The question "What are schools for?" expresses tensions and conflicts of interests within the wider society. The author points out that there is a link between the emancipatory hopes associated with the expansion of schooling and the opportunity that schools provide for learners to acquire "powerful knowledge". He argues that "knowledge differentiation" is a form of distinction between school knowledge and non-school knowledge. The contemporary assessment forms tend to blur the boundaries between school knowledge and non-school knowledge, since they inhibit a more accessible and economically relevant curriculum. The author draws on Bernstein's analysis to suggest that to follow this path may be to deny the conditions for acquiring powerful knowledge to the pupils who are already disadvantaged by their social circumstances. Resolving this tension between political demands and educational realities is one of the major educational questions of our time.
Function of schools; School knowledge; Knowledge differentiation