School Factors & The Purpose of Formal Education

School Factors & The Purpose of Formal Education

  • The school curriculum has been criticised for biasing European cultures and putting those from a different heritage at a disadvantage.
  • Self-fulfilling prophecy: It is observed that some teachers focus on pupils they see as more likely to achieve. This results in the neglect of pupils they label as ‘non-achievers’ – often black or working class students. This may bring about the outcome the teacher expected in the first place. This is known as a self-fulfilling prophecy.
  • Peer pressure: There can be an anti-learning culture among certain pupils in schools where academic success is seen as ‘nerdy’. Peer pressure can prevent an otherwise bright student to focus on gaining popularity rather than good exam results. The lad culture is especially dismissive of exams and encourages a spirit of rebellion.
  • The school ethos does much to shape the attitude of the student. Some schools have a strong academic ethos and so drive pupils to work harder and achieve higher.


The purpose of formal education

Sociologists have different views on the purpose of formal education. Formal education is the planned learning that takes place in schools and colleges. Informal education is what we learn simply by observing what happens around us. Functionalist sociologists focus on the positive functions educational institutions play in society. They believe some of the functions are:

1.) To serve the needs of the economy: Students pick up the skills required to work and succeed in the workplace and to help develop the economy.

2.) Selection: Students are divided according to their skills and intelligence and steered towards a certain job or role in society.

3.) Enabling social mobility: Students are given a base from which to move up or down the social scale, according to their abilities.

4.) Secondary socialization: Pupils pick up the culture, values and norms of the society in which they grow up.

5.) Social control: Pupils are confronted with rules and adult authority and learn to conform.

6.) Fostering ‘Britishness’ and social cohesion: Pupils develop their knowledge and understanding of British history and culture and begin to see themselves as British. Schools reinforce the bonds that exist between us and help bring us together as a society.