12/3/2012 6:25:00 AM
o Before WW2, not very many people were selected for
advanced study because it was seen as a waste of time and
o Now advanced study is seen as necessary for large groups of
o Policy makers claim that the “knowledge economy” requires
skills that can only be obtained through post-secondary
o Education plays a bigger role in job quality and income level
than ever in the past
Thinking Structurally: Established Stratification
o A fundamental role of schools is social selection, giving people
badges of abilities
o Schools channelled students into different programs and
schools with a belief that not all students benefit from the
o Stratification: referring to structuring programs or schools as
“lower” and “higher” than one another, linking that hierarchy
to better or worse opportunities in education or job markets.
o Links between school attainment and life chances are
strengthening in Canada
Educational stratification in Canadian high schools.
Splitting students into ability groups, usually with a
“higher” one going to university and a “lower” one going
to college or the workforce
Called “tracking” in the USA
3 levels of streaming:
Academic or vocational – Level A
Subject or field – Level B
Placement or program – Level C
Curriculum differs between the streams
Upper level exposed to advanced maths, and
great literary works Lower level focus on the basic skills of literacy,
numeracy, and practical workplace skills
Institutionalized social mechanism that shapes the
student’s educational and labour market options
o Stratification is a major issue
Some educators want to abandon it because it can
stigmatize students and lower their expectations
Others think it is necessary to an extent because
students have different abilities. Want a simple sorting
of university or college that would occur as late as
possible during high school
Still people who want it fully, thinking that school levels
should follow the different abilities of students. Want it
as early as possible in schooling.
o Youth from less-advantaged backgrounds are over-
represented in lower streams and under-represented in upper
These students tend to enter more vocational programs,
which means “lower” education and less labour market
o Students from rich families tend to enter more academic
programs, which means better higher education and labour
o Sociologists hate streaming because it limits the opportunities
for students, especially those from working-class
backgrounds. See the streams as dampening aspirations,
managing their ambitions, and discouraging them from
moving on by placing them with lesser badges of ability.
o Differences between schools are minimal. Schools effects are
small compared to streaming and individual backgrounds.
Most schools are structured in similar ways and
teaching is done in a standard way
Schools are a function of their different student
populations. Reflecting social class, or ethnic
composition of local neighbourhoods, etc. o Streams impact student performance. They differ in materials
experienced, and their individual abilities.
o How do we compare internationally?
More closed. Have schools dedicated to
each stream. Happens at a young age.
Usually done with a nationwide test.
o Britain: “11-plus” exam. Sent very
few high scoring 11 year olds to
grammar school to prepare for
o Germany: Rigid, mobility was rare. 3
types of schools.
Schooling was oriented towards preparing
elites and to preserving an aristocratic
cultural heritage. This has given European
schools a greater emphasis on traditional
arts and science, classical literature and
philosophy, and a norm of using hard
exams to filter a small number as academic
Different types of schools gave different
o Vocational schools meant one could
never go to university, but they could
have specific jobs.
If students in Britain, France or Japan failed an
exam at age 15 or 16, they were kicked out
France and the UK have expanded their
university- level programs while Germany has not
More Canadians attended university than
Europeans. It didn’t have a strictly designated
“gifted” level. Didn’t have separate schools. Canadian schools don’t emphasis a high tradition,
because we don’t have an aristocracy. Promote a
practical curriculum. Our school tradition sees
everyone as entitled to an education.
Most schools in Canada offer the same
credentials. Shows that the curriculum isn’t
directly job-related. Diploma doesn’t prove that
someone has job skills.
Prepares students for the labour market, but not
a specific job.
More people graduate with a university degree
European model had “sponsored mobility” which
means that a few students were chosen early to
enter the elite stream leading to university. He
said that the Canadian
North American model had “contest mobility”
which meant that the majority were in the same
school and exposed to the same curriculum, with
more students moving on to higher education.
Linking National Traditions of Youth to School Structures
o Brint argues that there are national traditions of youth that
respond to different demands and opportunities across
different school systems.
o Canada’s lack of high-stakes tests and thinner streaming
serves to delay career choices until later years. This lessens
anxiety and creates an easy-going attitude, encouraging
sizeable numbers of youth to believe that their future remains
open. Gets rid of competition, but increases social life
o Germany’s 3 divisions make students grow up faster. Their
demanding high school exit test adds an element of risk for
those pursuing post-secondary educations.
o Japanese youth face demanding fact drills, and a great
supplementary tutoring industry on nights and weekends.
Creates more pressure. Test scores determine admission to universities. Fields of study also filter entrants based on test
scores, being a social selection mechanism. Lots of Japanese
students commit suicide related to their education.
o Britain’s streaming creates a sense of entitled elitism, and
superiority. For the rest, an anti-school subculture was
created because it seemed pointless to even try and would
leave school at the earliest age possible.
Stratification within Post-Secondary Education
o Two main dimensions: selectivity of an institution, and field of
o Higher educational institutions have differed in terms of
Ancient universities like Oxford carry more prestige
than newer ones
The USA has a distinct, elaborate hierarchy between the
Ivy League, other major private universities, state
universities, church-affiliated colleges, then the 2-year
Harvard, Yale, Princeton, etc. offer their
graduates access to elite jobs, higher wages,
contacts, and other advantages. BUT they are
In Canada, it is known that universities are more
selective than colleges.
o Field of study
Fields vary in prestige, resources, payoffs for graduates
and their ability to be selective.
Traditionally, prestige was linked to aristocratic culture
but this has changed.
Greater status is linked to lucrative markets and
commercial research, such as in the professions and
Medicine, law, engineering, and now business.
High in demand by students
More selective Biotechnology, and computer science are gaining
power for commercial potential.
o Prominence of one dimension over the other differs
Its steep prestige hierarchy disting