Functionalist’s perspective on education is based on the consensus theory of equality. They tend to believe that education helps to maintain society by socialising young people with the value of achievement, competition and equality of opportunity. Education also teaches the skills to help the economy. For example, literacy, numeracy and IT for particular occupations. Role allocation is all part of this; education allocates people to the most appropriate jobs of their talents, using examinations and qualifications. Durkheim identified two main functions of education: creating social solidarity and teaching specialist skills. The government, or state, provides education for the children of the family, which in turn pays taxes on which the state depends to keep itself running. The family is dependent upon the school to help children grow up to have good jobs so that they can raise and support their own families. In the process, the children become law-abiding, taxpaying citizens, who in turn support the state. If all goes well, the parts of society produce order, stability, and productivity.
Functionalism emphasizes the consensus and order that exist in society, focusing on social stability and shared public values. From this perspective, disorganization in the system, such as deviant behavior, leads to change because societal components must adjust to achieve stability. When one part of the system is not working or is dysfunctional, it affects all other parts and creates social problems, which leads to social change. Functionalists see education as a process that instils the shared values of society as a whole, where everyone has a chance at education and also has a chance of achieving the best job for themselves. However Marxists argue with this and believe that education is a capitalist society only transmitting the ideology of a minority in this case the ruling class. As the capitalist society is based on inequality, they argue unlike functionalists that meritocracy does not exist, as the main factor determining whether someone is has a high income is their family and class not on how they achieved in education.a