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Critically evaluate the functionlists aproach on Education

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Education is a vital system in most societies, and is compulsory for all children up to the age of 16 in Britain, soon to 18. There are many different ideas as to why education is so important and the functions it fulfils within society, some more positive than others. Although some people say that education is only intended to teach the individual enough knowledge to pass exams and start a career, most sociologists believe it has functions which go beyond this surface view and in some way affect or serve society as a whole as well as the individual. Functionalism is a sociological theory which is based on the ideas that society has basic needs, the most important of which is the need for social order. Without order, society would tend to disintegrate and fall apart. Social order is largely based on social solidarity or social unity. Social solidarity results from shared norms and values, this means that social life is predictable and runs smoothly. Thus shared values usually result in people cooperating and pulling together in the same direction. ...read more.


According to Durkheim, the specialised division of labour in industrial societies relies increasingly on the educational system to provide the skills and knowledge required by the workforce. Talcott Parsons, the American sociologist, developed Durkheim's ideas. He saw the education system as the main agency for secondary socialisation, acting as a bridge between the family and wider society. Schools build on the primary socialisation provided by the family, developing value consensus, agreement about the values of society and preparing young people for their adult roles. Individual achievement is a major value in modern industrial society. In schools, young people are encouraged to achieve as individuals. High achievement is rewarded with praise, high status, good grades and valuable qualifications. This prepared young people to achieve as individuals in the world of work. Alos an equal chance for everybody is another major value in modern society. Schools transmit this value by offering all their pupils an equal chance of success. According to Parsons, schools are miniature versions of the wider society, they reflect the values of the wider society. ...read more.


They become the 'agents of exploitations and repression' Althusser, a French Marxist, argues that ideology in capitalist society is fundamental to social control. He sees the main role of education as transmitting ideology. However, criticisms of the functionalists approach on education are that rather than transmitting societies values, the education system may be transmitting the values of ruling class or ruling elite. History teaching in schools may reflect white, middle class view. This may discourage social solidarity, many ethnic minority groups are demanding that history teaching reflect their historical experience and their view point. For example, in the USA, African-American history is now a major part of the history curriculum. There is evidence that certain groups underachieve in schools, such as the working class and certain ethnic minority groups. This suggests that pupils do not have an equal opportunity, their talents have not been effectively developed and assessed or the system of role allocation is not very efficient. It is difficult to see if the education system is providing the knowledge and skills required for the workplace, the subjects taught in schools do not have a direct link to the world of work. Critically evaluate the functionalist perspective on education. Emma Kirby 01/03/2009 ...read more.

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