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

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…