Compare and contrast Functionalist and Marxist theories of education

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Compare and contrast Functionalist and Marxist theories of education

Education in schools have important effects on society which include transmitting cultural values and contributing to the social stratification. However, sociologists do not agree on how to interpret these effects. Functionalists believe education helps stability and functioning of society, whereas conflict theorists, such as Marxists see education as justifying and perpetuating inequality.

Functionalists believe that schools transmit the culture of a society from one generation to the next and schools are there to continue the process of socialisation that begins in the family. Children therefore are socialised into sharing sets of values and culture, creating a sense of identity within a community or society, learning to have respect for authority and a sense of fair play or feelings of patriotism towards one’s country. Functionalists see that roles are allocated to certain people within society. Those who do well in education are rewarded by being able to reach occupations that have high pay and high status. Therefore this meritocracy encourages people to believe that social background is not important, allowing plenty of social mobility.

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Talcott Parson, a sociologist goes on to further research and justify this role allocation believing young people re given appropriate roles in the wider society, depending on their talents and abilities. Schools are simply there to offer all pupils an equal chance of success, reflecting the values of the wider society. He saw the education system as the main agency of secondary education, building on the primary education provided by the family. This suggests that schools act as a bridge between family and the wider society.

Marxists, however have opposing views because in Marx’s view the ruling class use ...

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