Assess the Marxist view of the role of education (20 marks)
Marxists view society as based on conflict. They believe that the role of all institutions in society can be understood in terms of how they relate to the economic system.
They therefore see the education system as an institution which reproduces the class system and provides the economy with a suitable workforce. The labour force needs professional and managerial workers, as well as skilled and unskilled manual workers. According to Marxists, the role of the education system is to provide workers for every part of the economy.
Support for this Marxist view comes from Bowls and Gintis who highlight a strong correspondence between what is learnt in schools and what is required in workers for the Capitalist system. For example, they found that in school the pupils who succeed the most ...view middle of the document...
Also some critics question how the Capitalist system survived before the introduction of the Education system, as in the past only U.C children would have the experience of attending school.
Further support for this Marxist view comes from Willis. Willis studied a group of 12 working class boys during the last year of their education and the first few months of their employment. He used qualitative methods of observation, diaries and group interviews. He found that these working class boys adopted a counter school culture. They did not believe education had anything to offer them and therefore did not work. Through this culture they disadvantaged themselves and ended up in working class jobs.
This supports the Marxist theory because Willis believed this counter school culture was unique to the working class, so although the lads were actively failing themselves this was a result of their low status position in society.
A major challenge to the Marxist theory of education comes from Functionalists who believe that the education system is based on a meritocracy. Durkheim and Parsons argue that those who are the most talented and hardworking will be identified by the education system and rewarded with qualifications. This will enable them to access high positions in society. Functionalists believe that this will happen no matter what your class position is.
In conclusion, there is evidence to support the Marxist claim that the education system reproduces social classes, as the majority of working class school children today do not experience great social mobility. However, there are clear examples of members of the working class being successful and accessing higher positions. Also you could argue that it is very difficult to discriminate when all pupils must be taught the same National Curriculum. With the decline in manual jobs in society you could argue that the correspondence between education and work is not as clear as it was.