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Education Theory and Policy

1. Consensus Theories of Education

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In this module, we think about consensus theories of education, focusing 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.


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 - Consensus Theories of Education [Video]. MASSOLIT.

MLA style

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

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