Functions of the education system in England and W
Sociologists and political thinkers don't necessarily agree on the functions of the education system, however, some themes do emerge from most of the public policy. This is that education should:
- Provide opportunities for children. Marxists tend to put more emphasis on equality of opportunity than functionalists would.
- Sort children in terms of their ability to learn, providing the correct type of educational opportunities. Functionalists would prioritise this function.
- Prepare children for adult life, also known as vocationalism.
- Help children become active participants in society, living a healthy and productive life.
Socialisation and education
Emilie Durkheim said the education system was an important agency of secondary socialisation. Its primary role was to ensure social stability so that society could be well-ordered with different people filling in the appropriate roles, causing society to survive. Functionalists say education bridged the gap for children between the close personal relationships of family life, it was their first introduction to a less emotional and more universal relationship to adulthood. They'd be intoduced to shared cultures of their society, learning their place in the social world. Marxists see this socialisation as part of brainwashing children into accepting inequality.
The National Curriculum is a basic outline of what you need to know about your own culture. Much of the education that takes place within nurseries and primary schools is concerned with teaching children to interact with peers, teaching them the basic rules of social interaction, as well as more formal skills.
Economic functions of education
There's a strong link with the idea that children need skills for employment, vocationalism. Society requires a workforce with advanced skills to allow it to develop economically. Durkheim and other functionalists suggest that schools ensure students are equipped with a wide variety of skills which are needed by the economy of the country. Talcott Parsons said schools allocate roles to the more talented, the education system has a sorting and sifting function. This is known as meritocracy. Marxists are more critical, they see education purely in terms of reproduction of class inequalities.
There are two basic themes to all of your work within education. The first is knowledge, children are taught facts the governments feel that are needed. Students are also taught transferable skills, which help them within the workplace. A lot of education is focussed on encouraging children to learn more about work and careers.
Much of what happens in education is about social control. Children learn to follow rules and behave in a way in which schools require from them. Marxists such as Althusser believe schools form part of the ideological state apparatus, they teach the ideas of the ruling class. Children are taught to obey teachers, this reproduces the world outside the classroom where they'll obey their employers.
Durkhein, was very much in favour of very strict discipline in schools. His logical was that offenders affected the whole social group, so by strict punishment they'd learn to act in the interests of society. They needed to understand that offences have a major impact in society.
Durkheim sees the rules that pupils in schools are subject to as them reinforcing social cohesion and group norms. Marxists see them as part of the process of training children not to be rebellious.