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AQA AS Sociology Exam Paper 1 (7191/1) – Education and Methods in Context

An overview of the AS Sociology paper 7191 (1), and a few quick hints and tips on how to answer each of the questions…

You will be given a total of 90 minutes to answer this paper and is out of a total of 60 marks (this means 1.5 minutes per mark). There are a total of 6 questions, 5 on ‘pure education’ and 1 on ‘methods in context’.

This is a ‘write in ‘ paper – you get a booklet with the questions, and lined gaps after each question – write your answers in the gaps. If you need to use extra paper, put the question number you are adding to in the appropriate place.

The general structure of the paper is as follows:

  • Q01 – Define the term (2 marks)
  • Q02 – Using one example, briefly explain something (2 marks)
  • Q03 – Outline three ways/ factors/ criticisms (6 marks)
  • Q04 – Outline and explain two ways/ reasons/ criticisms (10 marks)
  • Q05 – Applying material from Item A and elsewhere, evaluate something to do with education (20 marks)
  • Q06 – Applying material from Item B and your knowledge of research methods, evaluate the strengths and limitations of using xxx method to research xxx issue in education (20 marks)

General hints and tips

Questions 1 – define the concept and give an example. Even though it says define, it’s good practice to do this and then back it up with an example to show you understand it. NB – this could be any concept within education – sometimes they’re obscure, sometimes they’re easier – if it looks unfamiliar, don’t worry about it and just move onto the next questions. (A colleague of mine cynically refers to this question as ‘did you revise this concept the night before the exam? Yes – 2 marks, No – 0 marks)

Question 2 – Is a ‘1+1’ question which is asking you to do two things – firstly, explain how something affects else, and secondly. give an example.

Question 3 – is 3 lots of ‘1+1’ – make sure you explain HOW each point has an effect, or is affected by something. For example, if the question asks you to outline three ways in which cultural deprivation affects educational achievement – state three forms of CD and then explain how, explicitly, this affects educational achievement…

Question 4 – It’s good practice to try and pick 2 very different answers – from different parts of the education module. Explain and develop using perspectives/ research evidence.

Question 5 – You should be familiar with the essay structure – Intro – then PEEC – Overall evaluations, then conclusion. 4 points all internally evaluated. If in doubt, chuck the perspectives at it.

Question 6 – write it like a methods essay (theoretical, practical, ethical) and then chuck in a few topic links where you can – IMO you’ve very little to gain from thinking about this too much – most students just can’t do what the examiners want to get them into the top mark bands, and even if they do, there’s a risk the (underpaid) examiners will mis-read a top band answer as a mid-band answer – do a good methods essay with a few topi links and you’re pretty much guaranteed 13/20.

Finally, and this is very important, if one or more of the questions simply just don’t make sense, don’t panic, it happens, it’s not your fault – it’s the examiner-bots, their programmers haven’t quite perfected their algorithms yet, and they sometimes just chuck out nonsense. If that happens again this year, just look for the key words and write about the general topic area, and you’ll probably get some marks.

Very finally, if it all goes really pear-shaped, have a look at my alternative careers guidance – you don’t even need A levels to pursue these options!

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Outline Three Ways in Which Schools Have Become Increasingly Privatised in Recent Years (6)

Privatisation involves the transfer of public assets to private companies

This is an example of a possible 4 or 6 mark question for the A Level sociology paper 1 education exam, possible answers below…

  • Marketization = exogenous privatisation, or introducing the principles of the free-market, private sector into how schools are run. This involved giving parents the right to choose (like consumers) and making schools compete for funding (funding per pupil) =
  • The expansion of Academies – Many academy chains are private companies (such as Harris) and have an ‘executive structure’ like businesses, with one ‘CEO’ overseeing many schools.
  • The control of exam boards by international companies – Edexcel is owned by the global publishing company Pearson’s for example, which makes money from exams (colleges pay for students to enter exams), but also publishing text books and running revision courses linked to those exams.
  • Global ICT companies such as Apple and Google producing educational hardware and software which schools are required to purchase. iTunes Edu is a good example of this (may overlap with the point above!
  • Education or knowledge becoming a commodity – through the introduction of fees in higher education – this turns students into ‘consumers’ and makes them want knowledge they can use to get a career and make money, rather than knowledge for its own sake. So Marketing courses expand, English Literature courses decrease.
  • The emergence of the Education Services Industry – Private companies building and maintaining schools through public-private partnerships – in which the state enters into a long term contract and pays a private company to either build a school or carry out repair and maintenance work (electrics/ plumbing/ gardening)
  • The expansion of private tuition – increased competition for results has led to most parents employing private tutors in addition to regular education – sometimes through agencies, which are private businesses.

* (you don’t need to write the definition when you answer this particular question!)

Sociology of Education CoverIf you like this sort of thing, then you might like my sociology of education revision notes bundle

This document contains the following:

  1. 34 pages of revision notes
  2. mind maps in pdf and png format – 9 in total, covering various topics within the sociology of education
  3. short answer exam practice questions and exemplar answers
  4. how to write sociology essays, including 7 specific templates and model answers on the sociology of education
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The effect of cultural deprivation on education

Cultural Deprivation theory holds that some groups, such as the lower social classes, have inferior norms, values, skills and knowledge which prevent them from achieving in education. Inferior language skills, and the fact that working class parents do not value education are largely to blame for working class underachievement, rather than material deprivation.

You might also hear ‘cultural deprivation’ theory referred to as ‘working class subculture theory’ – which is something of a throwback to the 1950s. Personally I don’t like the term, and so just use cultural deprivation theory, it’s a bit more modern!

Cultural Deprivation and education

All of the studies below suggest that working class cultures are deficient and that working class children are deprived as a result. These explanations thus put the blame for working class underachievement on the working class families themselves. In these explanations, working class parents basically teach their children norms and values that do not equip them for education in later life.

Five ways in which cultural deprivation can disadvantage children in education   

  1. Working class parents may show a lack of interest in their children’s education
  2. Lower class parents are less able to help their children with homework
  3. Lower class children are more likely to speak in a restricted speech code. Rather than the elaborated speech code- Basil Bernstein argued this.
  4. Working class children are more concerned with Immediate Gratification rather than deferred gratificationBarry Sugarman argued this.
  5. The underclass has a higher than average percentage of single parent families. Melanie Philips argued this.

Supporting evidence for cultural deprivation theory

Connor et al (2001) conducted focus group interviews with 230 students from 4 different FE colleges from a range of class backgrounds, some of whom had chosen to go to university and some who had not chosen to go to University. The main findings were that working class pupils are discouraged from going to university for three main reasons:

  • Firstly, such candidates want ‘immediate gratification’. They want to earn money and be independent at an earlier age. This is because they are aware of their parents having struggled for money and wish to avoid debt themselves
  • Secondly, they realise that their parents cannot afford to support them during Higher Education and did not like the possibility of them getting into debt
  • Thirdly, they have less confidence in their ability to succeed in HE.

Research by Leon Fenstein found that low income was related to the restricted speech code. His research revealed that children of working-class parents tend to be more passive; less engaged in the world around them and have a more limited vocabulary. Children from middle-class households had a wider vocabulary, better understanding of how to talk to other people and were more skilled at manipulating objects.

These studies actually show that cultural and material deprivation are related

Evaluations of cultural deprivation theory

  • If we look at ethnicity and gender differences in achievement – to triangulate, it does seem that cultural factors play a role!
  • It seems that it isn’t just cultural deprivation but also material deprivation that explains underachievement
  • Marxists would argue that cultural deprivation theorists blame the working class parents for the underachievement of their children whereas these parents are really the victims of an unequal society in which schools are run by the middle classes for the middle classes.

If you like this sort of thing – then you might like my series of five mind maps summarising the topic of differential educational achievement by social class. They are real perty.

Related Posts 

The effects of material deprivation on education

The effects of cultural capital on educational achievement

Related External Posts – Useful 

Earlham’s Pages – do their usual ‘overwhelming for anyone but an A* students whose interested in Sociology approach’ (personally I like it though, then again I’m several levels above both of those criteria) – lots of contemporary links at the top (no summaries) and then a useful overview of ‘class subcultures’ below.

Factors influencing class based differences in educational achievement – probably written by a student but it’s quite a useful summary!

Related External Posts – Not so Useful 

The History Learning Site’s material is shockingly out of date – maybe useful for the history, but not so much for our contemporary era.