Functionalism is the idea that society is a system of interdependent parts held together by a shared culture and value consensus.Each part of the education system according to functionalists, help to maintain society as a whole. The leading authority of functionalist ideology is Emile Durkheim and he identifies two main functions of education which are social solidarity and teaching specialist skills. Other Functionalists argue that the role of education is to draw the bridge between family and the wider society, and also to serve as a device for selection and allocation.The aim of this essay is to assess the contribution of functionalists views to our understanding of the role of education. .
One of the roles of education according to Durkheim is to create social solidarity. Social solidarity can be defined as when the individuals in a society feel as though they are a part of a single ˜body' or community. Durkheim argues that society needs a sense of solidarity, and without solidarity, social life and cooperation is impossible because individuals would pursue their own selfish desires. According to Durkheim, education system helps to create social solidarity by transmitting society's culture from one generation to the next. He calls school a "society in miniature ", preparing us for life in wider society. For instance, both in school and at work we have to interact with others according to a set of impersonal rules that apply to everyone. Education instils in children a sense of a shared heritage and a commitment to a wider social group.
However, other ideologies argue that education does not help to create a sense of solidarity within society, but maintain domination by the ruling class. For instance, Marxists such as Louis Althusser claim that the education system is an important Ideological State apparition (ISA), meaning it maintains the rule of the bourgeoise by controlling people's ideas, values and beliefs.