chapter  11
39 Pages

Education and the sexual division of labour

Apart from the 'new sociology of education', which has been largely concerned with what constitutes 'knowledge', the field of the sociology of education has been dominated by the 'inequalities' debate – the role that the educational system plays in the production of the disparities which exist within society. In the main this work has been firmly located within one or another version of stratification theory. Initially, in the analyses made from this standpoint, no attention was paid to gender differentiation within the educational or stratification systems and it was simply assumed that the position of women was determined by the position of men. Recently, a body of literature has begun to appear which, while remaining within the framework of stratification analysis, has attempted to account for the inequalities between boys and girls in education and in the stratification system. The literature has primarily chronicled the inequalities within the school itself, and has then set out to account for the divergencies in the levels of educational attainment of girls as compared to boys and, thereby, to explain their inescapable failure to achieve equality with boys in the higher levels of the occupational system. This paper has a twofold aim. In the first instance, its purpose is to point to certain fundamental limitations of stratification theory and to demonstrate the effect of these on women-centred studies. The second aim is to pose the question of the position of women in a different way and to indicate tentatively the concepts which may be necessary for the development of an alternative analysis.