The Functionalist Perspective on Education

Functionalists focus on the positive functions performed by the education system. There are four positive functions that education performs

1. Creating social solidarity
2. Teaching skills necessary for work
3. Teaching us core values
4. Role Allocation and meritocracyfunctionalist-perspective-education

1. Creating Social Solidarity

We have social solidarity when we feel as if we are part of something bigger. Durkheim argued that school makes us feel like we are part of something bigger. This is done through the learning of subjects such as history and English which give us a shared sense of identity. Also in American schools, children pledge allegiance to the flag.

Durkheim argued that ‘school is a society in miniature.’ preparing us for life in wider society. For example, both in school and at work we have to cooperate with people who are neither friends or family – which gets us ready for dealing with people at work in later life.

2. Learning specialist skills for work

Durkheim noted that an advanced industrial economy required a massive and complex Division of Labour. At school, individuals learn the diverse skills necessary for this to take place. For example, we may all start off learning the same subjects, but later on we specialize when we do GCSEs.

3. Teaching us core values

Talcott Parsons argued that education acts as the ‘focal socializing agency’ in modern society. School plays the central role in the process of secondary socialisation, taking over from primary socialisation. He argued this was necessary because the family and the wider society work in different principles and children need to adapt if they re to cope In the wider world.

In the family, children are judged according to what he calls particularistic standards by their parents – that is they are judged by rules that only apply to that particular child. Individual children are given tasks based on their different abilities and judged according to their unique characteristics. Parents often adapt rules to suit the unique abilities of the child.

In contrast in school and in wider society, children and adults are judged according to the same universalistic standards (i.e they are judged by the same exams and the same laws). These rules and laws are applied equally to all people irrespective of the unique character of the individual. School gets us ready for this.

4. Role Allocation and meritocracy

Education allocates people to the most appropriate job for their talents using examinations and qualifications. This ensures that the most talented are allocated to the occupations that are most important for society. This is seen to be fair because there is equality of opportunity – everyone has a chance of success and it is the most able who succeed through their own efforts – this is known as meritocracy

Positive evaluations of the Functionalist view on education

  1. School performs positive functions for most pupils – exclusion and truancy rates are very low
  2. Role Allocation – Those with degrees earn 85% more than those without degrees
  3. Schools do try to foster ‘solidarity’ – PSHE
  4. Education is more ‘work focused’ today – increasing amounts of vocational courses
  5. Schooling is more meritocratic than in the 19th century (fairer)

Negative Evaluations of Functionalism (Criticisms)

  1. Marxists argue the education system is not meritocratic – e.g. private schools benefit the wealthy.
  2. Functionalism ignores the negative sides of school – e.g. bullying/
  3. Postmodernists argue that ‘teaching to the test’ kills creativity.
  4. Functionalism reflects the views of the powerful – the education system tends to work for them and they suggests there is nothing to criticise.

If you like this sort of thing, then you might like my brief vodcast on the same topic…


 

Related Posts

Sociological Perspectives on Education – Summary Grid

Evaluating the Functionalist Perspective on Education

The Marxist Perspective on Education

The New Right View of Education

The Functionalist, Marxist and New Right Views of Education – A Comparison

Related Online Sources

Twynham’s Sociology Pages offer an OK round up of The Functionalist Perspective on Education (written by an ex-student)

This post from Podology (also by a student) is also OK – written as an essay (no title given), but it does tend to just juxtapose criticisms from other perspectives

Advertisements
This entry was posted in Education, Functionalism and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

9 Responses to The Functionalist Perspective on Education

  1. Pingback: Evaluating The Functionalist Perspective on Education | ReviseSociology

  2. Pingback: The Marxist Perspective on Education | ReviseSociology

  3. Pingback: The New Right’s View of Education | ReviseSociology

  4. Pingback: The Functionalist Perspective – Class Notes for A Level Sociology (Year 2) | ReviseSociology

  5. Pingback: Functionalist, Marxist and New Right Perspectives on Education | ReviseSociology

  6. Pingback: The Functionalist Perspective on Society – A Summary | ReviseSociology

  7. Pingback: Evaluating the Functionalist Perspective on Education | ReviseSociology

  8. Pingback: 12CSO3 Homework 5.10.16 – sociologyreadingblog

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s