Functionalist and Marxist Approaches to Education and Economy

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Functionalist and Marxist Approaches to Education and Economy

Functionalist and Marxist perspectives differ considerably in the way they view the relationship between education and the economy. Both perspectives agree that the educational system provides society with certain functions, but they disagree about the purpose of these functions and more importantly who benefits from them. Functionalists see the educational system as providing a positive educational experience, which benefits the children and society. Whereas, Marxists claim that the system oppresses and harms people, and that it only benefits the powerful.

Functionalists believe mass formal education is an essential part of
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Another important function of the educational system, according to Durkheim, is the transmission of occupational skills. He felt that this was essential for industrial society, due to its specialised division of labour. At school pupils must acquire the skills that enable them to become specialists. Durkheim believed this was particularly important, because he felt that social solidarity is based upon the interdependence of specialised skills. From a Functionalist viewpoint social solidarity, value consensus and the interdependence of specialised skills are essential to the survival of society. They are therefore, also essential to the survival of the economy.

Durkheim believed that pupils, who misbehaved in school and disrupted class, should be given appropriate punishment. He argued that by doing this, pupils would learn that it is wrong to act against the interests of the social group, and would also come to realise that misbehaviour damages society as a whole. Durkheim stressed that it is not only important to punish disruptive pupils, but also to explain to them why they are being punished. All these processes of secondary socialisation, described by Durkheim, contribute to value consensus and the specialised division of labour.

Parsons (1961 'The school class and the social system') argued that
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