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Functionalist Approach
Argues that education has three broad functions:
1. Role Allocation: education allocates people to the most appropriate job
based on qualifications and their talents.
This is seen to be fair as there is equality of opportunity, where everyone has
the chance of success.
Critics consider the ideas of equality of opportunity and meritocracy as a myth
and question the correspondence between occupational status and
2. Skills Provision: education teaches skills required by a modern industrial
General skills including literacy and numeracy skills needed for a particular
3. Socialisation: maintain society by socialising young people into key cultural
Achievement, competition and equality of opportunity.…read more

Slide 2

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Durkheim: education should emphasize the moral responsibilities that
members of society had towards each other and wider society.
Parson: education forms a bridge between the family and wider society by
socialising children to adapt to a meritocratic view of achievement.
Functionalists are criticised for failing to recognize the diversity of values in
modern society and the extent to which the norms and values of the
middle class are promoted through the education system.…read more

Slide 3

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Marxist Approach
Education is seen as an important part of the super-structure of
Along with other institutions, it serves the need of the economic
base-everything to do with production in society.
This base shapes the super-structure, with the super-structure
maintaining and justifying the base.
Therefore education performs two main functions in a capitalist
1. Reproduces the inequalities and social relations of production of
capitalist society.
2. Serves to legitimate these inequalities through the myth of
meritocracy.…read more

Slide 4

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Neo-Marxist Althusser (1971)
Also disagrees that the main function of education is the transmission
of common values.
Education is an ideological status apparatus.
Its main function is to maintain, legitimate and reproduce class
inequalities in wealth and power, by transmitting capitalist values
disguised as common values.
This is done by the hidden curriculum.
Believes that the way in which schools are organised and the way
knowledge is taught means that working class people are encouraged
to conform to the capitalist system and accept failure and inequality.…read more

Slide 5

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Correspondence Theory-
Bowles and Gintis (1976)
Argues that education system serves to reproduce directly the capitalist
relations of production with the appropriate skills and attitudes.
=workplace have corresponding features in the education system
Teachers are like the bosses, pupils are like the workers who work for
success (wages/exam success)
· However, they point out that success is not entirely related to
intellectual ability.
· Pupils who fit in and conform rise above, than those who express
attitudes or display behaviour which challenge the system.
· Education system disguises injustice through myth of meritocracy,
as for those denied success blame themselves rather than the
· Hidden curriculum not only reproduces the relations of production,
it makes inequality in society appear legitimate and fair.…read more

Slide 6

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Criticisms of Bowles and Gintis
Reynolds (1989): curriculum doesn't seem designed to teach either
the skills needed by employers or uncritical passive behaviour that
makes workers easy to exploit.
Survival of liberal humanities based subjects and limited emphasise on
science and applied knowledge suggests a lack of correspondence.
Paul Willis (1977): research `Learning to Labour' showed that working
class `lads' learned to behave at school in way quite at odds with
capitalisms' supposed need for a docile workforce.
However, he supported the principle that schools reproduce the
relations of production by demonstrating that the boys in the anti-
school subculture shared a similar outlook to the worker in the
factories they were likely to end up in.
Working class boys accepted the inevitability of educational failure so
they developed strategies (`havin a laff') to deal with the boredom of
school which would serve them well in the boring jobs they were
destined for.…read more


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