaposition of competing positions or one to two isolated stated points. Analysis will be limited, with answers tending towards the descriptive.
Limited undeveloped knowledge, e.g. two to three insubstantial knowledge points. Understands only very limited aspects of the question; simplistic understanding of the presented material.
Limited application of suitable material, and/or material often at a tangent to the demands of the question, e.g. drifting into answering a different question.
Very limited, minimal or no evaluation. Attempts at analysis, if any, are thin and disjointed.
Very limited knowledge, e.g. one to two very insubstantial knowledge points. Very little/no understanding of the question and of the presented material.
Significant errors, and/or omissions, and/or significant incoherence in application of material. Minimal or no analysis or evaluation.
Of course the actual mark schemes will refer to the actual question, and have a bunch of ‘indicative knowledge’ at the end of it, but the above is a general guide at least.
This post offers some advice on how you might plan and write essays in the A level sociology exams.
The sociology A level exam: general hints for writing essays
Allow yourself enough time – 1.5 minutes per mark = 45 minutes for a 30 mark essay.
Read the Question and the item, what is it asking you to do?
Do a rough plan (5-10 mins) – initially this should be ‘arguments and evidence’ for and ‘against’ the views in the question, and a few thoughts on overall evaluations/ a conclusion. If you are being asked to look at two things, you’ll have to do this twice/ your conclusion should bring the two aspects of the essay together.
Write the essay (35 mins)– aim to make 3-5 points in total (depending on the essay, either 3 deep points, or 5 (or more) shallower points). Try to make one point at least stem from the item, ideally the first point.
Try to stick to the following structure in the picture above!
Overall evaluations – don’t repeat yourself, and don’t overdo this, but it’s useful t tag this in before a conclusion.
Conclusion (allow 2 mins minimum) – an easy way to do this is to refer to the item – do you agree with the view or not, or say which of the points you’ve made is the strongest/ weakest and on balance is the view in the question sensible or not?
Skills in the A Level Sociology Exam
The AQA wants you to demonstrate 3 sets of skills in the exam – below are a few suggestions about how you can do this in sociology essays.
AO1: Knowledge and Understanding
You can demonstrate these by:
Using sociological concepts
Using sociological perspectives
Using research studies
Showing knowledge of contemporary trends and news events
Knowledge can also be synoptic, or be taken from other topics.
NB – knowledge has to be relevant to the question to get marks!
You can demonstrate application by…
Using the item – refer to the item!!!
Clearly showing how the material you have selected is relevant to the question, by using the words in the question
Making sure knowledge selected is relevant to the question.
AO3: Analysis and Evaluation (NB ‘Assess’ is basically the same as Evaluation)
You can demonstrate analysis by….
Considering an argument from a range of perspectives – showing how one perspective might interpret the same evidence in a different way, for example.
Developing points – by showing why perspectives argue what they do, for example.
Comparing and contrasting ideas to show their differences and similarities
You can show how points relate to other points in the essay.
You can demonstrate evaluation by…
Discussing the strengths and limitations of a theory/ perspective or research method.
You should evaluate each point, but you can also do overall evaluations from other perspectives before your conclusion.
NB – Most people focus on weaknesses, but you should also focus on strengths.
Weighing up which points are the most useful in a conclusion.
A note on using the item:
Every 30 mark question will ask you to refer to an ‘item’. This will be a very short piece of writing, consisting of about 8 lines of text. The item will typically refer to one aspect of the knowledge side of the question and one evaluation point. For example, if the question is asking you to ‘assess the Functionalist view of education’, the item is likely to refer to one point Functionalists make about education – such as role allocation, and one criticism.
All you need to do to use the item effectively is to make sure at least one of your points stems from the knowledge in the item, and develop it. It’s a good idea to make this your first point. To use the evaluation point from the item (there is usually some evaluation in there), then simply flag it up when you use it during the essay.
Seven examples of sociology essays, and more advice…
For more information on ‘how to write sociology essays for the A level exam’ why not refer to my handy ‘how to write sociology essays guide’.
The contents are as follows:
A quick look at the three sociology exam papers
A pared-down mark scheme for A Level sociology essays
Knowledge, application, analysis, evaluation, what are they, how to demonstrate them.
How to write sociology essays – the basics:
These appear first in template form, then with answers, with the skills employed shown in colour. Answers are ‘overkill’ versions designed to get full marks in the exam.
Assess the Functionalist View of the Role of Education in Society (30) – Quick plan
Assess the Marxist view of the role of education in society (30) – Detailed full essay
Assess the extent to which it is home background that is the main cause of differential education achievement by social class (30) – Detailed full essay
Assess the view that education policies since 1988 have improved equality of educational opportunity (30) – Quick plan
Assess the view that the main aim of education policies since 1988 has been to raise overall standards in education.’ (30) – Quick plan
Assess the claim that ‘ethnic difference in educational achievement are primarily the result of school factors’ (30) – Detailed full essay
Assess the view that in school processes, rather than external factors, are the most important in explaining differences in educational achievement (30) – detailed essay – Quick plan.
Economic definitions and ways of measuring development are unsatisfactory. A much clearer and more useful picture emerges when wider social factors are included.’ Assess this view of development and underdevelopment. (20)
International organizations such as the World Bank prefer to measure development using economic indicators such as Gross National Product (GNP) and Gross Domestic Product (GDP)
GDP measures the total value of goods and services produced within a country in one year that are available for sale in the market place. GNP is the same but includes the value of all goods and services produced at home and abroad.
The use of GNP as a measurement of development is generally considered most useful by Modernisation theorists who believe that high GNP is an indication of how industrialised a country is, as high levels of production require efficient production in factories, and as far as Modernisation Theory is concerned, industrialisation will eventually lead to the developing countries catching up with the high age of mass consumption found in the west, thus GNP is the single most useful indicator of development.
Overall GNP/ GDP are more useful if we want an indication of how ‘powerful’ a country is, but if we want a better indication of social development; we need to divided GNP by head of population and take the cost of living into account (GNP per capita at PPP).
The usefulness of using GDP/ GNP is that they provide snapshot indicators of development which makes for easy comparisons between countries. However there are problems with both indicators.
However, there are many criticisms of the use of GNP as an indicator of development.
Firstly. It can disguise inequalities within countries. The USA, for example, has one of the highest GNPs in the world but some groups experience extreme poverty, suffering homelessness for example.
Secondly, GNP does not tell us how much wealth actually stays in the country, If production is carried out by Western Corporations, much of the profit may leave the country and not benefit the population. Similarly, some countries have a high GNP but a massive proportion of this goes on debt repayments.
Thirdly, if economic growth is driven by industrialization, this may bring about problems for some people in developing countries. In India for example, some villagers have has their farms destroyed and been reduced to coal scavenging for a living following the construction of open cast coal mines that are necessary to fuel economic growth.
Finally, it is the case that quality of life may be higher than suggested in poorer countries because production is often subsistence based, about survival and consumed locally in the community, and not sold in the market place. Subsistence agriculture is not measured in the GNP. Also, some people may get hold of goods and services illegally. This kind of economic activity is not included in GNP measurements.
Because of the limitations of economic indicators, the UN has developed social indicators such as the Human Development Index and the Millennium Development Goals which provide a picture of social rather than economic progress.
Many of these social indicators show us that high GNP is not necessarily accompanied by social progress, as in the case of Equatorial Guinea, which has a very high GNP but low social development because the corrupt elite keep most of the money to themselves.
The Millennium Development goals also provide a more useful indicator or development than GNP – The MDGs includes such things as female empowerment and sustainability, neither of which are taken into account by cruder economic indicators. Female Empowerment is especially important when considering development in India – it is rapidly developing in terms of GNP, but has very low gender equality, suggesting it has a lot of progress to make in that area.
Post-Development thinkers argue that sustainability indicators are especially important now that we are facing a climate change crisis, and if we take this as a measure of development, many of the richest countries are the biggest polluters, because consumption drives economic growth, which in turn drives pollution, which provides one of the most compelling challenges to the use of GNP as a valid measure of development.
Another seemingly more useful indicator of development is the level of peacefulness in a country – as measured by the Global Peace Index – this is important because where there is conflict, there is no chance of development, moreover, if we use this as an indicator, the USA and China fall down the development league tables because they spend so much money on their militaries, which are frequently used to oppress people and again reduce social development at home and abroad.
Another country which prefers to measure social development rather than economic development is Bhutan, which is poor, yet one of the happiest nations on earth, and the case of Bhutan seems to challenge the notion that economic growth results in greater happiness – many people living in Tokyo in Japan for example, are lonely and miserable.
The very fact that these other indicators exist suggests that many working within development feel that economic indicators are not a satisfactory measurement of ‘development’
In conclusion, it is clear that economic indicators do not provide a full picture of how developed a country is, and that it is clearly possible to have social development without a high GDP.
Moreover, it appears that the pursuit of economic growth can undermine social development, at home, if it leads to greater equality and misery, and abroad, if it leads to environmental decline and war and conflict.
Thus I believe that we really do need to look at a much wider range of indicators to fully understand how developed a country is, because development simply cannot be understood purely in economic terms alone.
Below is a suggested answer to the a possible ten mark question on Global Development which stems directly from the item below,
Read Item A and then answer the question below…
Gross National Product (GNP) has long been one of the main economic indicators used to measure development by international agencies such as the World Bank, and there is a general correlation between increasing GNP and improvements in social development.
However, Post-Development thinkers have criticized GNP as being a very limited measurement of a country’s development because it does not tell us anything about how the wealth generated from production is distributed within a country. Post-Development thinkers argue we need to look at a broader range of indicators to accurately measure development, such as the happiness of a country, the level of peacefulness, equality, and even sustainability.
Applying material from item A, analyse two reasons why Gross National Product may not be sufficient to measure a country’s level of development (10)
The first reason is that Gross National Product does not tell us the income or wealth generated from production is distributed in a country.
Gross National Product may be very high, as it is in the USA for example, but high levels of inequality in that country mean that at least the bottom fifth of the country see little benefit from high overall income and wealth, and so GNP doesn’t necessarily translate into social development.
High social inequality, or relative deprivation, is also correlated with a range of social problems, such as poor health (for the poor) and high levels of crime.
Gender inequality can also mean that high GNPs do not benefit women as much as men, as is the case in especially Saudi Arabia, where women’s freedoms are much more restricted than mens, and many Sub-Saharan African countries too.
In contrast, more economically equal countries seem to have higher social development to unequal countries, irrespective of GNP, and It follows that in addition to GNP, we need to at least look at equality indicators to get a better idea of how socially developed a country might be.
The second reason is that by increasing Gross National Product, a country may actually harm its social development, and that of other countries, so it could actually be something of a ‘perverse indicator’.
For example, in pursuing industrialisation in pursuit of economic growth (and thus high GNP), China has become the sweat shop capital of the world, and has increased the exploitation of its workers who are typically paid low wages. This especially applies to women (given the low levels of gender equality in China).
Another negative consequence of economic growth and industrialisation is the increase in pollution, which leads to sea levels rising, and more climate change refugees.
In contrast, some countries, such as Bhutan, put social development indicators, such as happiness and sustainability first, and arguably countries such as these are less developed when we look at GNP per capita, but more developed when we look at how happy the people are, and they don’t retard the social development of other countries in the process.
The theory and methods 10 mark question appears as a special treat at the end of paper 1 (Education, Methods in Context and Theory and Methods), you’ll also get a big 30 mark essay question at the end of paper 3 (Crime and Deviance with Theory and Methods) too, but more about the 30 markers in other blog post.
The reason for splitting the theory and methods questions across two papers is probably to make sure that more students fail the exam, and possibly because the man has a burning hatred of teenagers. Apparently every A-Level exam has one aspect split across two papers, so at least the hate is evenly distributed, otherwise this might be an example of a ‘hate crime’ against sociology students.
For 10 mark questions it’s good practice to select two very different reasons, which are as far apart from each other as possible. In this question, it’s also good practice to contrast Positivism to Interpretivism (to get analysis marks) and to use as many theory and methods concepts and examples as possible.
The first reason is that Positivists are interested in looking at society as a whole, in order to find out the general laws which shape human action, and numerical data is really the only way we can easily study and compare large groups within society, or do cross national comparisons – qualitative data by contrast is too in-depth and too difficult to compare.
Numerical data allow us to make comparisons easily as once we have social data reduced down to numbers, it is easy to put into graphs and charts and to make comparisons and find correlations, enabling us to see how one thing affects another.
For example, Durkheim famously claimed that the higher the divorce rate, the higher the suicide rate, thus allowing him to theorise that lower levels of social integration lead to higher rates of suicide (because of increased anomie).
The second reason for preferring quantitative methods is that Positivists think it is important to remain detached from the research process, in order to remain objective, or value free.
Quantitative methods allow for a greater level of detachment as the researcher does not have to be directly involved with respondents, meaning that their own personal values are less likely to distort the research process, as might be the case with more qualitative research.
This should be especially true for official statistics, which merely need to be interpreted by researchers, but less true of structured questionnaires, which have to be written by researchers, and may suffer from the imposition problem.
You may need to add in a further layer of development to each of these points!
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Theory and Methods A Level Sociology Revision Bundle
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74 pages of revision notes
15 mind maps on various topics within theory and methods
According to the Marxist sociologist Pierre Bourdieu, middle class parents possess more cultural capital, than working class children.
Bourdieu argues that the skills and knowledge middle class parents possess, such as themselves having benefited from education, and the fact that they are more comfortable dealing with middle class institutions such as schools, is passed down to their children, which explains why they do better in school.
Hooks in the item:
Skills – might be research skills
Knowledge (might be linked to tastes)
More comfortable dealing with middle class institutions
Point 1 – More cultural capital means middle class parents are better educated than working class parents and they are more able to help children with homework and coursework.
Analysis 1 – This is especially likely to advantage children from high income earning families which can afford to have stay at home mums, so they have the time to advantage their children
Analysis 2 – This advantages middle class children early on in their school careers by boosting confidence. This early advantage accumulates over time and develops through school.
Analysis 3 – This takes place at home, not in school. It is unlikely that schools will have the resources available to close this gap
Point 2 – Cultural Capital also means middle class parents are skilled choosers – They are more able to research schools, take time filling in application forms, and networking with teachers to give their child more chance of getting into the best schools – Stephen Ball found this.
Analysis 1– The opposite of this is working class parents who are disconnected choosers, they don’t have the skills to complete large amounts of applications and so just send their children to the local school.
Analysis 2 – This aspect of cultural capital has become more significant since the introduction of the 1988 education act which introduced marketization and parentocracy and gave parents’ choice over schools.
Analysis 3 – This means that the system has changed recently to allow those with more cultural capital to have even more of an advantage.
A suggested model answer to this 10 mark analyse question, a possible question for the AQA’s education with theory and method’s A level paper (paper 7192/1)
What you need to apply the hooks to
Globalisation, or the increasing interconnectedness of countries across the globe, creates both challenges and opportunities for the United Kingdom. For example, economic globalisation has resulted in both more opportunities abroad and more competition for jobs for these jobs; and increasing migration has resulted in greater multiculturalism in the UK.
Education has had to adapt to globalization, and as a result, pupils today experience education very differently to previous generations.
Point 1 – Economic globalisation means increased competition from abroad, which means British students today are expected to spend longer in education (as evidence by the increasing of the school leaving age. So one change in the experience of education is that students stay in school for longer.
Development – globalisation has meant that most of the unskilled factory jobs have now moved abroad, and increasingly British workers need to be better educated in order to get jobs at all, thus the expansion of higher education means that more students ‘experience’ higher education and are better qualified than their parents.
Further development – however, ironically, poorer UK students are put off by the fees universities now charge, meaning that the globalisation of HE is possibly resulting in more class inequality.
Further development – increased competition also means more pressure to succeed, schools are now ranked by PISA league tables, which means even more ‘teaching the test’ and ‘narrowing of the curriculum’, which is a final way the experience of education has changed.
Point 2 – The item also refers to the pressures of increased immigration resulting in more multiculturalism – and British schools have long had multicultural education in response to this, which also changes pupils’ experiences of education.
Development 1 – For example, religious education has long taught about other religions, and increasingly schools and colleges have events such as ‘black history month’ raising awareness of diversity.
Further Development – schools have also introduced compensatory education to help recent immigrants from Eastern Europe, such as extra support for pupils who don’t have English as a first language.
Further development – however, some policies may be seen as potentially divisive, for example, the prevent agenda in schools seems to target Muslim pupils through ‘categorical suspicion’.
Further development – There is also doubt that these inclusive policies are working, many people, especially in working class areas, object to the extra resources being spent on minority groups, and given the fact that it is the white working classes who have the lowest achievement, they might have a point.
Four and Six mark outline questions appear on the education and crime and deviance AQA A level sociology exam papers. This blog post shows you some possible examples of outline questions which might appear on the Education exam paper, along with some suggested answers.
NB These questions are marked in a ‘1+1’ style – you get one mark for identifying and one mark for developing and explaining further. So to be on the safe side, make a point and then develop it – do this twice for a 4 mark question, and thrice for a three mark question.
Outline two ways in which material deprivation may affect educational achievement (4 marks)
Suggested points, you need to add in the explanations as to HOW these factors have a negative effect on educational achievement.
Smaller, overcrowded houses
Poor diets and higher levels of sickness
Less/no educational books/toys, PC’s
Parents can’t afford to support children in education after 16
Less access to nursery facilities
W/C more likely to have part time jobs.
Schools themselves, less resources etc than schools in M/C areas
Selection by mortgage
Can’t afford private tutors
Suggested full answers (outlining and explaining two ways)
(ID) Low income means families will live in smaller houses which could mean there is lack of a private study space, or children may even have to share bedrooms. (EX) This means there is no quiet space for children to do homework, which could result in them falling behind at school.
(ID) Children from low income households are more likely to have poor diets, the low nutritional content of which could result in higher levels of sickness. (EX) This could result in them having time off school, which could have a detrimental effect on their education.
Outline two ways in which cultural deprivation may affect educational achievement (4 marks)
Suggested full answers (outlining and explaining two ways)
(ID) Working class pupils are more likely to have immediate Gratification (wanting to work straight after school to earn money immediately) (EX) this explains working class underachievement because working class kids are more likely to be poor thus more likely to want to earn money immediately after finishing their GCSEs, which means they are less likely to stay onto further education
(ID) The working classes are more likely to be fatalistic, which is where one resigns oneself to the fact that they can’t improve their lot in life. (EX) This explains working class underachievement because they think they are inevitably going to go into working class jobs so don’t try hard at school as there is no point.
Outline three reasons why girls are now generally out-performing boys in education (6 marks)
Suggested full answers (outlining and explaining three ways)
(ID) Introduction of coursework: (EX) has enabled girls to do better as they are more organised, meticulous, persistent, etc than boys and this is rewarded in coursework.
(ID) Changes in the family such as more divorce (EX) has given girls a greater incentive to gain useful qualifications, as they cannot now expect to be full-time housewives permanently provided for by their husbands.
(ID) Changes in the labour market such greater numbers of women working and opportunities for promotion (EX) have given girls more role models and the inspiration to achieve qualifications with which to pursue a career.
Outline three reasons why girls are less likely to choose science subjects than boys (6 marks)
Suggested points, you need to add in the explanations in most cases.
Teacher’s sexist ideas channelling girls into ‘girls subjects’
Science taught in a male way using male examples (engines), put girls off
Biological differences. Girls better at communication, not much discussion in science subjects
Differential parental encouragement
Boys more likely to play with technical toys
Fewer girls in text books
Fewer female science teachers
Boys dominate classroom by dominating practical equipment
Suggested full answers (outlining and explaining three ways)
(ID) Teachers may have stereotypical ideas that girls would struggle in male dominated subjects such as physics, (EX) and they may try and put them off, steering them towards other, more traditionally feminine subjects such as English, meaning fewer girls end up doing science subjects.
(ID) Science subjects are often taught using masculine examples – for example, physics text books might use cars to illustrate the laws of motion. (EX) This might put girls off doing physics because they have no interest in the masculine examples used to teach these subjects.
(ID) Girls are more likely to be socialised into discussing their feelings, (EX) and thus they might be more likely to choose subjects such as history and English where you need to discuss things more, rather than sciences where there is less discussion and ‘one right answer’.
Definitions and examples of the most important key concepts for the A level sociology 7192 (1) exam, including the definition of labelling, the correspondence principal, meritocracy, privatization, and lots more. All of the concepts below are most relevant to the education module within A-level sociology, but many have wider application.
Initially I include only the ‘most important’ sociology words. More to follow later, as with all tings in life, this is work in progress.
Where schools focus a disproportionate amount of their resources on making sure ‘middling’ students get 5 A*-Cs, rather than helping to boost more able students or getting less able students passes below the 5- A*C threshold.
Where individuals gain their social position in society through their own efforts, rather than that position being based on their ascribed characteristics such as their ‘race’ or their class background.
Where an individual’s position in society is pre-determined by their birth or social characteristics. An example of this is the royal inheritance in the United Kingdom: only a son of Queen Lizzie II can become King when she dies.
Grouping students by ability. Students are put into the same group across all subjects (unlike setting, which is where students might be placed in different ability groups in different subject.
Where choices of subjects become gradually more limited as children progress through school.
Educational policies which provide additional money or resources for students facing cultural or material deprivation. The idea is that the extra money/resources helps overcome disadvantage and boost results.
One type of school for all students. Non-selective schools where all students have an equal opportunity within the same school.
The establishment of comprehensive schools in the 1960s which replaced the selective tripartite system.
The Marxist idea that the norms and values pupils learn in school prepare them for their future exploitation at work.
For example, schools teach pupils to be ‘motivated by external rewards’ – they learn to put up with boring lessons in order to achieve higher grades, thus focussing on the end result of learning rather than the ‘joy of learning’ itself’. This corresponds (relates) to putting up with the dull routine of working life in a factory day to day, while focussing on the pay packet at the end of the month.
Related concepts: ideological state apparatus, Marxism, socialisation, hidden curriculum.
Counter school culture
A group within a school which has norms and values in direct opposition to the mainstream culture of the school. E.G. a group of students who see value in messing around and ‘having a laugh’ or disrupting lessons rather than working hard and studying. Status will be rewarded within the counter school culture on the basis of how deviant they are, how far they go against school rules.
The skills, knowledge and attitudes associated with the dominant culture, possessed by the middle classes, which give middle class parents and children an advantage in life.
Cultural capital is a Marxist concept used to explain why middle-class pupils achieve more than working class pupils do. As part of the dominant culture, middle class pupils have an automatic advantage over working class pupils because they share the culture of the school. Their language is like that of teachers (also middle-class) and their values correspond more closely to those of the school. This ‘cultural capital’ enables middle class families to pass on their superior position to their children and in so doing, reproduce class inequalities.
Related concepts: skilled and disconnected choosers, habitus, social capital.
Where some groups, such as the lower social classes have inferior norms, values, skills and knowledge which hold them back in life.
Cultural deprivation can have a negative effect on the education of working class children: poor language skills can mean the students struggle to understand what they are taught, and the fact that working class parents do not value education means that their children are less likely to stay on at school post-16.
Related concepts: material deprivation, immediate and deferred gratification, restricted and elaborated speech codes.
Cycle of Deprivation
Where one aspect of material disadvantage has a knock on effect and leads to other types of disadvantage, such that poverty is reinforced and carries on, often across generations. For example, being poor, means a poor diet , means more sickness, means more time of work, means more poverty.
Where one delays immediate reward and instead works hard now in order to receive a greater reward in the future.
Self-fulfilling prophecy theory is often criticised as being deterministic, because it assumes that a particular input (labelling) always has the same affect (the subject accepts their label), without taking into account the fact that individuals respond in different ways based on their different subjective views of the situation in which the labelling takes place.
Working class parents who simply send their children to local schools rather than researching different schools and then making their choice. The opposite of ‘skilled choosers’
Division of Labour
Where production is broken down into a number of small, specialized tasks to improve efficiency. For example, instead of one person constructing a whole car, each individual specializes in adding different bits.
Education Action Zones
A New Labour Education policy which promoted links between clusters of schools (typically around 20) in deprived areas and local businesses and parents, with the intention of getting business to provide extra funds to those schools. This policy was introduced in the late 1990s, but after running for five years it had largely failed to generate any additional funds and so was axed.
Where schools sort students into three groups: those who will pass without help, those could pass with help, and those who probably won’t pass even if they do get help. Schools then focus most of their resources on helping the middle of these groups, while leaving the former alone and effectively ‘writing off’ the later.
Elaborated Speech Code
Language consisting of a wide vocabulary, complex sentences and which is context-free, so able to express abstract ideas. Used by the middle class and the opposite of restricted speech code.
Equality of opportunity (within education)
Where everyone has an equal chance to get into the best schools and universities and achieve good qualifications, and everyone competes for the best results on a level playing field, without being discriminated against on the basis of race, gender, disability or social class.
Ethnocentric means seeing or judging things in a biased way. An ethnocentric curriculum is one which treats middle class European white culture as superior – having Christian assemblies or teaching history from a European rather than an Indian or African perspective are examples of this.
The culture of a school – including its expected norms of behaviour, core values and especially the aspirations for its students.
Where pupils are either suspended for a set period or permanently expelled from school, typically for breaking school rules.
Exogenous Privatisation (of education)
Where schools, or school services, are taken over by private businesses such as academy chains, rather than being run directly by the state.
A related concept here is ‘endogenous privatisation’, where schools are made compete like businesses while still being run by the state. This was the idea behind marketization.
Related concepts: neoliberalism, the new right, marketization.
A school with formal ties to a particular faith. Many have different admissions (selection) criteria to regular state schools and select a proportion of their students on the basis of their faith.
According to Bernstein this is an attitude held by working class children and parents. It is the belief that they will inevitably end up in working class jobs, and so prevents them from aspiring to do any better.
Schools set up and run by groups of parents, charities or businesses and run directly by them. They are funded directly by the government and not by Local Education Authorities.
The activities that boys and girls see as typically the territory of their gender. E.g. playing football for boys and playing with dolls for girls.
The increasing interconnectedness of people and societies across the world.
A selective school catering to students who pass their 11+. Offers an academic education catered to high achieving students. Part of the ethos of grammar schools is that students should aspire to go to university.
The Hidden Curriculum refers to the norms and values not taught directly as part of the official curriculum, but passed on informally in schools.
Whereas the official curriculum is made up of subjects, subject content, formal lessons etc. the hidden curriculum is composed of teacher attitudes and expectations, and the general ethos of school which includes such things as attitudes to punctuality, attendance, dress codes and future career aspirations.
Related concepts: Feminists argue that the hidden curriculum works against girls. Marxists believe it works against working-class pupils.
The idea of the perfect pupil which teachers have in their heads. Such pupils are smart, have good manners, obey school rules and work hard. According to Howard Becker they are typically middle class.
Ideological state apparatus
This is main function of education in a capitalist society according to Marxists. Education works to transmit an ideological justification of capitalism, presenting the unequal capitalist system as normal and inevitable.
Schools do this directly by ‘agenda setting’ – not teaching subjects which criticise capitalism such as sociology (at least until much later on in life), and they do it indirectly by mirroring the inequality found in wider society (teacher-pupil relations, banding and streaming), thus getting students used to the idea that inequality is normal.
Related concepts: passive subservience, Marxism, socialisation, hidden curriculum, power, inequality.
Wanting instant reward, right now. The opposite of deferred gratification
Independent (Private) Schools
Schools which are not state-funded and are paid for by parents. They do not have to follow the national curriculum, but most choose to do so.
Discrimination which is built into the everyday workings of institutions such as schools.
‘Labelling’ is where someone judges a person based on the superficial ‘surface’ characteristics such as their apparent social class, sex, and ethnicity.
In the case of education, the main ‘labeller’ is the teacher, the main ‘labelled’ the pupil. Howard Becker has shown that teachers have an ‘ideal type’ of a pupil. The ‘ideal’ pupil is courteous, hard working and academically able. Middle-class pupils are far more likely to fit this model than are working class students, and thus middle class students get a positive label working class students a negative label.
Related concepts: Interactionism, self-fulfilling prophecy, ideal pupil.
*American misspelling: ‘labeling’
Published documents which show the GCSE and A level results of all schools in England and Wales. Schools are effectively ranked against each other and thus are easy to compare.
Legitimation of class inequality
A Marxist term – where schools justify inequality through teaching the myth of meritocracy. Schools teach working class pupils that it is their fault if they fail their exams and end up in working class jobs, rather than the fault of the unequal and unfair system which is biased towards the middle class.
Making schools compete for pupils, like businesses compete for clients or consumers.
This was the basic principle behind the 1988 education act: the government introduced open enrollment (parental choice), formula funding and league tables to introduce endogenous privatisation.
Related concepts: New Right, neoliberalism, privatisation, league tables, 1988 education act.
Where someone cannot afford or lacks access to basic, material resources such as food and heating.
Material deprivation can have a negative effect on educational achievement because students may not have access to computers and the Internet at home and poor diet and housing conditions may lead to health problems which can result in time off school.
Related concepts: social class, cultural deprivation, differential educational achievement.
The idea that what an individual achieves is based on a combination of their ability and effort.
In education this is where the qualifications one achieves is based on a combination of their intelligence and the amount of effort they put in during their time in school.
Marxists argue that meritocracy is a myth because in reality an individual’s educational achievement is more a reflection of their class background, a result of their material and cultural capital, rather than their ability or effort. However, the working classes believe the myth of meritocracy and thus blame their own failure on themselves rather than the unequal opportunities in the system.
Related concepts: achieved status, ascribed status, Marxism, Functionalism, equality of opportunity.
Motivation by external rewards
Being motivated by the end result, not the act itself. In education this means being motivated by exam results rather than the ‘joy of learning’.
Any education that raises awareness of the different cultures, traditions and religions in a society, typically aimed at promoting acceptance of (or at least tolerance of diversity).
Myth of meritocracy
Part of Marxist Theory – the idea that schools are not meritocratic but teach students that they are so as to legitimate inequality (see the legitimation of class inequality).
Set subjects (and the content within those subjects) laid down by the government that all state funded schools must teach.
The government body which inspects schools and publishes reports, grading schools from ‘outstanding’ to ‘in need of improvement’. Has the power the put schools into special measures and change the management and staffing of failing schools.
Literally ‘the rule of the parents’. It is where parents have a choice over which school to send their children to.
Parity of Esteem
Where schools teach different subjects and have a different ethos but have equal status.
The specific standards by which parents judge their children.
Accepting authority and doing what you are told without questioning it.
Norms and values which make patriarchy seem natural. E.g. the idea that women should be the primary child carers because they give birth to children.
A system of male domination, or one in which men have advantage over women.
Moving further apart. In education, marketisation is said to have caused this: the best schools improved and the worst schools got worse.
The changes associated with the move to a postmodern society, including globalization, more consumerism, more individual choice and diversity.
Where schools, or school services, are taken over by private businesses such as academy chains, rather than being run directly by the state.
Where schools are made to compete like businesses while still being run by the state. This was the idea behind marketization.
Reproduction of inequality
Where inequality is carried on from one generation to the next.
Restricted Speech Code
Language consisting of limited vocabulary, simple sentences, and which is context specific. According to Bernstein, this is what the working class speak. It is the opposite of the elaborated speech code.
Where pupils are sifted and sorted into appropriate jobs based on their abilities, reflected in the qualifications they achieve.
Society requires the most able to be in the most important and demanding jobs. Education makes sure this happens- only the most able and hardest working can rise to top and get the three A grades in science required to go on to do a medical degree and become a doctor for example.
Related Concepts: achieved status, Functionalism, division of labour, meritocracy.
This is where someone acts according to their label and the label becomes true in reality.
In education a pupil who is repeatedly told that they are unlikely to achieve may consequently give up their efforts which in turn will reduce the likelihood of gaining a qualification. The teachers’ label has thus become a self-fulfilling prophecy.
Related concepts: interactionism, labelling, deterministic.
Subculture and Counter School Culture
A subculture consists of a group of people who share norms and values which are different to mainstream values.
An important type of subculture is the counter-school culture – identified by Paul Willis (1977). A counter school culture has norms and values which are in direct opposition to the mainstream culture of the school. Thus the lads who made up the counter-school culture valued messing around and ‘having a laugh’ and got status for doing so, and did not value working hard to achieve good grades.
Related concepts: pro-school subculture; myth of meritocracy, white working class underachievement; the young entrepreneurs (Mac An Ghail), active-passive, Marxism.
One reason is that poorer countries tend to export low-value primary products such as agricultural goods, while richer countries export higher value goods.
Frank (1971) argues this is a legacy of colonialism during which rich countries made their colonies specialize in exporting one primary product such as sugar or cotton back to the ‘mother land’. After independence, developing societies were over-dependent on exporting these primary commodities, which typically have a very low market-value.
Examples include The Ivory Coast in West Africa – 33% dependent on cocoa beans; Kenya (in East Africa) which is about 30% dependent on two primary products – tea and cut flowers.
This type of trade does not necessarily promote development because the declining value of such commodities means developing nations need to export more and more every year just to stay in the same place. This has been described as ‘running up the downward escalator’.
A second reason why trade doesn’t work for development is that the global capitalist system depends on inequality
Emanuel Wallerstein argued that the world capitalist system is characterised by an international division of labour consisting of a structured set of relations between three types of capitalist zone:
The core, or developed countries control world trade and exploit the rest of the world.
The semi-peripheral zone includes countries like China or Brazil – which manufacture produces
The peripheral countries at the bottom, mainly in Africa, which provide the raw materials such as cash crops to the core and semi periphery.
Companies in the core countries need to keep prices of end-products as low as possible in order keep up demand, so they pay as little as possible for the raw materials and manufacturing. In short, the development of the west in terms of cheap, consumer goods depends on the poverty of the periphery and relative poverty of semi-periphery.
However, this may not always prevent trade working for development – countries can be upwardly or downwardly mobile in the world system. Many countries, such as the BRIC nations have moved up from being peripheral countries to semi-peripheral countries, and some (e.g. South Korea) can now be regarded as core countries.
Thirdly, a lack of regulation at both global and national levels means that workers have few protections in developing countries and thus don’t benefit from trade.
Many workers are exploited with low wages in sweat shops, which means workers don’t earn enough money to pay for social development such as education or health; Bangladesh is a good example of a country in which poor health and safety regulations result in high deaths.
Other Corporations such as Shell extracting oil in Nigeria burn gas flares and have leaky oil pipes which destroys the environment and leads to women miscarrying, which actually pushes the development of some areas backwards.
Dependency Theory argues that Nation States compete in a ‘race to the bottom’ to attract Transnational Corporations (and extract materials/ produce goods to trade) through having the least regulations.