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Education Theory and Policy

2. Conflict Theories of Education

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In this module, we think about conflict theories, which emphasise inequality in educational opportunities and see the education system as sustaining the dominance of some groups over others. We focus on three sets of conflict theories: (i) Marxism, which sees the education system as an instrument of capitalism which maintains class inequality by privileging wealthier students; (ii) Feminism, which argues that practices within schools advantage boys and promote patriarchal values; (iii) Critical Race Theory, which focuses on the role of labelling in schools, arguing that this systematically disadvantages some ethnic groups and amounts to institutional racism.


In this course, Dr Matthew Cole (University of Birmingham) introduces some key aspects of education theory and policy. In the first module, 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. The second module considers three sets of conflict theories of education – Marxism, Feminism, and Critical Race Theory. In the third module, we look at the historical development of education policy in Britain from 1800 to 1979 across four key phases. The final module continues this story from 1979 to the present, focusing particularly on marketisation as the key orientation of education policy in this period.


Matthew Cole is Teaching Fellow in the Department of History at the University of Birmingham. He is a historian of modern Britain with a particular interest in twentieth century constitutional and party politics, and local history.

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APA style

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

MLA style

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

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