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Theoretical Perspectives

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Outline the main theoretical perspectives on education and evaluate their usefulness when analysing current issues. Since the Education Reform(1988) there has been a compulsory national curriculum in place, which sets out guidelines for all state schools which they must follow, though Independent schools are free to set their own curriculum. Prior to this act, a school was free to set its own internal curriculum, allowing students and teachers to teach subjects which suit the students needs and play to their strengths. For example, it was possible for a student to drop maths if it was a weak subject. It also allowed schools to decide which subjects would be more important to students in the long run, for example, by not teaching wood work to girls, or not teaching needle work to boys. There are many different theoretical perspectives on education, namely Marxism and Functionalism, both of these have very different views on education and whether or not the education system is producing positive or negative results. Marx argued that the society we live in, which he called capitalism, "divides everyone up into two basic classes: the bourgeoisie and the proletariat" (Cited by Moore et al. 2008: 17), also known as the bosses, or ruling class, and the workers, or working class. ...read more.


From this point of view the nature of education is not simpoly determined as the needs of a capitalist society, but is also influenced by the continuing struggle between the many groups involved, much like in society. (1984 cited by Haralambos et al. 2008) Functionalists believe that education has two broad functions; creating social solidarity such as competition, individualism and equal opportunities; and teaching specialist skills e.g. literacy and numeracy to enable pupils. French sociologist Emile Durkheim, the founder of functionalist sociology identified these two functions, he believed that in order for a society to survive an individual must feel that they are a part of a single 'body' or community, the individual must feel as though they can relate to the rest of the community and that he or she feels welcome within it. He argued that without this, social life and cooperation would be impossible as each of us would merely try to pursue our own selfish desires. (1903, cited by Webb et al. 2008) Durkheim argues that if children are taught about the history of their country it will instil a sense of shared heritage and a commitment to a wider social group. Durkheim also stated that school acts as a miniature society, allowing children to grow in social skills which are important to survival later on in life, such as the ability to negotiate, interaction and respect for authority. ...read more.


It is also questionable as to how valid his studies are in modern Britain, where there are much fewer jobs available for unskilled employees. Bowles and Gintis' studies also lack validity in modern Britain, where compulsory education has been in place and had been in place long before Bowles and Gintis conducted their studies. These critics also suggest that changes in focus within the work place from bureaucratic control to strong skills in teamwork also raise doubts over their views. Though exams in which people are judged and compete with one another for promotion discourages teamwork. Both Marxism and Functionalism have been critised for being focused more on the institution rather than the individual, consequently not paying enough attention to what goes on in the classroom, including the feelings of both pupils and teachers. Parsons too faced criticism, many said he failed to give adequate consideration to the possibility that the values transmitted by the education system may be those of a ruling minority, rather than of a society as a whole. His views on meritocracy are also open to question as it completely overlooks classroom inequality, for example, research by Pierre Bourdieu(1974) found that working-class children may be more motivated in school, and were desperate to achieve their goals (i.e. escape of the class trap) - goals which they generically set as higher for themselves than the middle-class children, who needed to achieve less, personally, to maintain the social status . ...read more.

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