The Role of Education in Society: Functionalist & Marxist Approach

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The Role of Education in Society
Functionalist Approach
Functionalists argue that education has three broad functions:
1. Socialisation- education helps to maintain society by socialising young people into key cultural values such as equality of opportunity.
2. Skills provision- 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.
3. Role allocation- education allocates people to the most appropriate job for their talents, using examinations and qualifications. This is seen to be
fair because there is equality of opportunity.
Marxist Approach
Marxists challenge the functionalist approach. Althusser disagrees that the main function of education is the transmission of common values. Rather, he
argues that education is an ideological state apparatus. Its main function is to maintain, legitimate and reproduce generation by generation, class inequalities
in wealth and power, by transmitting ruling class or capitalist values disguised as common value. He argues that this is done through the hidden curriculum:
the ways that schools are organised and the way that knowledge is taught means that working class people are encouraged to conform to the capitalist
system, and accept failure and inequality.

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Bowles and Gintis argue that education serves to reproduce directly the capitalist relations of production- the hierarchy of workers from the boss down-
with the appropriate skills and attitudes. Education ensures that workers will unquestioningly adapt to the needs of the system, without criticism. They
suggest that what goes on in school corresponds directly to the world of work. Teachers are like the bosses, and pupils are like the workers, who work for
rewards.…read more

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Bowles and Gintis point out; however, that success is not entirely related to intellectual ability. Those pupils who fit in and conform rise above are those who
challenge the system. Functionalists see education as turning pupils into model citizens, whilst Marxists argue that it merely turns working class pupils into
conformist workers.…read more


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