Applying material from Item B and your knowledge, evaluate sociological explanations of the role of education in transmitting ideas and values.

How to top mark band in a 30 mark education essay, A-level sociology, AQA.


Below is an example of a 30 mark essay question which achieved 28/30.

It’s an interesting example of a question which looks like its asking you to evaluate a specific aspect of the Functionalist perspective on education. However, if you look more closely at the item, you’ll need to do this by drawing on Feminism and Postmodernism to evaluate!

The example is taken from the 2017 Education with Theory and Methods Paper (paper and mark schemes available from the AQA 0website) and the specific question is as follows:

The Question with Item 


Mark Scheme (Top Band Only)


Student Response (paraphrased by KT)

Item B states that education plays a role in socialisation. Feminists argue that education reinforces hegemonic masculinity. However, other sociologists such as Functionalists argue that education transmits shared values and post-modernists for example argue that education is diverse and transmits a range of values.

Feminists suggest that education transmits patriarchal ideology. Radical Feminists would say that male teachers/ pupils behave in ways that reinforce hegemonic masculinity. For example, male teachers tell boys off for ‘behaving like girls’ and they also ‘rescue’ female teachers when they are disciplining students. Radical feminists say that this makes females feel inferior to males and therefor means that the role of education is to reinforce the idea that males are the dominant gender. However, a specific evaluation is that the male teachers may rescue female teachers because they are in a more authoritative position. Additionally, post-modernists would disagree with feminists and argue that education is no longer based on inequality, but based on diversity.

Functionalists suggest that education transmits shared values. Durkheim argues that the role of education is to create social solidarity and value consensus. He argues that education achieves this via assemblies, teaching a common history (giving a sense of national identity and bring people together) and teaching core values such as respect which bring social order. Parsons agrees and argues that education is the focal socialising agency and ‘Parsons bridge implies that education takes people from particularistic values of the family/ home to universalistic values of the work place. The New right agree with functionalists that the role of education is to transmit shared values. However, Marxists disagree with functionalists and argue that the socialisation aspect of the role of education is not to create value consensus but that education is uses as an ideological state apparatus, to transmit ruling class ideology.

Marxists suggest that the role of education is to ‘brainwash’ the working class. Althusser argues that education is an ideological state apparatus that transmits ruling class ideology in order to legitimse the inequality caused by the capitalist class. Bowles and Gintis argue that there is a ‘hidden curriculum’ that socialises the working class into obedient workers in order to benefit capitalism. For example, they are taught that being punished for minor issues is acceptable and the importance of punctuality and that they have to obey the people above them in the social hierarchy – e.g. teachers then boss. However, a specific problem of the hidden curriculum is that a study by Willis showed that students can see through the role of education and reject the hidden curriculum.

Bowles and Gintis also argued that there is a correspondence principle where school mirrors work. Similarities such as extrinsic satisfaction (only doing something for rewards, not because you enjoy it eg school to get GCSEs, work to get money) socialise working class pupils to not expect a rewarding job when they leave school and this benefits the capitalist class. As a result, Marxists argue that the role of education is to transmit ruling class ideology and benefit the bourgeoisie. However, functionalists and new right disagree and argue that values are shared to create a value consensus. They argue that marxism is wrong for basing it on conflict when it is really consensus.

Functionasts such as Parsons suggest that education is meritocratic. This means that pupils are taught that they need to work hard if they want to achieve. He argues that the education system is based on this which suggests people only fail if they do not try hard enough. However, Marxists such as Bordieu argue that education promotes middle class values which means working class students fail because their values are not wanted by the school – not because of meritocracy. Ball argued that meritocracy is a myth. However, new right agree and argue that it is down to the individual to work hard and achieve.

Perhaps the main strength of explaining the role of education in transmitting ideas/ values is the functionalist view that education is used to create shared values, because it can be applied to real life education because schools do have assemblies and promote core values. Perhaps the main weakness is the postmodern view because although education is more diverse, each school still has an ETHOS that has been developed by middle class individuals.

Post modernists argue that marxists, feminists and functionalists are out of date. Liberal feminists would argue that the role of education is no longer to reinforce hegemonic masculinity but that inequality/ patriarchy is improving.

Examiner Commentary 

Mark 28/30

Conceptually detailed and located within a broad theoretical framework. Sophisticated analysis and applied clearly to the question. Explicit evaluation throughout.

Did not score maximum as at times evaluation was not fully developed, e.g. postmodernism.

KT’s commentary

An obvious strength of this answer, in addition to the above is it’s clear use of the item!

They also use phrases, such as ‘a specific evaluation’ of this is….

This also shows you that you need good depth of knowledge of the basics of functionalism and Marxism, but you also need to evaluate them with specific comments and P/M to top mark band.


Feedback on the Examinations
Student responses and commentaries: Paper 1 7192/1 Education with Theory and Methods
Published: Autumn 2017


A Level Sociology: 10 mark questions

There are two types of 10 mark question across the 3 A-level sociology exam papers: ‘outline and explain questions’ (no item) and ‘applying material from the item’ questions.

Below is a nice wall-chart explaining the difference between them, adapted from the AQA’s ‘notes and guidance document. (source)

Sociology A-level 10 mark questions.png

*the action word here might be different. Instead of ‘reasons’ it may be ‘criticisms’, ‘consequences’, ‘ways’ or something else!

**Obviously there will be an item! Not included here because it wouldn’t fit. YOU MUST REFER TO THE ITEM!

For specific examples of the two different types of 10 mark question, please click here: A-level sociology: exams and revision advice. For even more practice questions, see below!

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How Are A-Level Sociology Essays Marked?

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.

/30 /20 Descriptor
25-30 17-20 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.

19-24 13-16 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.

13-18 9-12 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.

7-12 5-8 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.

1-6 1-4 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.