Skip to main content

Unit information: Education and Society in 2014/15

Please note: you are viewing unit and programme information for a past academic year. Please see the current academic year for up to date information.

Unit name Education and Society
Unit code SPOL30028
Credit points 20
Level of study H/6
Teaching block(s) Teaching Block 2 (weeks 13 - 24)
Unit director Professor. Bridge
Open unit status Open




School/department School for Policy Studies
Faculty Faculty of Social Sciences and Law


The aim of this unit is to give students a critical appreciation of the role of education in society and the social impacts of different education systems and policies.

The unit will explore these issues at three levels: - i) theoretical perspectives; ii) mechanisms of delivery and iii) social outcomes. (i) The unit explores different theoretical perspectives on the role and impacts of education in society (from liberal to neo-Marxist). It compares different theoretical ideas of the purposes of education (such as individual liberation, critical consciousness, reproduction of social order, production of a skilled workforce) and how education systems are representative of different historical/ cultural and geographical philosophies. The purpose is to challenge students’ understandings of policy drivers and decisions in respect to education. (ii) The unit then considers the institutional mechanisms for the delivery of education (with a focus on schooling and transitions to post-compulsory education) and takes a comparative approach to education and assessment. This includes issues of centralisation/decentralisation; state and market relationships; and institutional design in the delivery of education. There will be the analysis of different education policy regimes both within the UK and drawing on international comparisons and contrasts. (iii) The third part of the unit considers the outcomes/impacts of education policy on society. The connections between education and social mobility, social exclusion and inclusion will be explored. The relationships between education and other key social institutions, social policy issues (family, faith based institutions; gender/ethnicity/class) will be analysed. The ‘place’ of education in social welfare and social policy concludes the unit.

Intended learning outcomes

On successful completion of this unit, the student will be able to demonstrate:

• an appreciation of the philosophical ideas that inform what we mean by education

• a theoretical and empirical understanding of the inter-relationships between education systems and societies.

• a detailed knowledge of the English education system both comparatively and in an historical context

• an appreciations of the mechanisms of delivery of education and their social outcomes

• an understanding of education in relation to other aspects of social policy

Teaching details

Lectures and seminars

Assessment Details

Formative assessment: (max) 2000 word essay chosen from a list of titles reflecting the learning outcomes and content of the unit. This may be written under exam ‘practice’ conditions.

Summative assessment: three hour unseen exam, requiring three essays chosen from a list of titles reflecting the learning outcomes and content of the unit.

All assessments will be assessed against the published marking criteria for Level 6 (programme handbook).

Reading and References

Ball, S., Maguire, M. Braun, A. (2012) How Schools do Policy. London, Routledge

Boudon R (1974) Education, Opportunity and Social Inequality New York: Wiley

Bourdieu, P & Passeron J-C (1977) Reproduction in Education, Society and Culture London: Sage

Dewey J (1915) The School and Society Chicago: University of Chicago Press

Goldthorpe J H (1996) Class analysis and a reorientation of class theory: the case of persisting differentials in educational attainment British Journal of Sociology, 47, 3, 481-504

Reay D, Crozier G and James D (2011) White middle class identities and urban schooling London: Palgrave

Ravitch D (2010) The Death and Life of the American School System: How testing and choice are undermining education New York: Basic Books