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Education from a Functionalist Perspective

            Eduction is a fundamental building block to Australian society. The Australian eduction system is structured with five basic components. These are: primary school, compulsory secondary school, post-compulsory secondary school, technical and further eduction (TAFE) and higher education (university) (van Krieken et al, 2000:187). This essay argues the usefulness of education to the entire Australian society, as seen from a functional sociologist's perspective. After an outline of the functionalist world-view, the functional role of education will be examined. O"Donnell (1994:7) states that when people behave in a way that others expect them to behave, they adopt a role. These roles have functions, which ideally contributes to societal equilibrium and harmony. Education has at least three roles in society. Firstly, by attaining formal education students learn to socialize and learn what is expected from potential employers and develop the appropriate skills to join the workforce. Secondly, education effectively selects and stratifies individuals according to their ability and finally, produces relevant knowledge and research for the use in the community.
             Functionalists view society's natural state as one of harmony between interlocking sub-systems of society such as, the economy, health and eduction (Worsley, 1992:16). In fact, it is believed that individuals and institution can not be understood except in context of their part in society. Each sub-system has particular functions, or roles, within society contributing towards a total cohesiveness. One of the reasons functionalists believe that society manages such social order is because common values and norms overarch all parts of the societal system (Haralambos et al, 1996:10). Members in sub-systems enter into mutually beneficial arrangements because of these common values (Kellehear, 1990:33). For example, the student/tutorial relationship could be seen as cooperative exchange with value ascribed by both parties to the exchange of knowledge (Walter & Crook, 1993:5).

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