Class divisions and the antagonisms thereof is not a new term as it was coined by Marx in 1845 when he was writing the communist manifesto. For him, class divisions were inevitable in society due to the nature of capitalism which divided people into capitalists and proletarians with the class owning the means of production dominating the others and its ideas (ruling class ideas) are the dominant or universal ideas (Morrison, 1995). As such, the dominant class ideas are legitimized and universal thus masking any class differences.
Social inequalities in society are enhanced by differences in wealth, power and prestige. Despite being a highly stratified society, Australia boasts of having an egalitarian society where equal opportunity for all is encouraged especially through the education system. The question is, does education really bring about social equality or it serves to reproduce inequalities in society? The idea of education resulting in equality is based on the discourse of meritocracy whereby inequality is determined by ones ability (Van Krieken, 2010). Education in this case is supposed to play a crucial role in eliminating social inequality though provision of universal primary and secondary education. All are accorded the opportunity to climb up the social ladder but since the individuals have different abilities, the outcomes of education are different resulting in inequalities, that is, “those who get ahead do so based on own merit” (Carl, 2012: 47).
If all people are accorded equal education opportunities regardless of race or gender or socioeconomic classes, why do social inequalities still exist? The principle of meritocracy just serves to mask the impact of social class on educational achievement. Though functionalists would argue that some positions are important and thus higher rewards must be given to attract potential workers, how is this level of importance determined? Why is a doctor more valued than a teacher or a soldier yet