People interact in small and large group situations. As a result, there are multiple specialities divided into various institutions to address the needs and expectations of each collective group (Ballatine, Spade & Stuber 33). Examples of such studies of institutions include process studies and interactions between groups and individuals. Besides, institutions, such as family, religion, education, economics, politics and health help to define and understand interrelationships between individuals. In this regard, the essay discusses the assumptions of functionalism and conflict theories and their perspectives on status attainment through the education system.
PART A: FUNCTIONALIST THEORY
Functionalist theory is a socialist approach to education, arguing that knowledge is there to serve the needs and requirements of the community, as well as stabilising it (Ballatine et al., 54). It equips people with development skills they can use to transform their community for the better. The primary concept of the functionalist theory is that schools and other institutions must collaborate so that they fulfil the functions of each city (Cote & Furlong 30). Institutions that form a society include family, economic systems, religion, education, health and political integration. These institutions must work collaboratively to fulfil societal functions.
Additionally, the functionalist theory argues that asserts that education is vital in creating a moral society by creating cohesion among people. It enhances interactions among people in different institutions (Ballatine et al., 54). It establishes social cohesion by preparing students to participate in various societal functions. The primary services of a school are to create social order by developing intellectual skills as well as promoting political allegiance. Furthermore, it prepares students to contribute to the economic development of society by developing occupational roles.
The primary assumption of the functionalist theory is that education is critical in facilitating economic stability. It implies that society cannot be stable without investing in education. However, it must collaborate with other institutions to meet societal functions (Ballatine et al., 55). The second assumption of the theory is that it is through educational institutions that people acquire moral values, which are the foundations of social order. It gives little credit to other institutions.
Finally, the functionalist theory perceives education as a gateway to attainment status in society. Educational institutions provide one of the significant methods of social mobility. They are seen as gateways that move students closer to their careers (Ballatine et al., 55). For example, higher learning institutions prepare students to become doctors, teachers, and community workers and develop entrepreneurship mindset. These professions give them financial freedom. Individuals can gain social status, such as a doctor of philosophy by academic qualification. Also, students receive grades at the end of each academic year or recommendations that improve their status in society. In this regard, education, according to the functionalist theory, prepares people for status attainment in community.
Part B: Conflict Theory
The conflict theory argues that inequality in society depends on the position of an individual in the social system (Ballatine et al., 57). Further, it explains that schools create privileges for some students while disadvantaging some. It conflicts with functionalist theory in the sense that, while functionalist theory argues that education creates stability in communities, conflict theory argues that it creates inequalities. It is because not all people are equal in communities. As a result, they have different privileges, causing imbalance.
Recent theories argue that factors, such as ethnicity, gender, race and politics, add to traditional Marxist and economic problems that define inequality in society. Other additions to the conflict theory are resistance and reproduction caused by competing interests and needs of different social groups. Conflicts are frequent in different social groups (Ballatine et al., 57). For example, conflicts can occur even in a school where teachers, parents and students agree on rules and regulations. The Marxist theory argues that the development of capitalism led to the creation of competing groups, involving those who have and those who do not have. Capitalism led to the struggle between those who control resources and have power and the powerless in society (Cote & Furlong 31). The same case applies to education, where students from privileged families have access to better and quality education compared to students from less privileged families. The assumptions of the theory include the fact that schools function better in the interest of privileged and influential groups. Another assumption is that school structure, processes and the curriculum codify class domination.
The conflict theory of education creates a prerequisite for different high-status positions in society. Those with power and the privilege will continue controlling resources, while the less privileged will continue fighting for equality (Ballatine et al., 58). For example, students from economically stable families have access to better education and healthcare compared to the less privileged. Also, they are likely to attain high-status in politics by taking advantage of the poor. In this regard, education contributes to creating conflicts in society.
Sociologists explain the contribution of society in different ways. According to functionalist theory, schools are neutral and operate on meritocracy. Each student can access high educational levels. It assumes that education is the key to stabilising society. However, conflict theory criticises the functionalist theory in the sense that conflicts are inevitable because of the struggle between different interest groups. In the process, it contributes to inequality since students from economically stable families are privileged to access quality education and status in society. However, it argues that school processes, structure and curriculum codify domination of classes.
Ballatine, Jeanne. Spade, Joan & Stuber, Jenny. Schools and Society: A sociological approach to education. London: Sage Publications, 2018. Print.
Cote, James & Furlong, Andy. Routledge handbook of the sociology of higher education. New York: Routledge, 2016. Print.
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