Compare and contrast the Marxist and Functionalist views on the role of education in industrial society

Authors Avatar

Cathy Jones


Compare and contrast the Marxist and Functionalist views on the role of education in industrial society

The functionalists and the Marxists both believe that the education system benefits everyone, but both have different views on society. The Marxist views of the education system are that there are conflicts because there is an inequality between the working class and the higher classes. They believe that there are two different classes which education produces, and that is the working class and the ruling class. The people who don’t achieve good grades in school and who aren’t very bright, will be known in society as the working class, and so won’t have very good status jobs in society, and the people that do brilliantly in school and who are very intelligent are the ones who get good jobs and important jobs in society, so they are seen as the ruling class, which is above the working class. This theory that the Marxists has, is similar to the theory that the functionalists have, and that is that the education system could also be known as a role allocation. This is where a persons job is allocated to them through there grades from school, so if the person does well, then they will get a more important job, however if a person does not do that well, then the person will have a low status job in society. However, the functionalist’s view of society is that it is meritocratic, which means that those who do well will achieve more in life and will receive rewards for their hard work, which fits in with the role allocation idea of those who do well in school, will end up having the better jobs in the adult world, and that the role of education benefits everyone equally. The Marxists believe that the role of education benefits the ruling class only, and that is where there is a difference between the two theorists.

A functionalist named Emile Durkheim believes that the education system introduces the importance of social solidarity in people. He says ‘Society can survive only if there exists among its members a sufficient degree of homogeneity; education perpetuates and reinforces this homogeneity by fixing in the child from the beginning the essential similarities which collective life demands.’ So he believes that social life would be impossible without social solidarity amongst people. Social solidarity is when a mass of individuals in a society is united as a whole, and when people learn to respect their community and look after one another and their surroundings. Education teaches people this at an early age, by giving history lessons because this provides a link between the individual and the society in which they live in. In particular, Durkheim’s view are proved by the way pupils are taught in the U. S. A, where there educational curriculum has introduced the pupils to take an oath to the Stars and Stripes at the start of every school day, and so they are committed to their society at an early age. However a criticism to these norms and values that he talks about is that different people have different norms and values to one another.

Join now!

        Hargreaves who is another functionalist proposes a number of changes to the school curriculum in order to create a sense of competence and belonging in pupils. He argues that pupils should have some freedom to pursue fields of study in which they have a special interest or talent. This way the pupils will develop a sense of their own worth. In addition to that there should be compulsory parts of the curriculum such as community studies that would help pupils to have a clear view of their role in society. Other compulsory parts of the curriculum that Hargreaves argues are ...

This is a preview of the whole essay