Education in Society.

The role and function of education in society.


Education is positive force in society.

Benefits both the individual and society. 

Formal education has developed out of the needs of the modern societies.

1 of 8

Durkheim, 1925

Education has a key role in modern society; ensures everyone has similar norms and values - Cultural homogenity. 

Developed from institutions such as the church and family.

Helps create a moral order; to control crime and deviance.

Education grew as a tool of socialisation due to the rise in social mobility. Key institution in secondary socialisation.

Function of education is to create social harmony.

The most important subject is History, as it creates a sense of shared interest and belonging; common identity, sense of community.

Schools act like a social microcosm; a smaller version of society itself.

Creates a skilled workforce. 

2 of 8

Parsons, 1961

Vital institution as it organised on meritocratic principles.

Individuals are treated equally by the education system.

Students from different backgrounds receive the same teaching and materials, and the roles of education is to help foster equality of opportunity. 

School helps to transmit the values of achievement. 

Key role in creating value consensus.

Education must ensure that there is effective role allocation, so that occupations are filled according to what suits them.

3 of 8

Davis and Moore, 1945

It is essential to identify the most important occupations in society, and that education should select the talented and allocate them the most important positions.

Education is key in role allocation; which allows the social system to progress as it would be led by the best suited.

4 of 8

Functionalism Summary

Education has three central functions:

  • the transmission and creation of common culture.
  • the transmission of important skills for the economy.
  • the creation of a meritocratic social order.
5 of 8


Functionalist writers assume that individuals will passively respond to the education system; do not recognise individuality; ignore anti-school subcultures.

Assume that there is a common set of values; these values are an imposition on people, used for manipulation. 

Is education meritocratic? Vast differences in attainment between class, gender, and ethnic groups. Education, in fact, allocates on the basis of background rather than ability.

Meritocracy creates a competitive state, therefore society will never be truly happy or harmonious; causes alienation and psychological trauma.

6 of 8


Education serves the interests of the ruling class.

Education exploits the proletariat, as the ruling class pass on wealth and privilege.

The vast inequalities that develop under capitalism are justified by the education system.

7 of 8

Bowles and Gintis, 1976

8 of 8


No comments have yet been made

Similar Sociology resources:

See all Sociology resources »See all Education resources »