Similarities and Differences of Functionalist and Marxist Views on Education

  • Created by: eBUNe2
  • Created on: 11-12-18 13:54

Functionalist and Marxist Views on Education


  • Both see schools playing a role in legitimizing (justifying and explaining) social inequality.
  • Both are macro (large-scale) theories concerned with the structural relationship between education and other parts of the social system, such as the economy and social inequality.
  • Both see education as serving the needs of industrial and/or capitalist society.
  • Both see the education system as a powerful influence on students, ensuring they conform to existing social values and norms.


  • Functionalism - Education serves the needs of an industrial society with an advanced division of labour
  • Marxism - Educations serves the needs of a capitalist society divided into social classes
  • ---
  • Functionalism - Education serves the needs of the social system by socializing new generations into society's culture and shared norms and values, leading to social harmony, social cohesion, stability and social integration.
  • Marxism - Education serves the needs of capitalism by socializing young people into the dominant ideology (ruling-class norms and values), leading to an obedient workforce and the stability of capitalism
  • ---
  • Functionalism - The hidden curriculum helps to prepare society's future citizens for participation in a society based on value consensus.
  • Marxism - The hidden curriculum helps to persuade society's future citizens to accept the dominant ideology and their position in a society based on inequality, exploitation and conflict.
  • ---
  • Functionalism - Education provides a means for upward social mobility for those who have the ability.
  • Marxism -  With the exception of a few individuals, education confirms individuals' class of origin as their class of destination. Education therefore contributes to the reproduction of present class inequalities between generations, and does not provide a means of upward social mobility for most people
  • ---

Overall comparison

Criticisms of Both Marxist and Functionalist Perspectives                                                                                                                                                            - They both place too much emphasis on the role of education in forming students' identity, and they pay too little attention to the influence of other agencies of socialization, such as the family, media or work.                                                                                                                                         - They don't fully consider the way students react to schooling in ways that aren't necessarily 'functional' for the social system or capitalism. For example, pupils disrupt schools, play truant and don't learn and worker's earlier experience of schooling does not stop them from going on strike. (However, note the exception of Willis's work here.)                                                                                                                                                           - They both see too tight link between education and the economy, and exaggerate the extent to which schools provide a ready, willing and qualified labour force. The new emphasis on vocational education and pressure to drive up school standards are a direct response to employers who criticized schools for not providing a suitability disciplined and qualified labour force.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        Sourced From: AQA Sociology Textbook Vol. 1 (Ken Browne)                                                                                                                                                      Thanks for Reading :) (ps. sorry if there are any mistakes)