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Social Functions of Education

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    There are many challenges within education due to inheriting an educational system that is formed by social, political and various inequalities such as race, gender, socio-economic status and background. These above-mentioned issues merge with the different forms of fraudulent conduct by those in power causing many educational challenges in the South African schooling context.

    Emile Durkheim, a functionalist sociologist developed the four social functions of education; socialization, selection, training and allocation, change and innovation, social and personal development. He believed that schooling is the only place that has the ability to prepare learners for integration into society since schools implement rules that all learners need to follow. Unfortunately, these social functions relate to the various educational challenges that is experienced in the South African school context (Thompson, 2017).

    Socialization; the schooling environment plays a significant and vital role in the socialization of learners. Throughout schooling children learn to socialize with others due to shared values and rules. It prepares learners by teaching them standards and expectations that is required of them to be successfully involved in the wider society. Unfortunately, in the South African schooling context we face many challenges in the socialization of learners due to the environment of the school not being safe, gangsterism, violence, schools not offering opportunities, no implementation of values and rules, schools having unsafe buildings and located in unsafe communities and so forth, thus resulting in several dysfunctional learners who may not know how to be a successful participant in society. (Nelda Mouton, 2013)

    Selection, training and allocation; Schools are responsible for the transferring of essential skills and knowledge to learners that is needed to be a successful participant in society. It sorts learners by testing which of them are worthy and eligible for positions, it then allocates learners by creditability, tracking, grading, and thus filling various positions in society. In the South African schooling context, the aforementioned function is an educational challenge since all learners do not receive the same educational opportunities due to underprivileged schools not being up to standard, teachers performing poorly, and learners being absent due to poverty. Majority of learners in South Africa lack mathematics and literacy skills, this disadvantaging learners during the selection and allocation process. As a consequence, these learners lack crucial skills and knowledge to be a successful person in society. (Nelda Mouton, 2013)

    Change and innovation; this function has the responsibility of expanding the knowledge of learners and assisting them to adapt to everchanging environments. Change and innovation aids in the accumulation of cultural diversity and helps learners in maintaining their heritage, solving social, critical and human relational problems such as integration, racism, sexism, and gender-based violence and progressing towards a more technological environment. The challenges schools’ encounter are being under resourced due to no funds, schools and teachers not willing to adapt to innovation and change, in turn this immobilizes the learner’s expansion of knowledge and as a result learners are not able to adapt to the ever-changing environments.

    The last function, social and personal developments; introduces and transitions learners from family to the expectations of the outside world. This function helps the development of the learner’s self-concept and encourages autonomy, individualism and independence. The challenges faced in schools are that learners might experience cultural issues, gender troubles, unequal opportunities, socio-economic difficulties that consequently stop the learner’s personal development and struggles to transition to the expectations of the outside world.


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