Functionalist Views on the Role of the Education System

Explain what is meant by ‘the myth of meritocracy’. (3) This refers to the Marxist view that the appearance that rewards are based on merit in education and society as a whole is not true – it is an example of false consciousness which makes society seem fair and inequalities seem justified. Suggest 3 ways in which education benefits society. (6) It promotes consensus by integrating students into the norms and values of society, such as teaching the value of punctuality and individual achievement. (Socialisation function) It gives people the skills and attitudes which are needed by employers such as literacy, numeracy and computer skills. Economic function). Qualifications acquired in school helps to sift people into the jobs best suited to their abilities. (Selection function) Outline post-modernist views of the role of education. (8+4) Post Modernists argue that education needs to be more diverse & flexible to meet ever-changing individual and community needs. Hence they emphasise ‘personalised’ education rather than a ‘one size fits all’ approach. Education needs to develop self-motivation, creativity and transferable skills to increase ‘flexible specialisation’.

It needs to emphasise ‘life-long learning’ to allow individuals to up-grade skills in response to the changing needs of the economy. E. g Usher (’97) & Thompson (’92) reject Bowles & Gintis’ ‘Correspondence Theory’, arguing that the diversity of the post-modern education system, responsive to the different needs of individuals and groups, actually empowers rather than oppresses. However this approach may be seen to overemphasise diversity – what about the ‘national curriculum’ and increasing direction from central government?

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It also ignores the extent of inequalities – not everyone has the same choices. Assess Marxist views of the role of education (8+12) Opening Paragraph: Brief description of general Marxist view of education based on assumptions, contrasting with functionalism for AO2 e. g. Like functionalists, Marxists take a structuralist view of the education system, seeing it as part of the social system. But whereas functionalists see this system as based on consensus, benefiting everyone, Marxists see it as based on conflict, operating in the interests of the dominant ruling class.

Thus education is a tool of capitalism – part of the ideological structure to ensure the ideas of the dominant class are the dominant ideas. Main body: Identify different Marxists/roles – link to wording of Q – explain / illustrate & evaluate: Promotes false consciousness passes on the values and ideology of the ruling class, in contrast to functionalist views this is seen to benefit the ruling class rather than society as a whole. This is supported by Althusser who saw education as an ISA producing an appropriately skilled and alienated workforce BUT education has inspired revolution e. . Russia 1916 & Paris 1968. Doesn’t fit with the complexities of what goes on in real classrooms – What about Sociology? Bowles & Gintis – Also saw the role of education as preparing the future workforce. They saw schools as ‘corresponding’ with work in a number of ways – list a few. BUT critics point to the lack of correspondence between school and work – hence the so called ‘skills gap’. Also like Althusser, B&G view schools as transmitting ruling class ideology through the hidden curriculum…. illustrate.

They also see education playing an important role in reproducing the class structure whilst making the system seem fair – hence the myth of meritocracy – explain – qualifications / exams. However, as Heath’s research demonstrated, education is an important source of social mobility – whereby people can move up the social structure. Bordieu – Explores further how schools reproduce the class structure – ref. unequal distribution of cultural capital. Explain & illustrate. Fits with evidence of persistent working class underachievement.

BUT whole theory over-deterministic – pupils not this passive – ref interactionism – Willis – view of education – role not directly to reproduce inequalities but ‘lads’ rejection of schools – active in their own failure and hence position in the class structure.. BUT small unrepresentative sample – dated and ignores girls. Concluding paragraph: Overall evaluation – several Marxist views – all in agreement imp. role of education = to reproduce class structure but disagree on how achieved. Assumption education a unified mass – but ignores variation within

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