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Is society fair and equal? If we compare Britain to other countries, many would say that it is a fair and equal society due to the reason that we have the right to vote and most importantly, because of compulsory education. Therefore resulting in people believing that Britain is a meritocracy because education is made compulsory on everyone and the government provides for this. However, many may argue with this claim because of the class divided society we have in Britain. With this said, Britain has however come a long way in resolving some of the society injustice i.e. women rights and civil relationships. ( Giddens & Griffiths p332-333)
After World War II, education went from elite education to mass education. Many were against the 'mass' education; churches were afraid of what was going to be taught in schools in terms of evolution which goes against the believing in God, which is oddly still going on today. At the time, there were many revolutions going on around the world and therefore Britain were scared and wanted to educate their citizens in order not to rebel (Young, 1998, p169). In terms of power and control, there was a massive class issue back then, and most upper class was against the fact that the lower classes are being educated. (Pollard & Anderson, 2008, p83)
The national curriculum was introduced by the Conservative government during the reign of Margret Thatcher as part of the Education Reform Act 198; resulting in a big change for Britain. The curriculum was introduced into primary and secondary schools with the aim of providing the same knowledge and skills to children. It consists of what subjects an individual is supposed to learn, aims and values and guidelines and standards on what level one is meant to be on in each subject (Salisbury & Riddell, 2000). Various countries have a sort of national curriculum that they ought to neither follow however in UK the National Curriculum does not apply to home school children nor private and independent schools. The curriculum is prearranged into key stages and goes according to one's age; at the end of each key stage an individual is assessed on how well they are progressing. ( Bartlett and Burton, 2007 )
Prior the national curriculum, educationalists had complete control over what was taught and how they taught students because there was no legal obligation. Not much attention was paid to the way schools were taught until the late 1970's. 'The secret garden' was the name given to the curriculum back then by Lord Eccles, which meant that the government should not intervene (Pollard, 2005). As time went on, technology started advancing, businesses and industries needed skilful workers which resulted in the government intruding the 'secret garden' mainly because of the concern in the economy. The Education Act 1988 tried to resolve several issues that were going on; one being that learners coming out of education had no skills or academic knowledge. Therefore this act was going to improve this issue by making sure that learners leaving education are capable and equipped with technical and academic skills that employers look for (Salisbury & Riddell, 2000).
As a result, education differed in terms of quality according to superiority of one's social class. InÂ effect, education became a sorting agency of a class divided society in which those from a skilled work or any other lower class received a different education from those who of professional and managerial jobs with the positions of power. Again, a correlation can be seen between this and the Marxist view point of social stratification. It is said society is stratified into different social classes. This can also be seen in schools, as society gives more significance to some subjects, such as; English, maths and science as opposed to others, such as: art, drama and sociology. Prioritising certain subjects due to the link of the world is an example of capitalist stratification. (Livesey & Lawson [no date]).
There are several controversies regarding the curriculum. Firstly, many would say that the national curriculum supports the upper class and does not really take into account the working class by instructing the teachers to teach Standard English. This again emphasises the ideology of education that prepares students for the 'world of work'. Vuilliamy (1978) debates that there is a 'culture clash' subjects like music which enhances the idea by teaching classical European composers, and discouraging R 'n' B, country and blues. This reinforces the concept of the Marxist opinion about the government and superior citizens having complete control. This doesn't allow students to choose what they want to learn nor does it give teachers a choice of what they want to teach. (Barton, 2006)
Alongside the national curriculum lies the hidden curriculum; this is what teaches individuals about the social world without it being taught in formal subjects. This is unwritten in the curriculum but still takes place in schools; the individuals learn social norms such as competition, sharing, individual learning and achievement, expectations of behaviour and social rules. One may also say that education is a tool to keep us obedient for when we grow up. In school, one is told to not to argue back with the teacher otherwise you'll just get yourself into trouble. So in the world of work, you have to do what you're told and not to disrespect those in higher positions, so this will benefit the ruling class. Motivation, another key aspect in the hidden curriculum; in school when one is performing really well they know they will get higher rewards and better grades, so when they leave they will get a better paid job. This can be associated with the functionalists point of view regarding education; the belief in education being there to help one find their role in society, again, it is the whole idea of preparation for the work place. They believe that there should not be an equal society and that it is quite right that society is unequal because those who have worked the hardest will have achieved the best jobs; and that schools are there to allocate people in their right place. (Neary, 2002, p33-57)
Many will argue that politics should not have this much control over what goes in the curriculum and educationists have more of a right to decide than them. All individuals are different and all require different needs when it comes to school. Teachers are the ones that provide adequate help to individuals in order to achieve their needs and goals, a politician does not do this and has no idea about the needs of a learner (Gillard, 2010) . 'Curriculum research and development ought to belong to the teacher' (Stenhouse 1975:142).
Knowledge is power, and therefore it can control society; which is another way of controlling people. There is a big power struggle in the education field, whereby lawmakers, governors and educationalists brawl over what is best for schools. It seems that politicians have the biggest power control over education, because whatever they say goes. Gramsci (1971) called this Hegemony which is when people obey authority; if one has enough knowledge and power people assume they know what they're talking about; again it is the whole idea of power resistance. Strinati (1995) says : "Dominant groups in societyâ€¦maintain their dominance by securing the spontaneous consent' of subordinate groups". This means that if individuals believe that there is meritocracy in education, then they will have the belief that if they fail then it is their own fault not the system which is created to ensure they fail. (Livesey & Lawson [no date])
Politicians claim that by enforcing new laws and regulations in the education faculty, they are trying to improve and enhance children's wellbeing. Whether or not they realise this, they are arguably bringing havoc into the system, mostly because they know nothing about education and basically enforce laws based on their own personal experiences. Ever since the national curriculum has been introduced, it is forever going through constant change with the intention of trying to make the education of children better. The current secretary of education Michael Gove states that we have been dropping in the international league tables and our national curriculum is incompetent. (http://www.guardian.co.uk/teacher-network/2012/sep/08/secret-teacher-political-control-education-innovation-fatigue) He seems to disapprove of the whole idea that all learners should have an equal and fair chance to succeed. Those who have studied and will study during the rule of Michael Gove, will have their education only with the purpose to serve the needs of society's economy. It seems that education is now turning into a business simply because Gove is not interested in fixing the system although in his point of view the system does not work. He is merely focused on serving the economy, the political elite and enhancing industries and businesses. (Hitchens, 2010, pXXX)
The Greek philosopher Aristole was one of the most significant figures in western philosophy. He categorised knowledge in three different types, Episteme (scientific knowledge), Techne (Productive) and Phronesis (Practical). These types of knowledge can also link to the foundations of contemporary models of curriculum design. Episteme can be linked with the liberal tradition whereby it is all syllabus orientated and believes to promote a full variety of knowledge. It is theoretical, so this is something logical and deductive like science and mathematics, this type of knowledge can be gained from books. However, some extensive learning might become pointless and it does not enable learners with skills required by workforce. Instrumental tradition can be linked to techne, whereby it focuses on outcome orientated i.e. exams. This tradition basically focuses on the whole idea of education being about preparation for life and provides the skills needed for serving the needs of economy. Nonetheless, this tradition marginalises some knowledge one may already possess and it is reductionist. In addition, this tradition does not enable learners to become autonomous because it lacks dependence. Lastly, the Phronesis can be linked to the critical tradition whereby it is process orientated. This idea looks at how content is critically analysed and evaluated, it promotes learners to fully examine the content they learn. The critical tradition believes that it promotes a fairer and equal world. As with anything, there are criticisms with this tradition, a teacher's personal view may potentially indoctrinate some of their pupils. Therefore some of the strengths of this tradition end up being some of the weaknesses. In today's schools; as one starts nursery, it starts off with the critical tradition because they are more hands on in the class (investigating) but as they progress further it turns into the instrumental tradition because they are merely focused on exams. Many teachers argue that there is no room for creativity in classrooms anymore. (http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/episteme-techne/)
The main reasons that the curriculum was introduced was because they needed to serve the needs of economy, it was mostly based on the ideas of previous left wing government and it was lacking to ensure standards in education. Thus, the curriculum has had both a negative and positive impact in our society.
Looking at the national curriculum in a positive aspect, one can argue that it has eliminated the specific gender subject choice. Prior the curriculum, boys would tend to choose the more scientific and mathematical subjects, which were supposed to be 'manly' and girls would choose other subjects like design and languages. The curriculum has made science, mathematics compulsory and modern foreign language therefore there everyone is seen as equal. (Salisbury & Riddell, 2000).
The national curriculum however has resulted in a lot of negative consequences; it has produced numerous problems on teachers putting them under pressure and giving them a lot of work to teach. Teachers also worry about those who are slow learners due to the pressure of rushing through curriculum and finding it difficult to properly grasp information. Many have argued that the curriculum is Eurocentric, due to the fact that subjects do not focus on cultural diversity but merely on things regarding Britain. Learners have not been able to understand subjects properly due to more subjects being added and less time allocated to teach the subjects; which again puts more pressure on the teachers and learners. Although with constant change to the curriculum, one would think that the system would have been improved when really it is just getting worse. It is clear to see that those of power and influence in society are the ones who are controlling education; all they are doing is stratifying society and keeping those in power at the top whilst the lower class are kept at the bottom. (Galton & MacBeath, 2008)