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The role of education in today's society.

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Rose Szarowicz 3rd Jan 2004 The role of education in today's society The role of education can be seen to provide pupils with the curriculum and hidden curriculum; teaching skills that will prepare them physically, mentally and socially for the world of work in later life. There are two main views on the role of education; the Marxist and Functionalists who take different approaches to this area. Interactionists have a view on this topic, but not an extremely controversial one, with large grounds for debate. As an overview, Marxists see education as an unequal and corrupt system which recreates class inequality, whereas Functionalists take more positive views, arguing it prepares children for the world of work and helps them to develop their personal talents, discover who they are, and where they would best fit into societies workforce. Functionalists see three main functions of education; role allocation, providing skills, and socialisation. There have been two influential functionalist sociologists who have created and developed the functionalists view and its ideologies; Emile Durkheim and Talcott Parsons. Durkheim, writing in the 1900's, saw social solidarity as vital for the well-being of society. ...read more.


With Labour governments push on improving education, many new courses and opportunities for young people have been made available, making the above statement evermore true. For example letting more and more people appeal back into sixth form with lower grades, introducing vocational qualifications at GCSE and A level, and creating a wider variety of courses available at college, making it easier for more people to achieve social mobility and move to a higher class. According to Durkheim, this creates jobs for a more specialised workforce. Although Marxists would argue this point by bringing up figures to prove certain groups underachieve such as ethnic minorities and the working class. This would show that the education system, does not have equal opportunity, that talents are not properly assessed, and that role allocation is not successful. Parsons developed the idea that schools provide a secondary socialisation, enforcing shared values, and as Durkheim points out, develops the similarities to bind people, creating social solidarity. Here the hidden curriculum takes place, where children learn to interact with other people, to learn to respect authority, to work hard, and to make friends. Developing social skills is as vital as being educated in later life, as employers will want people who can communicate well to customers, and work well as a member of a team. ...read more.


These characteristics are rewarded in school because they are required in the workplace. If social equality were to be questioned, it would threaten social stability. This is then avoided by promoting the injustice as product of the high qualifications the agents of exploitation received through the education system, which makes it legitimate. Bowles and Gintis reject the functionalist view of role allocation. They argue that students who receive high qualifications do so because of hard work and a conformist attitude. Those who reject the ruling class ideology, and the prospect of authority, don't do so well and find it difficult to go far in the world of work. The two views of Functionalists and Marxists represent to extreme views of conflicting opposites, Functionalists creating a very positive light, claiming that all is well with the education system and society, where as Marxists have the negative view that it is all unequal and corrupt. What these views both fail to recognise is the Interactionists approach and that we do live in a meritocracy, and if you work hard you can achieve, as they focus so hard on macro issues, they don't see people as individuals with individual choices, and so cannot claim to have a 'blanket explanation' for the worlds problems. ...read more.

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