Assess the usefulness of sociological explanations for patterns of educational achievement.

Essay by SMacCollege, Undergraduate November 2003

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It will be necessary in the course of this essay to view the different theoretical perspectives, and their explanations of varying levels of attainment across different sections of society.

Schooling is the means by which we are formally educated and falls under the wider process of socialisation, or how we learn to acquire the ideas and values of the society that we live in.

"Education is... the means by which society prepares , within the children, the essential conditions of it's very existence..."

(Durkheim, E.; "Education & Sociology"; 1968; p. 71)

The functionalist perspective dominated the sociology of education in the early post-war decades, and saw the differentiation of pupils within the education system as necessary, to develop the wide range of skills required for different occupations, within industrial societies.

According to this perspective, the education system provides the economy and employers with appropriate or suyitable candidates for specific tasks, through it's selection process ie.

testing, examinations.

It also proposes that through a standardised curriculum, schooling contributes to social cohesion, by transmitting the central values of society and common cultural heritage.

The Education Reform Act 1944 had originally intended to offer "compulsary education for all", in place of the "class- based" education system that had existed prior to that. However Government research such as the "Early Leaving Report" (Department of Education; 1954) highlighted many pupils leaving school with little or no formal qualifications. This gave rise to the feeling that there was a great "wastage of talent", as many late developers were slipping through the sytem.

The main concern was with the 11+ test, which determined the type off school pupils would attend; better able pupils received grammer school places, while others went to either technical or secondary modern schools.

The process was supposed to select the most able pupils,