Just Sociology

“Exploring Sociological Theories: Education System Through Different Lenses”

Marxism is a political and socio-economic theory that emphasizes the struggle between capitalist and working-class interests. It is grounded in the idea that a capitalist society is inherently unfair and exploitative, and that the working classes are the only ones capable of truly understanding and changing the system.

In the following article, we will explore two subtopics related to Marxism. The first subtopic discusses how the education system benefits the middle classes.

The second subtopic will be an analysis of the power of popular protest and how it led to the algorithm being overturned.

Education system benefits middle classes

Marxism argues that the education system is designed to benefit the middle classes at the expense of the working classes. Privately schooled kids and children from higher socio-economic backgrounds are seen as having unfair advantages that allow them to advance further in life.

Their ability to obtain better academic resources, career prospects, and upward social mobility means they are more likely to succeed and be financially stable. This disparity affects the working classes most, as they often lack the financial means to pay for private education, perpetuating social and economic inequality.

The algorithm benefitted higher class backgrounds

The algorithm is a commonly used tool that helps universities in the selection process. It has been found to benefit people from higher-class backgrounds, much like the education system.

The algorithm measures achievement in areas such as exams and academic performance, but it fails to account for other important factors such as socio-economic status and personal circumstances. It disadvantages many working-class students, who are often not given the same educational opportunities that middle-class students have.

Therefore, selecting students based on academic performance alone reinforces socio-economic inequality, as it benefits those from wealthier backgrounds.

Students protested

The power of popular protest is a central concept in Marxist thought. Throughout history, many marginalized groups have used collective protest to effect social change.

A more recent example includes student protests against the algorithm adopted by UK universities, which saw many students being downgraded in their exam results due to the algorithm’s calculation. Students were angry and mobilized through social media platforms to protest the algorithm, claiming its use made the admissions process unfair and biased, particularly towards students from working-class backgrounds.

Popular protest led to the algorithm being overturned

The power of these protests was enough to cause many UK universities to re-examine the algorithm and the impact it was having on students from working-class backgrounds. It was apparent that the algorithm was reinforcing socio-economic inequality rather than removing it.

As a result, the UK government decided to make a U-turn on the algorithm, reflecting the power of popular protest, particularly on social media platforms. This example illustrates how, in modern society, protest and activism can have a profound effect on changing the established institutions and structures of power, particularly when people mobilize together for a common cause.

Conclusion:

In conclusion, the two subtopics discussed in this article clearly illustrate the power of Marxism in understanding issues of social and economic inequality. Through the analysis of the education system and the algorithm, we can see that socio-economic disparity perpetuates inequality in education and is rarely addressed by current systems of measurement.

The rise of popular protest and activism demonstrates that ordinary people can create change through collective action in order to challenge the existing power structures. Marxism, therefore, remains a key lens through which we can view the world and the mechanisms of power, revealing the ways in which social and economic inequality persists.

Expansion:

Labelling Theory

Labelling theory is a sociological concept that posits that society creates labels for individuals, which in turn affects their behaviour and self-image. These labels can be positive, negative, or neutral, and they can have serious implications, particularly in the context of education.

In this section, we will discuss two subtopics related to labelling theory: how teachers exaggerated predicted grades and how results are based on labels.

Teachers exaggerated predicted grades

Labelling theory argues that the labels assigned to individuals are not always accurate, and they can have pervasive impacts on an individual’s self-image and behaviour. This is particularly relevant in the education system, where the predictions made by teachers can have serious lifelong consequences for students.

One example of labelling theory in action in the education system is the tendency of teachers to exaggerate predicted grades of students. This may occur when a teacher sees a student excel in a particular subject or assignment, and as a result, they label that student as ‘gifted’ or ‘exceptional’.

Teachers often do this with the intention of boosting a students self-esteem, motivating them to continue to strive for excellence. However, a potential unintended consequence of this positive labelling is that the student might be likely to adopt an over-confident attitude towards their academic or other pursuits.

This may result, in the long term, to unrealistic expectations and disappointment when they are unable to meet those expectations.

Results based on labels

Labelling theory also suggests that labels affect the ways individuals are treated, and results can be based on the labels assigned to them. In the context of education, labelling theory can influence the grading and achievement of students.

When teachers assign predicted grades to students, they may base their evaluations on factors such as academic performance, work ethic, and classroom behavior. Yet, these predictions must also account for factors outside a student’s control, such as socio-economic background or personal circumstances.

However, sometimes academic achievement may be restricted due to implicit biases or cultural expectations about student behaviour or exams. Sometimes, teachers might even refer to someone as ‘lazy’, ‘disruptive’ or ‘unmotivated’ if they dont feel that the student is meeting their expectations.

This type of negative labelling can lead to a self-fulfilling prophecy, where a student starts to internalize the label assigned to them and begins to underperform. By contrast, if a student is positively labeled as ‘talented’ or ‘gifted’, they might feel increased pressure to perform, meet the label assigned to them, and validate the teacher’s perceptions.

This process of labelling and its subsequent effects can have a lasting impact on a student’s academic and personal development.

Functionalism

Functionalism is a sociological theory that suggests that all aspects of society serve a specific and necessary function. It is assumed that there is equilibrium between the different parts of society, which contributes to its stability.

In the context of education, this theory posits that schools are designed to prepare students for their future roles in society. In this section, we will discuss how the exam system coped with a crisis, and the resulting ‘new normal’ caused by the flaws in the system.

System coped well with a crisis

In 2020, the UK exam system was faced with an unprecedented crisis caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. With students unable to attend school and complete their exams in the traditional way, the government initiated algorithmic predictions to calculate grading.

The exam system was under extreme pressure, and there were significant fears about the reliability of the algorithm. However, despite these concerns, it did manage to provide a measurable and structured way of calculating grades that, in most cases, provided fair and reliable results.

The functionalist perspective highlights the exam system as a powerful tool that ensured a system of selection for higher education and career prospects, which supports wider roles in society, such as the economy, and social stratification. No major change resulted in a “new normal”

While the functionalist perspective highlights the usefulness of the exam system, the pandemic has exposed some of the system’s weaknesses.

Due to these flaws, many students felt unfairly treated, and many colleges and universities had to withdraw offers based on predicted results. It led to an ongoing debate about how the education system should change to avoid similar crises in the future.

However, the power structures and dynamics in place in the education system mean that significant changes are unlikely to happen, and instead, the pandemic-induced changes are becoming the new normal. The functionalist perspective may view this as a necessary adaptation to a changing society, but it also suggests that the education system is locked into the current power dynamics and may be resistant to change.

Conclusion:

In conclusion, labelling theory and functionalism are two important sociological concepts that reveal the complexities of the education system. Labelling theory demonstrates how the labels assigned to students by teachers and others have a significant impact on how they are perceived and treated.

Meanwhile, functionalism emphasizes the role of the education system in preparing students for their future roles in society. Nevertheless, the pandemic has exposed the flaws in the education system and raised essential questions about how it needs to evolve in the years to come.

These concepts complicate our understanding of education and suggest that the system is a complex one, susceptible to various societal factors that interplay with internal structures and dynamics. Expansion:

Postmodernism and Late Modernism

Postmodernism and late modernism are two theoretical concepts that provide insights into the current state of uncertainty and change in society. Postmodernism recognizes the fragmentation, diversity, and pluralism of contemporary society, while late modernism emphasizes the challenges we face in managing our lives amidst rapid technological and social changes.

In this section, we will discuss three subtopics related to these theoretical concepts: government uncertainty and chaos, people resisting being ruled by an algorithm, and the high level of uncertainty and worry in contemporary society.

Government uncertainty and chaos

Postmodernism suggests that contemporary society is characterized by uncertainty and ambiguity, particularly in relation to the role of the government in shaping society. The government is no longer viewed as an entity with clear-cut objectives; rather, it is a complex web of institutions, systems, and relationships with blurred boundaries.

The government is struggling to deliver effective policy solutions amidst the complex and varied social structures that make up contemporary society. A postmodern perspective argues that in contemporary society, the government lacks legitimacy, operates without absolute control and is impeded by factors outside of its control such as social media, globalization, and information technology.

People resisted being ruled by an algorithm

Actuarialism is a concept derived from postmodernism that refers to a system of social control that uses statistics and mathematical calculations to determine the probability of future events. In the context of education, actuarialism is seen in the use of algorithms to establish predicted grades and admissions to higher education institutions.

This can be problematic because algorithms are often based on data sets that don’t consider other factors like socio-economic background or personal circumstances. As a result, these algorithms can perpetuate social and economic inequality by advantaging those coming from wealthier backgrounds.

In response, many students turned to social media and collective action to protest the use of algorithms, particularly when it comes to admissions to university. This resistance highlights an emerging trend of postmodernism to question the efficacy and fairness of rigid hierarchical structures that dictate our social lives.

High level of uncertainty and worry

Late modernism emphasizes our challenges in coping with the rapid social and technological changes that are taking place in contemporary society. The pace of change is almost at an unprecedented level, and people are struggling to make sense of what is happening.

This level of uncertainty can lead to anxiety and worry in society, particularly in areas like education where expectations for academic achievement are high. Under these circumstances, individuals struggle to determine what is expected of them, to develop individual aspirations and long-term goals.

Often, this leads to feelings of disorientation and anxiety, as modern society prioritizes individualism over collectivism. Conclusion:

In conclusion, postmodernism and late modernism are two theoretical concepts that provide insights into the education system and contemporary society more broadly.

Postmodernism highlights the uncertainty and complexity of society in the information age, emphasizing that the government struggles to operate within this context effectively. Actuarialism reinforces the power structures that perpetuate socio-economic inequalities in the education system, which has been resisted by collective action, particularly by those from less privileged backgrounds.

Late modernism emphasizes the stress and anxiety that people feel as they contend with this rapid change, emphasising that the education system is only one area where this uncertainty is most acutely felt. These concepts provide a lens through which we can view contemporary society and understand the challenges that we face.

In summary, this article has explored various theoretical concepts relevant to the education system, including Marxism, labelling theory, functionalism, postmodernism, and late modernism. From these perspectives, we can see that the education system is a complex entity, not only closely tied to the wider societal context but also influenced by social and economic forces.

The flaws identified in the system and the unrest in contemporary society should be interpreted not as a failure of the system but as a limit to our current structures and beliefs about education. We can use these theoretical perspectives to better understand and navigate the ever-changing landscape of education and ensure a more equitable and just education system for all.

FAQs:

Q: How does Marxism view the education system?

A: Marxism argues that the education system is designed to benefit the middle classes at the expense of the working classes.

Q: Why is labelling theory important in the education system? A: Labelling theory highlights the importance of teachers’ assessments of students, which have a significant impact on how students are perceived and treated in the education system.

Q: How does postmodernism view the government and its role in shaping society? A: Postmodernism suggests that the government is struggling to deliver effective policy solutions amidst the complex and varied social structures that make up contemporary society.

Q: Why is functionalism relevant in the education system?

A:

Functionalism emphasizes the role of the education system in preparing students for their future roles in society.

Q: What are some of the challenges of late modernism in the education system?

A: Late modernism emphasizes our challenges in coping with the rapid social and technological changes that are taking place in contemporary society, which can lead to anxiety and worry in society, particularly in areas like education where expectations for academic achievement are high.

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