Has Free Access to Education Created a Meritocratic Society?

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This essay will attempt to determine whether access to free education for everyone in the United Kingdom has led to the creation of a meritocratic society. A meritocracy is a social system whereby success depends solely on the skills and efforts of a person rather than their social status or gender. It is an ‘extension of a general system of rewarding merit’. (Sen: 2000: 8). Any person, no matter who they are or where they are from can achieve their goals by working hard. In the education system, the rewards are qualifications, these allow a person to advance to further stages of life and so are essentially a vital form of social mobility. Sen (2000: 1) states that ‘[t]he concept of ‘merit’ is deeply contingent on our views of a good society’. Before the Industrial Revolution, the education system was extremely limited. Most children were educated at home or in small church-based schools. The education system in England at this time consisted of ‘haphazard system of parish and private adventure schools’. (Williams, cited in www.educationengland.org.uk/history). They were only educated to a certain level and the primary focus was on the importance of working on a farm and skills needed to do this. Throughout history, a girl’s education ‘if she was lucky enough to have one…consisted of religious instruction, reading, writing and grammar and the occasional home craft such as spinning…[it was] scanty, superficial and incoherent’. (www.educationengland.org.uk/history). Families were extremely self-sufficient and generations of families lived together and all took part in the duties and responsibilities that came with farming, there were no specific gender roles, they were all encompassing. Any type of higher education was reserved f... ... middle of paper ... ...k/history (Accessed: 28/04/2014). Grint, K. (2005) The Sociology of Work, 3rd edn., Cambridge: Polity Press. Livesey, C. Lawson, T (2005) As Sociology for AQA, 2nd edn. England: Hodder Education. MacVeigh, T (2012) 'Can a Meritocratic Education System Deliver Equality?’, Irish Marxist Review, 1.4(), pp. 27-36. Sen, A, (2000) ‘Chapter 1’ in Arrow, K.J. Bowles, S. Darlauf, S.N. (editors), ‘Meritocracy & Economic Inequality’, Chichester: Princetown University Press, pp. 1-16. Stephens, W.B. (1998) Education in Britain 1750-1914, Basingstoke: Macmillan. Taylor, S. (2011) Proper men, proper women: Gender roles in contemporary UK Society, Available at:www.open.edu/openlearn/body-mind/proper-men-proper-women-gender-roles-contemporary-uk-society (Accessed: 28/04/2014). Tomlinson, S. (2005) Education in a post welfare society, England: Open University Press.

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