Functionalist Approach to Education

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  • Functionalist Approach to Education
    • Functionalism is based on the view that society is a system of independent parts held together by a shared culture or value consensus- an agreement among society's members about what values are important.
    • Each part of society such as the family, economy or education systems  as a whole
    • Functionalists argue that education has three broad functions:
      • Socialisation:
        • Durkheim
          • Was concerned that education should emphasise the moral respons-ibilities that members of society had towards each other and the wider society
          • In hid view, the increasing tendency's towards individualism in modern society could lead to too little social solidarity and possible anomie (a state of normlessness or lack of shared norms
          • So the major function for education is to transmit society's norm and values to unite people and create "social solidarity"
          • Similarly both in school and at work we have t interact with others according to set of impersonal rules that apply to everyone
          • But Durkheim assumes that the norms and values promoted in schools are those of society as a whole rather that those of the power group and this is quite often not the case
          • This emphasis can be seen today through the introduction of citizenship and the maintenance of religious education as compulsory subject as was as incorporating Every Child Matters agenda into tutorial work
          • In November 2004, the DFE'S released Every Child Matters: Change for Children, setting out the national framework for local authorities and their partners
        • Parsons
          • Another functionalist also recognised the social significance of education, he suggested that it forms a bridge between the family and the wider society by socialising children to adapt to a meritocratic view of achievement
          • Meritocracy - the theory that the amount of work put in effects the amount they get out
          • Schools socialise people into their basic values of society e.g. in America schools install 2 major values of society, achievement and value of opportunity which reflects in the need for a highly motivated workforce
          • Schools select people for future roles and are a major mechanism role for allocation
          • In the family Particularistic Standards apply:
            • A child's social status is accorded byt its parents and other family members
          • However in wider society Universalistic Standards:
            • The individual is judged by criteria that apply to all of society's members
          • Education helps to ease this transition and instil the major values of achievement through merit
          • Parsons sees schools as preparing us to movee from the family to wider society because school and society are both based of meritocratic principles
          • In a meritocracy, everyone is given an equal opportunity, and individuals achieve rewards through their own effort and ability
      • Skills Provided
        • Education teaches the skills required by a modern industrial society
        • These may be general skills that everyone needs, such as literacy and numeracy, or the specific skills needed for particular occupations
        • As the division of labour increases in complexity and occupations roles become more specialised, increasingly longer periods in education becomes necessary
        • Durkheim argues that education teaches individuals the specialist knowledge and skills that they need to pay their part in the social division of labour, equipping young people with specialist skills
      • Roll Allocation
        • This ensures that the most talented are allocated to the occupations that are the most functionally important for societyt
        • Education allocates people to the most appropriate jobs for their talents using examinations and qualifications
        • This is seen to be fair because there is equality of opportunity - everyone has the chance to achieve success in society on the basis of their ability
        • Hargreaves
          • However, what Hargreaves proposes and what is reality in British society do not match up, there is no unifying system and there is the influence of the ruling elite
          • Would suggest that people should be allowed to pursue field studies of their own choice, there is a need for community studies, expressive arts, sports which emphasis team building
        • Parsons
          • See/s role allocation as one of the main functions of the education system a this involved sifting, sorting, assessing and evaluating young people in terms of talents and abilities.
          • Critics;
            • consider the ideas equal opportunities and meritocracy to be a myth and question the corresponded between occupational status and talent
        • Davis and Moore
          • Not everyone is equally talented, so society has to offer higher rewards for these jobs
          • For example, it would be inefficient and dangerous to have less able people performing roles such as a surgeon or airline pilot
          • This will encourage everyone to compete for them and society can then select the most talented individuals to fill these positions
          • They argue that inequality is necessary to ensure that the most important roles are filled by the most talented people
          • Education plays a ley role in this process since it works as  a proving ground for ability
          • They argue that inequality is necessary to ensure that the most important roles in society are filled but the most talented people
          • Put simply, education is where individuals shows what they can do
          • Also see education as a device for selection and role allocation, but they focus on the relationship between education and social inequaliy
          • It "sifts and sorts" us according to ability. The most able gain the highest qualifications, which the gives them entry to the most important and highly
        • Blau and Duncan
          • They argue that a meritocratic education system does this best, since it enables each person to be allocated the job best to their abilities
          • Argue that a modern economy depends for it's prosperity on using it's "human capital" - its worker skills
          • This will make most effective use of their talents and maximise their productivity


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