Functionalists have argued that educational systems in modern industrial societies are meritocratic. Provision of equal opportunity towards education in different group helps to realize potentials and invoke the ability to be upwardly mobile, thus changing the structure of social inequality. However, the Marxists approaches have argued that the idea of a meritocratic educational system is a myth and has in fact reproduced social inequality. Educational attainment thus, to a large extent depends on ascribed status.
Middle class pupils were more likely to achieve success in schools as they were labeled “good-ideal” students. Furthermore, Marxists criticized the educational system for failing to observe the lower class for being materially deprived. The British education system is an example of a less meritocratic education system proving that there is no equal opportunity as the system only enables those who were able to afford university to attend university, including those whom were most talented.
Consequently, Bowles and Gintis pointed out that competitive educational systems of capitalist societies were not designed to give everybody an equal chance. They were however, designed to ensure that majority failed and become members of the proletariat. Davis and Moore’s theory of ‘sifting’ and ‘sorting’ students according to talent and ability is thus criticized as this method only enabled the pupils who were most talented to fill the most important roles in the economic system.
Although both the Functionalist and Marxist have different view on education system both have called upon empirical evidence to support their arguments. Saunders have supported the arguments made by functionalist whereby he found evidence in which children were tested at the age of 11 whether or not they would succeed in their adult life. On the other hand, Hasley, Heath and Ridge’s study of 8. 529 boys born from different social class concluded that social class backgrounds determined the achievements of the pupils as sons of the service class had more chances of attending higher education that than of a manual worker’s son.
On the other hand, feminists have suggested that the educational systems have become meritocratic with various changes- many women are now succeeding compared to the pre modern society results and over the years, attainment rates have improved significantly. Spender and Stanworth highlighted the fact that girls were given more attention from teachers that helped them to have better organizational and presentational skills. In supporting that omen are now finding the education system meritocratic is that they are given equal opportunities in the growing industries whereby, Sue Sharpe indicated that teenage girls had become far more ambitious and prioritized jobs and careers thus being able to support themselves. In conclusion, the Functionalists and the feminists have completely agreed to the idea that educational systems are meritocratic whereas the Marxist rejects the idea. Therefore it is difficult to generalized whether educational systems are entirely meritocratic for different societies have different systems.