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Functionalist Perspective on Education

Conservative view of society

Society has basic needs, needs for social order. To survive, needs solidarity by sharing same norms and values

Institutions like education provide positive functions for society and individuals. Helping socialising and creating a social solidarity


Durkheim: Solidarity and Skills

Promotes social solidarity

Education prepared young people for work


Parsons: Socialisation and meritocracy

Secondary socialisation: Outside of family, education bridges between family and wider society. Socialises into a meritocratic society

Individual achievement

Equal opportunity

School in miniature: Smaller version of wider society


Davis and Moore: Role Allocation

People are more talented than others

Work roles are more complex and require greater skills

'Sifts and sorts' individuals for the right jobs in society


Evaluation of Functionalism

Marxists argues values are transmitted by education are society's shared values

Interactionalists argue that view is too deterministic and that not all pupils accept the schools values

Person's ascribed characteristics are more importantant in determining their income later in life rather than achievement in school


Functionalism and New Right compared

Both believe that some people are naturally more talented than others

Both agree education should run on meritocratic principle open competition

Believe education should socialise pupils into shared values and provide a sense of national identity


Chubb and Moe: Giving consumer choice

Data shows pupils that pupils from low-income families do 5% better in private schools. Suggests that state education is not meritocratic.

State failed to created equal opportunity because it does not have to respond to pupils needs

Private schools deliver higher quality education because they're answerable to the parents

Parents and communities cannot do anything about falling schools while the schools are controlled by the state


Has the state any role in education?

Create the framework for competition between schools (league tables and setting national curriculum)

Ensure that schools transmit society's shared culture through a curriculum that emphasises a shared identity


Evaluation of the New Right

Critics argue that low standards in some state schools are result to inadequate funding

Gewirtz -Benefits middle class

Marxists argue education imposes the culture of ruling class


Marxists perspective on education

Two classes: Ruling class and subject class

Capitalist own means of production and make profits by exploiting the labour of working class

Creates class conflict that could threaten stability of capitalism or overthrow it

Social institutions reproduce and play an ideological role by persuading exploited workers that inequality is justified and acceptable


Evaluation of Marxists

Disagree among themselves

Feminists argue it reproduces capitalism and patriarchy

Postmodernists argue Marxism is out of date

Claim that they see inequality, there is really diversity and choice

PMs argue class divisions are no longer important in a post-Fordes economic system

Romanticising: Willis has been criticised for romantising the lads and project being unrepresentated