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The strengths and limitations of secondary data

What is secondary data?

Information which has been collected previously, by someone else, other than the researcher. Secondary data can either be qualitative, such as diaries, newspapers or government reports, or quantitative, as with official statistics, such as league tables.

Strengths of using secondary data in social research

  • There is a lot of it! It is the richest vein of information available to researchers in many topic areas. Also, some large data sets might not exist if it wasn’t for the government collecting data.
  • Sometimes documents and official statistics might be the only means of researching the past.
  • Official statistics may be especially useful for making comparisons over time. The U.K. Census for example goes back to 1851.
  • At a practical level, many public documents and official statistics are freely available to the researcher.

Limitations of using secondary data

  • Official statistics may reflect the biases of those in power – limiting what you can find out.
  • Official statistics – the way things are measured may change over time, making historical comparisons difficult (As with crime statistics, the definition of crime keeps changing.)
  • Documents may lack authenticity– parts of the document might be missing because of age, and we might not even be to verify who actually wrote the document, meaning we cannot check whether its biased or not.
  • Representativeness – documents may not be representative of the wider population –especially a problem with older documents. Many documents do not survive because they are not stored, and others deteriorate with age and become unusable. Other documents are deliberately withheld from researchers and the public gaze, and therefore do not become available.

This was a brief post, for revision purposes, designed as last minute revision for the AS and A Level sociology exams.

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An Overview of the Education Module for A Level Sociology

The AQA Specification – Education

Students need to know….

  • The role and functions of the education system, including its relationship to the economy and to class structure (the perspectives: functionalism etc.)
  • Differential educational achievement of social groups by social class, gender and ethnicity in contemporary society.
  • Relationships and processes within schools, with particular reference to teacher/pupil relationships, pupil identities and subcultures, the hidden curriculum, and the organisation of teaching and learning.
  • The significance of educational policies, including policies of selection, marketisation and privatisation, and policies to achieve greater equality of opportunity or outcome, for an understanding of the structure, role, impact and experience of and access to education; the impact of globalisation on educational policy.

Education brief

How most text books break the specification down further….

Topic 1 – Perspectives on Education (‘role and function of education’)

There are 4 Main Perspectives:

  • Functionalism
  • Marxism
  • The New Right
  • Postmodernism
  • You can also use knowledge from these perspectives: Feminism/ Social Democratic/ Liberalism

Functionalism

  • Focuses on the positive functions performed by the education system. There are four positive functions that education performs
  • Creating social solidarity (value consensus)
  • Teaching skills necessary for work
  • Bridge between home and school
  • Role Allocation and meritocracy

Marxism

  • Traditional Marxists see the education system as working in the interests of ruling class elites. The education system performs three functions for these elites:
  • Reproduces class inequality.
  • Legitimates class inequality.
  • The Correspondence Principle – School works in the interests of capitalist employers

The New Right 

  • Created an ‘education market’ – Schools were run like businesses – competing with each other for pupils and parents were given choice. This required league league tables
  • Schools should teach subjects that prepare pupils for work, Hence education should be aimed at supporting economic growth.  Hence: New Vocationalism!
  • The state was to provide a framework in order to ensure that schools were all teaching the same thing and transmitting the same shared values – hence the National Curriculum

Postmodernism

  • Not a major perspective on education.
  • Use to criticise the relevance of the previous three perspectives.
  • A ‘one size fits all’ education system does not fit with a post-modern society
  • Education needs to be more flexible and targeted to individuals.

Topic 2 – In-School Processes

Make sure you explain the difference between Interactionism and Structural Theories

School Ethos and The Hidden Curriculum

Teacher Stereotyping and the halo effect

  • The ideal pupil
  • Labelling and the Self Fulfilling Prophecy
  • Banding, streaming and setting
  • Definitions of banding/ streaming setting
  • Summaries of evidence on the effects of banding etc.
  • Unequal access to classroom knowledge
  • Educational triage

Student responses to the experience of schooling: school subcultures

  • Differentiation and Polarisation
  • Pro-School subcultures
  • Anti-school (or counter-school) subcultures
  • Between pro and anti-school subcultures: a range of responses

Gender and differential educational achievement 

There are three main types of question for gender and education – achievement, subject choice the trickier question of how gender identities affect experience of schooling and how school affects gender identities. 

Distinguishing between out of school and in-school factors in explaining these differences is one of the key analytical skills for this topic (and in class/ ethnicity)

Achievement (why do girls generally do better than boys)

  • In the 1980s boys used outperform girls
  • Today, girls do better than boys by about 8% points at GCSE.
  • There are about 30% more girls in University than boys.

Subject Choice (why do they choose different subjects)

  • Subject choice remains heavily ‘gendered’
  • Typical boys subjects = computing/ VOCATIONAL especially trades/ engineering
  • Typical girls subjects = dance, sociology, humanities, English, hair and beauty.

Experience of Schooling/ Gender Identity

  • Pupils’ gender identities may influence the way they experience school.
  • Schools may reinforce traditional (hegemonic) and femininity
  • Gender identity varies by social class and ethnicity.

Out of school factors and differential educational achievement

  • Changes in Employment – Rise of the service, decline in manufacturing sector, crisis of masculinity.
  • Changes in the family – dual earner households, more female worker role models. LINK TO FAMILY MODULE
  • Changing girls’ ambitions – from marriage and family to career and money (Sue Sharp)
  • Differential socialisation –girls socialised to be more passive/ toys related to different subjects (Becky Francis) LINK TO FUNCTIONALISM/ PARSONS.
  • Parental attitudes – traditional working class dads may expect boys to not try hard at school.
  • Impact of Feminism – equal opportunity policies.
  • Policy changes – introduction of coursework in 1988/ scaling back of coursework in 2015.

Gender and In-School Factors

  • Teacher Labelling – typical boys = disruptive, low expectation, typical girls = studious, high expectations (Jon Abraham) – LINK TO INTERACTIONISM, Self-Fulfilling Prophecy
  • Subcultures –boys more likely to form counter-school cultures (Willis) – LINKS to out of school.
  • Feminisation of teaching – increase in female teachers puts boys off
  • Subject counsellors advise boys to choose boys subjects
  • Gendered subject images match traditional gender domains
  • Boys’ domination of equipment puts girls off practical subjects like PE
  • Traditional masculine identities – boys just don’t see school as a ‘boy thing’ – Working class boys saw school as ‘queer’, middle class work hard but hide this (Mac An Ghail)
  • Hyper-Feminine identities (hair/ make up) clash with the school (Carolyn Jackson)
  • Verbal Abuse – boys who study hard get called ‘gay’ as a term of abuse.

Social class differences in educational achievement

Why do working class kids do worse than middle class kids? (Free School Meals to measure, not class!)

Material Deprivation

  • Lots of ways!
  • Hidden costs
  • The cycle of deprivation
  • Selection by mortgage

Cultural Deprivation – blame the working classes

  • Immediate/ deferred gratification
  • Restricted/ elaborated speech codes

Cultural Capital – Marxist – blame the middle classes

  • Skilled and Disconnected Choosers
  • In-School Processes
  • Labelling, the ideal pupil (Becker)
  • Counter School Culture (Willis)
  • Aspirational culture in school (links to cultural capital)

Ethnicity and differential educational achievement

Chinese/ Indian kids do best/ African-Caribbean, Gypsy Roma worst.

Material Factors

  • Differences in income/ class don’t explain the difference (poor Chinese kids compared poor white kids)

Cultural factors

  • Family structure (single parent households)
  • Parental attitudes (Steve Strand 2007)
  • Language differences (linguistic deprivation)
  • Black anti-school masculine street cultures (Tony Sewell)

In-School Processes

  • Teacher racism/ labelling (Gilborn)
  • Subcultures and anti-school attitudes (Tony Sewell)
  • Subcultures as a means of resisting racism (Mac An Ghail).
  • Banding and Streaming/ Educational Triage
  • Ethnocentric Curriculum
  • Experiences of institutional racism and from other pupils (Crozier)
  • Also – racism in admissions at Oxford University

Education Policies

Main policies 

  • 1944 – The Tripartite System
  • 1965 – Comprehensivisation
  • 1988 – New Right – Education Act – Marketisation
  • 1997 – New Labour – Academies, Expansion of HE, Sure Start, EMA.
  • 2010 – Coalition/ New Right – Forced Adacademisation, Free Schools, Funding Cuts, Pupil Premium, and MORE STATE GRAMMARS.
  • Compenstory Education – E.G. EMA.
  • Vocationalism – e.g, Apprenticeships.

Policies – key questions

  • To what extent have policies raised achievement?
  • To what extent have policies improved equality of opportunity?
  • How have policies changed the way schools select pupils and what are the consequences (apply the perspectives)
  • In what ways has education becoming more privatised and what are the consequences (apply the perspectives)?
  • What is the relationship between globalisation and education policy?

 

 

 

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Assess the claim that ‘ethnic difference in educational achievement are primarily the result of school factors’ (30)

An essay on ethnicity and education written for the A Level Sociology paper 1 exam, AQA focus. 

Assess the claim that ‘ethnic difference in educational achievement are primarily the result of school factors’ (30)

There are significant differences in educational achievement by ethnicity. Around 80% of Chinese children achieve 5 or more GCSE grades at A*- C compared to only 55% of Caribbean and about 15% of Gypsy Roma children. The national average is around 65%.

The idea that in-school processes are the main reason for these differences is associated with Interactionism which focuses on processes such as teacher labelling, Institutional racism and pupil subcultures. I will explore how these in-school factors affect pupils differently while evaluating using cultural deprivation and cultural capital theory.

Two classic studies in Sociology found that teacher labelling based on ethnic stereotypes did occur in British schools 25 years ago.

Cecile Wright (1992) Found that teachers perceived ethnic minority children differently from white children.  Asian children were seen as a problem that could be ignored, receiving the least attention and often being excluded from classroom discussion and rarely asked to answer questions. African Caribbean children were expected to behave badly, were seen as aggressive and disruptive, and were more likely to be disciplined for bad behaviour than children from other backgrounds.

David Gilborn (1990) found that teachers tended to see African-Caribbean children as a threat when no threat was intended and reacted accordingly with measures of control. Despite the fact that teachers rejected racism their ethnocentric perceptions meant that their actions were racist in consequence. African-Caribbean children experienced more conflict in relationships with pupils, were more subjected to the schools detention system.

The main problem with both of these studies are based on small scale samples and they are very dated, and they tell us nothing about whether ethnic stereotyping exists today. If anything, teacher bias is less likely given the greater emphasis put on multi-cultural education and the increased awareness of diversity.

Having said this, the rates of African-Caribbean pupils are still 3-4 times higher than the national average, which could be a result of the biases found by Wright and Gilborn, but given lack of recent research, we simply don’t know whether African-Caribbean children are objectively more deviant, or whether they are just perceived to be so by racist teachers.

A further problem with the above is that if teachers are just ignoring Asian pupils, and letting them get on with it, then they can’t really be having much of an impact on their education – and thus it must be home factors which explain why many Asian (Indian and Chinese) students today do better than the white majority.

A second reason for ethnic differences in achievement may be Institutional Racism which is where discrimination against minority groups is built into the organisation of the school – this can happen in various ways: through the ethnocentric curriculum, through banding and streaming and through the hiring of fewer minority teachers.

The ethnocentric curriculum is one which reflects the culture of one dominant group – for example the white majority culture in Britain. The curriculum can be described as Ethnocentric – for example students have to study British history from the European point of view, use out of date textbooks that racially stereotype and some subjects having a narrow, white British focus.

Banding and Streaming has been found to disadvantage both the working classes and some minority groups. Gilborn and Youdell (2007) point out that Black Caribbean children are overrepresented in the lower sets  and talk of how those in the lower sets get ‘written off’ because they have no hope of achieving A-Cs.

Crozier (2004) examined the experiences of racism among Pakistani and Bangladeshi pupils and found that the experience of racism from both the school system and other pupils led to a feeling of exclusion.  The researchers discovered that Pakistani and Bangladeshi pupils had experienced the following – anxieties about their safety; racist abuse was a lived experience of their schooling; careers advisors at school believed South Asian girls were bound by tradition and it was a waste of time advising them; Not being allowed off during Ramadan; feeling that assemblies were not relevant.

The problem with the idea of the ethnocentric curriculum is that it cannot explain why so many ethnic groups do better than white children. It may be the case the Pakistani and Bangladeshi children feel marginalised by it, but they have caught up with white children in recent years and so achieve well in spite of ethnocentricity in education.

Moreover, schools in recent years have made huge efforts to be more multicultural – with RE and PSHE lessons and event such as ‘black history month’ doing a lot to raise awareness of diversity, so this has changed significantly.

However, some recent statistics do suggest that institutional racism is rife – black applicants are half as likely to be accepted onto teacher training programmes compared to white applicants (around 20% compared to 40% success rate) – the end result of this was that in 2013, in the whole of the UK only three black people were accepted as trainee-history teachers. Professor Heidi Mirza, herself of African Caribbean origin, says there is evidence of discrimination within our education system today.

Another in-school factor is pupil subcultures – as with teacher racism a number of classic studies from 20 years ago have focused mainly on black subcultures:

Tony Sewell (1997) observed that Black Caribbean boys may experience considerable pressure by their peers to adopt the norms of an ‘urban’ or ‘street’ subculture. More importance is given to unruly behaviour with teachers and antagonistic behaviour with other students than to high achievement or effort to succeed, particularly at secondary school. Fordham and Ogbu (1986) further argue that notions of ‘acting White’ or ‘acting Black’ become identified in opposition to one another. Hence because acting White includes doing well at school, acting Black necessarily implies not doing well in school.

Mac an Ghail (1998) looked at three subcultures – the Asian Warriors, the African- Caribbean Rasta Heads and the Black Sisters. He used mainly participant observation both in the school and through befriending the students and socializing with them outside of the school. What he found was that the African Caribbean community experienced the world in very different ways to white people – namely because of institutional racism in the college and he argued that any anti-school attitudes were reactions against this racism.

As with the research on teacher labelling, the research on the relationship between pupil subcultures and educational achievement is somewhat thin today. If anything, today subcultures are probably less important, as there seems to be less resistance to the school today than in previous years.

Most sociologists seem to agree that home background is more important than in-school factors in explaining differences in achievement by ethnicity: As with class and gender, schools only account for s10% of the differences in achievement (according to a recent Analysis podcast), home-factors are much more important. Pupils only spend a minority of their time in-school after all!

Tony Sewell, for example, focuses on the higher rates of single parent households and the influence of gangsta culture on young black boys, which is far more significant than anything which goes on in-school.

Also, where the excellent achievement on Chinese children is concerned, it seems to be the ‘tiger parenting’ style which advantages these pupils compared to others.

Most of the research on in-school factors focuses on African-Caribbean underachievement, which is a narrow focus, there are other differences too – Gypsy Roma for example, and given that the main reason for their underachievement is the low attendance rate, again school is not a significant factor here.

However, in-school factors may play a role in explaining the biggest problem with underachievement today – that of white working class children, who themselves feel excluded from the culture of the school because they feel school does not reflect their culture, but this is more of a matter of social class (and gender) rather than ethnicity.

In conclusion, I would say that in-school factors explain very little of the differences in achievement by ethnicity, most of the difference is accounted for by home factors and schools cannot be expected and should not be expected to close the gap, moreover, I believe that focusing on issues of race within education are a red-herring, the issue of class and differential achievement is far more important, irrespective of ethnic background, and here, as with ethnicity, much of the differences in achievement are down to differences in home background, not differential achievement within schools.

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Using material from item A, analyse two reasons why Gross National Product may not be sufficient to measure a country’s level of development (10)

Applying material from the item analyse (ten mark) questions appear with an item as the second question on section B of the AQA A Level Sociology topics paper.

Before looking at this question, you might like to review the main post on this topic: economic indicators of development.

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…

Item A

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.

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Outline and explain two reasons why Positivists generally prefer to use quantitative methods (10)

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!

Related Posts 

If you like this sort of thing, then you might like to purchase more of the same…

Theory and Methods A Level Sociology Revision Bundle 

If you like this sort of thing, then you might like my Theory and Methods Revision Bundle – specifically designed to get students through the theory and methods sections of  A level sociology papers 1 and 3.

Contents include:

  • 74 pages of revision notes
  • 15 mind maps on various topics within theory and methods
  • Five theory and methods essays
  • ‘How to write methods in context essays’.
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Using material from item A, analyse two ways in which globalisation may have changed pupils’ experience of education(10)

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) 

  • Hooks
  • What you need to apply the hooks to

Item A

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.

Suggested Answer

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.

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A Level Sociology – Outline Questions (4 and 6 Marks, Education Paper 1)

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.

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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.

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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. 

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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’.
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Sociology Concepts: Education

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.

sociology concepts education (1)

Initially I include only the ‘most important’ sociology words. More to follow later, as with all tings in life, this is work in progress.

A-C Economy    

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.

Achieved status

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.

Ascribed status

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.

Banding/ Streaming

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.

Canalisation

Where choices of subjects become gradually more limited as children progress through school.

Compensatory Education

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.

Comprehensive School

One type of school for all students. Non-selective schools where all students have an equal opportunity within the same school.

Comprehensivisation

The establishment of comprehensive schools in the 1960s which replaced the selective tripartite system.

Correspondence principle

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.

Cultural capital

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.

Cultural deprivation

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.

Deferred Gratification

Where one delays immediate reward and instead works hard now in order to receive a greater reward in the future.

Deterministic

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.

Disconnected Choosers

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.

Educational triage 

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 Curriculum

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.

Ethos

The culture of a school – including its expected norms of behaviour, core values and especially the aspirations for its students.

Exclusions

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.

Faith school

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.

Fatalism

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.

Free Schools

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.

Gender domains

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.

Globalisation

The increasing interconnectedness of people and societies across the world.

Grammar School

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.

Hidden Curriculum

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.

Ideal Pupil

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.

Immediate Gratification   

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.

Institutional Racism

Discrimination which is built into the everyday workings of institutions such as schools.

Labelling*

‘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’

League Tables

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.

Marketization

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.

Material deprivation

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.

Meritocracy

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’.

Multicultural education

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).

National Curriculum

Set subjects (and the content within those subjects) laid down by the government that all state funded schools must teach.

OFSTED

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.

Parentocracy

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.

Particularistic values    

The specific standards by which parents judge their children.

Passive subservience

Accepting authority and doing what you are told without questioning it.

Patriarchal Ideology

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.

Patriarchy

A system of male domination, or one in which men have advantage over women.

Polarization

Moving further apart. In education, marketisation is said to have caused this: the best schools improved and the worst schools got worse.

Postmodernisation

The changes associated with the move to a postmodern society, including globalization, more consumerism, more individual choice and diversity.

Privatisation (exogenous)  

Where schools, or school services, are taken over by private businesses such as academy chains, rather than being run directly by the state.

Privatisation (endogenous)  

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.

Role allocation

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.

Self-fulfilling prophecy

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.  

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Outline and explain two reasons why trade does not always promote development (10)

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’.

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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.

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Hints for A Level Sociology Paper 3 (Crime and Deviance)

A few hints for how I recommend answering the Crime and Deviance section of AQA’s paper 3 (which also contains theory and methods, more of that later). NB – What’s below isn’t endorsed by the AQA, but it’s my best interpretation based on what I’ve been told works.

Questions 1 and 2 (4 and 6 mark short answer questions) –‘Outline two ways/ Outline three reasons’

  • Point (1 mark) + Explanation (1 mark)
  • Do this (two times over for question 1, three times over for question 2)
  • Bullet point each point and explanation.

Question 3 – The Outline and Analyse Question (10 marks) – ‘Using material from Item A, outline and Analyse two ways in which…’

  • Read the item – this will give you your two ways (it will effectively limit you to two points)
  • For each of the two points, make two further analytical points to develop that point, and ideally evaluate it.
  • Do this twice.

Question 4 – The essay question (30 marks) Applying material from Item B evaluate something

  • Read the question – if it asks you to do two things, make sure you do both
  • Read the item – at least two of your points should stem from the item
  • Make 3-6 total points depending on the essay – deeper or broader
  • Use the Point –Explain – Expand (analyse) – Evaluate structure
  • If it’s a perspectives essay, evaluate using other perspectives towards the end of the essay as you build up to your conclusion.