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Sociology   >   Education Theory and Policy

Consensus Theories of Education

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Education Theory and Policy

In this course, Dr Matthew Cole (University of Birmingham) introduces some key aspects of education theory and policy. In the first lecture, we explore consensus theories, most notably Talcott Parson’s views on schooling as the means by which children are prepared for a meritocratic society, and the ideas of the New Right. In the second lecture, we consider three sets of conflict theories of education – Marxism, Feminism, and Critical Race Theory. Next, we look at the historical development of education policy in Britain from 1800 to 1979 across four key phases. In the fourth and final lecture, we continue this story from 1979 to the present, focusing particularly on marketisation as the key orientation of education policy in this period.

Consensus Theories of Education

In this lecture, we think about consensus theories of education, focusing in particular on: (i) Functionalist approaches to education, such as Talcott Parsons’ ideas regarding the role of schooling in preparing children for a meritocratic, competitive society; (ii) Kingsley Davis and Wilbur Moore’s arguments around the function of education in allocating people into appropriate roles and the benefits of this to society; (iii) the critique that the education system is not meritocratic, and the New Right response that differential educational outcomes are due to differences in culture, ability and effort between individual students, not the system itself.

Cite this Lecture

APA style

Cole, M. (2022, January 11). Education Theory and Policy - Consensus Theories of Education [Video]. MASSOLIT.

MLA style

Cole, M. "Education Theory and Policy – Consensus Theories of Education." MASSOLIT, uploaded by MASSOLIT, 11 Jan 2022,

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Dr Matthew Cole

Dr Matthew Cole

Birmingham University