The role of education



Durkheim: eductaion performs 2 main functions

  • Social solidarity (teaching common history etc teaches a common purpose)
  • Prepares a work force


  • Secondary socialisation 
  • Meritocracy

Davis and Moore: role allocation

  • selection and allocation of most talented individuals 
  • meritocratic system allows everyone to compete equally

- Marxists: values transmitted by edu system are not societies shared ones, but those of the ruling class

- Interactionists: too deterministic, not all pupils are passive in accepting schools values

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Neoliberalism/ New right

Believes that state should not provide education, a market economy enchorages competition and drives up standards. More of a political view than a sociological view, but is a new version of functionalism so interesting.

Similarities w functionalists:

  • some people are natually more talented than others 
  • education should be meritocratic and open to competition 
  • edu. should socialise pupils into shared values 

Market vs the State: states one set of values cannot fit every pupil. Solution is to marketise the schools, makes the owner more sensetive to consumer needs. 

Chubb and Moe: pupils from low income families do 5% in private schools, suggests non-meritocractic system. 

The only role the state should hav in education is a framework for the market such as league tables, and creating  a base national currculum that enforces a shared national identity

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Education reproduces class inequalities to benfit the capitalists. 

Althusser: ideological state apparatus- controls peoples ideas and beliefs, includes mass media and education system

The state perfome two ideological functions:

  • Reproduction of  a work force 
  • Legitimisation of class inequality

Bowles and Gintis: capitalisst need workers that are submissive. Education works to produce suh workers. 

The Correspondance Principle: school mirrors the work force (submission, hierarchy of authority)

The hidden curriculum: implicit lessons taught to accapet hiarchy and competition 

Myth of meriticracy: legitimates class inequality

Role allocation: obediant students achieve, not creative thinkers

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Marxists 2

Willis: learnign to labour. Rejects state apparatus and WC passively acceting fate, in fact partially see through meritocracy and have a counter-culture which is similar to shop-floor culture.  By resisting ideology, they give in to it. 


- Feminists- schools reproduce capitalism and the patriarhy. Women absent from Willis' study (androcentric)

- Postmodernists: marxism is out of date, correspondance principle no longer operates and is too simplistic

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Education does teach social solidarity and prepares the workforce for the prosperity of a common purpose which is the advancement of the human lifestyle. I have just got my essay written from on the same topic which was widely researched on how human beings have passed down the education they discovered to their future generations.



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Education plays an important role in personal development, social construction, economic progress and social change. It is a powerful tool to unlock human potential and build a good future for society.

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