Higher education in most Western countries traditionally involved the languages and culture of classical Greece and Rome, and this reinforced the distinction between the educated gentleman and the rest of society.
Such cultural differences have persisted, in an attenuated form, into the twentieth century; they underlies the conflict between the ‘two cultures’, literary and scientific, and in some societies have constituted an obstacle to the development of technical education as Lowie says: ‘Historical accident had lent distinction to verbal felicity, while manual dexterity and whatever savoured of the utilitarian had long ranked low in the social scale’.
Besides this broad division between elites and masses, between education for intellectual and for manual occupations, there has existed a more refined graduation of educational facilities.
Thus, in England before 1944, the educational system can be broadly characterized as having provided elementary education for working class children, secondary’ (grammar school) education for middle class children, and public school (fee-paying) education for children of the upper and upper middle classes.
The Education Act of 1944 modified without destroy this differentiation; it is still largely the case that upper and upper middle class children go mainly public schools, middle class children to secondary grammar schools and working class children secondary modern schools, and this is only gradually being changed by the development comprehensive schools.
It should be observed that this kind of educational differentiation exists in all modern societies however much they may be committed to egalitarian and welfare policies. The communist country have made large claims for their success in establishing social equality, but to take one instant while the progress of education in the USSR since 1917 has been extremely rapid, it has not result in the elimination of educational privilege.
During 1958 a number of speeches and memoranda connection with the reform of the Soviet educational system provided data which had hitherto not yet available, and which showed that only 55 per cent of children actually completed the ten year educator course by reaching the eighth grade in schools, and that in the institutions of higher education Moscow only one third of the students were of working class or peasant origin, the other two thrice coming from families in a relatively small social stratum, the intelligentsia.
In India, since the achievement of independence, there has been considerable progress in the expansion of educational facilities, and with the development of village schools and of educational opportunities for children of lower caste there is substantially more equality of access to education. Yet there are still notable inequalities basic education which incorporates Gandhi’s ideas on the combination of intellectual and manual work is provided for most children (and most do not go beyond the primary stage of education), but the upper classes of Indian society still send their children to English type grammar and public schools.
These data, taken from different modern societies, show that educational differences are closely; related to social stratification. Other types of social differentiation, “between the sexes, ethnic groups or religious groups, have also frequently been associated with differences in kind or quality of education In most societies until recently women had much less chance than men of obtaining higher education, and this is still the case in India. Africans, in the Union of South Africa, and in many colonial territories, have very limited opportunities even for secondary education; and in the USA the Negroes, although their situation has improved, are still educationally handicapped. In many societies, at different times, religious minorities have been discriminated against in education as in other respects.