Using Material from Item a and Elsewhere Assess the Contribution of Functionalism to Our Understanding of the Role of Education.

1405 words 6 pages
Using material from item A and elsewhere assess the contribution of functionalism to our understanding of the role of education.

Functionalism is based on the view that society is a system of interdependent parts held together by a shared culture or value consensus (agreement) amongst individuals as to what values or norms are important in society. Therefore they take a positive view of the education system. As item A suggests they see it as a form of secondary socialism essential to maintaining society i.e. the values and norms transmitted by social institutions and groups which build upon those learnt in the family (primary socialism).

The French sociologist Emile Durkheim (1903) identifies the two main features of education as the
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treat everyone as equals in society.

Further more Durkheim argues that education prepares young people for work. Industrial societies have a specialist division of labour which requires people to undergo often long periods of training for specific occupations. Education equips individuals with the required skills needed to participate in work in a modern economy be it through schools or vocational education and training courses like apprenticeships, N.V.Q and G.N.V.Q courses. Yet again Marxists criticise new vocationalism by saying how its true function is to serve Capitalism at the expense of young people by reproducing existing inequalities by forcing working class and ethnic minority students on to low paid low status jobs.

Talcott Parsons (1961) argues that schools are the ‘focal socialising agency’ of modern society. During primary socialisation within the family, each child is treated differently i.e. each child is special. Parsons argues that wider society cannot function in this way and everyone has to be treated the same for example everyone is equal before the law. He argues that education teaches these universalistic standards and acts as a bridge between family and wider society, reflecting the values of equal opportunity and individual achievement.

In contrast however they see the education system as a meritocratic society which is


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