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Examining the Role and Purpose of the Education System from a Functionalist View

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Examining the Role and Purpose of the Education System from a Functionalist View

Education is a widely excepted and generally viewed as a necessary practice. Many believe it is the foundations for preparing young people for society.  This is a very functionalist veiw. Functionalists believe that education is a crucial part of the socialisation process as it teachs and re-enforces society’s norms and values to children, at the most perceptive poin of there lives. It also prepares children for adult roles and selects young people in terms of their abilities, and strengths for crucial roles. However, many have also criticised the functionalist theory, as It is incredibly optimistic, and does not apply in some cases.

Firstly, functionalism puts and incredible amount of emphasis on the education systems importance of socialising children, also known as the hidden curriculum. I believe they feel this is more beneficial than the actual learning of subjects. They believe this because, even if a member of the school is not smart, does not learn, achieves poor grades, but learns social values, they will still be a fundamental member  of society. These people will fill the low class jobs. However, if a student is smart, and achieves good grades, but goes out into society without his norms and values, he will fail, and not function correctly.

Nevertheless, there are some issues with this theory. Firstly, The first child, with the poor grades may not necessarily get a job in the current economic downturn, therefore he will not function well in society, an will be a drain on resources and funds. This is a prime example of functionalism being overly optimistic.

Furthermore, functionalism only works if we all start at the same point. What I mean by this is that if no one has a head start at the beginning of the education system, a metaphorical “ball and chain”, then functionalism works, this is an idealistic view, and an incorrect one. Again, this shows the insane optimism these functionalists must employ to believe that this theory is consistently true. In today’s society, everyone has different starting points, weather it be because of race, monetary status, family background, culture or area that they are educated. Unfortunately, the school you attend has a big impact on your overall performance in education. This may be because of the school’s monetary situation, resources, or overall low standard of teaching. This can cause sociological hiccups in the functionalist view.  

In addition, there are issues with the theory of “Role allocation”, the idea that school sifts and sorts us, using our strengths and weaknesses in subjects, into our categories which we will fill later in life.

For example, if a student is good at maths, He or she will achieve high grades, and be reomended to continue maths into further educatin, eventually ending up with some sort of qualification that means the student will then take a job, requiring that qualification, and fill that gap in society.  Often this works, however, with the current recetion, and lack of jobs, the system is being turned on its head. Even if you acheive highly, you are still lucky to get a low garde job.

Another issue with functionalism is the practice of home schooling. It is a growing trend, with many traights that dont fit the rules of functionalism, yet it is still a type of education. The number of parents opting to home school there children is ever gorwing, due to the lack of current teaching standards. As i mentioned earlier, the only way the functionalist theory can work is if we all have the same starting point, and weather homeschooling is better or worse for the childs mental well being, they defenatley have a different start to any state or private schooled child.

In my opinion, functionalism can never be full correct becasue of the fact of people starting at different levels. Society follows a trend, where by if you do well in school and succeed in life, you can then send your child to private schooling, therefore giving you don or daughter a better start in life, then them going on to acheive highley as you did.

Functionalism is a well constructed theory, with a some good truths and ideas, however, only in a world of complete equality and harmoney could it be perfectly executed, and, as this  world is not perfect, and mots likely wont be for some time to come,  functionalism will have to stay just that, a theory.

Ben Riches

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