The Functionalist Theory of education

Having to resit this topic so though I'd type up one half of my booklet

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  • Created on: 10-04-12 16:52
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The Functionalist Theory of education.
Functionalists believe everyone in society should follow the same norms and
values (value consensus) and this makes society harmonious in that all parts of
society work together and every part of society has a function.
Functionalist theory on education follow the same principles and is concerned
with the role of education in society as a whole, in particular it's contributions
to maintaining social stability. For functionalist's education provides a positive
4 basic functions of education:
1. Socialisation
Education helps to maintain society by socialising young people into key
cultural values, such as achievement, individualism, competition and equality of
opportunity, social solidarity, democracy and religious morality.
Education meets this key function by passing on central/core values of society
to new generations. This is achieved through both the `hidden' curriculum and
the actual school curriculum e.g. through subjects such as Citizenship, Health
and Social care, history and religious studies, this unites or `glues' people
together and builds `social solidarity' by giving them shared values and shared
Social Solidarity
Durkheim argued that social solidarity is essential for the survival of society.
Social solidarity is based on essential similarities between members of society.
According to Durkheim one of the main functions of education is to develop
these similarities and bind members of society together.
History and religion:
Durkheim suggested that subjects such as history, language and religious
studies link the individual to society and affirm a sense of belonging. He
argues that children should be encouraged to take pride in the historical
achievements of their nation.
E.g. the national curriculum, with it's emphasis on British History, can be seen
as a means of developing this link by showing young people that they are part
of something larger that their immediate family or neighbourhood.
For instance in Wales, the Welsh language is compulsory in schools up to year
11, despite the fact Welsh is first language for only a minority of the
population. All subjects are expected to have a "Welsh dimension" e.g. history
partly focuses on Welsh resistance to English occupation. Schools are
encouraged to organise their own `Eisteddfod' ­ a cultural celebration
involving Welsh songs, poetry and literature. All these aspects of the
educational experience are aimed at making young people feel part of wider
culture (which in this case is Wales.)

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Another example is American students who often start their day with an oath
of allegiance to their flag and country. History lessons focuses much on
American history with heroes such as George Washington and Abraham
Lincoln. There is much emphasis on `The American Dream', which is the notion
that regardless of your background, if you work hard enough you can succeed
in wider society.
Evaluation of Durkheim:
David Hargreaves (1982) agrees with Durkheim's views.…read more

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Achieved status:
This is how everyone else sees you and is the status you earn for yourself
through your own efforts and achievements e.g. if you appear shy to everyone
else, this is one of the status' you may earn for yourself whilst at school or
Universalistic standards:
These are part of your achieved status and apply to everyone in society.
These standards are meritocratic (the view you have to work hard in order to
be rewarded or merited).…read more

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Therefore the education system prepares this modern labour force, and makes
sure the best and most qualified people end up in the jobs requiring the
greatest skills and responsibilities.
The `Human Capital theory' proposed by Theodore Shultz (1962) and Gary
Becker (1993) shadows this idea and argues that both modern technologies
and human expertise are what's needed in order to boost the economy.…read more

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Inequalities in society are therefore legitimised (made to appear fair and just).
What this implies is that those who succeed deserve their success, whilst those
who fail only have themselves to blame.
Davis and Moore assume that equality of opportunity exists in schools when
many Marxist's would argue that the education system reproduces social class
inequalities. This is because the education system (which is ruling class
controlled) does not act as a neutral `sieve', selecting selecting students
according to their ability.…read more


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