Marxist and functionalist perspective on education

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“Compare the Marxist and Functionalist perspectives of education.”

    Marxists and Functionalists are both sociologist who look at the structuralist view of the world; individuals are like puppets on a string, manipulated by society. They also look at the bigger picture also known as the macro theory. Marxists and Functionalists both see the economy as a foundation; they analyse the relationship between the educational system and the economy. Functionalist and Marxist perspectives differ considerably in the way they view the relationship between education and the economy. Both perspectives agree that the education system provides society with certain functions, but they disagree about the purpose of these functions and more importantly, who benefits from them.

    Functionalists see society as being structured like a human body with many interrelated parts that function together to maintain a healthy whole. Therefore, as a body has a heart, lungs, and liver, and so on, society has Education, the Family, and the Economy, and so on. Emile Durkheim (1903) was the first functionalists and he believed in social order, which means that society has shared norms, values and expectations and everybody performs their roles in society. Emile Durkheim argued that society needs a sense of solidarity; individuals need to feel part of a community. He argued that without social solidarity, community life and teamwork would be impossible because individuals would chase their own selfish desires. The education system helps to generate social solidarity by conveying society’s shared beliefs and values from one generation to the next, for example, the teaching of history provides social continuity.

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    Functionalists also believe that schools act as ‘society in miniature’ preparing individuals for life in the wider society, for example in school pupils are encouraged to work as a team this would help in the wider society since we live in a democracy. Durkheim sensed that social rules should be enforced in schools (school rules) in order to allow students to develop self-discipline, fearing that misbehaviour could spoil the interests of the social group, for example, we are taught to respect and follow the school rules in school as a result we will accept the law as adults. ...

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