Educationis a social institution that is guiding thesociety’s transmission of knowledge – including basic facts, job skills, andalso cultural norms and values – to its members. In industrial societies education is largely a matter of schooling, formal instruction under the direction of speciallytrained teachers.

Theextent of schooling in any society is closely tied to its level of economicdevelopment. Industrial, high income societies endorse the idea that everyoneshould go to school. Schooling in low-income nations is very diverse because itreflects local culture. In low-income countries there is not much of it. Aboutone half of all elementary age children ever get to school, and perhaps onlyone half of them reach the secondary grades.

Structural-functionalanalysis looks at how formal education contributes to the operation of society.

The important functions performed byschooling are:


Technologicallysimple societies transmit their ways of life informally from parents tochildren. As societies develop complex technology, kin can no longer stayabreast of rapidly expanding information and skills.

Thusschooling gradually emerges as a distinctive social institution employingspecially trained personnel to convey the knowledge needed for adult roles.

Inprimary school children learn basic language and mathematical skills.

Secondaryschool builds on this foundation, and for many, college allows furtherspecialization.

Schoolspass on society’s core values from one generation to another. Schools are usedfor the inculcation of its values – values bout work, family, population,democracy, justice, and so on.

Schoolsexplicitly instruct students in our political way of life. It may be called political socialization.

Fromthe earliest grades, rituals such as saluting the flag and singing the nationalanthem foster patriotism.

Similarlyclassroom drills develop competitive individualism, respect for authority, anda sense of fair play.

Cultural Innovation

Educationcreates as well as transmits culture. Schools stimulate intellectual inquiryand critical thinking, sparking the development of new ideas. At college anduniversity the teachers are busy in research to expand our knowledge incountless areas. Medical research conducted at major universities over theyears has increased our life expectancy, just as research by sociologists andpsychologist helps us to take advantage of our longevity.

Social Change

Notonly the schools generate new knowledge, they are also the means for bringingsocial change.

Educationmay lead to dispelling the traditional attitudes and values. Education islikely to widen the perspectives of the youth, make them ‘rational’, willing toaccept new ideas and carrying the message forward.

Social Integration

Schoolinghelps forge a mass of people into a unified society. This integrative functionis especially important in nations with pronounced social diversity, wherevarious cultures know little about – or may even be hostile to – one another. Abasic way schools integrate culturally diverse people is by teaching a commonlanguage that encourages broad communication and builds a national identity.

Social Placement

Schoolshelp in identifying and developing each student’s aptitudes and abilities andthen evaluating a student’s performance in terms of achievement rather thansocial background.

Teachersencourage the “best and the brightest” to pursue the most challenging andadvanced studies, while guiding students with more ordinary ability into educationalprograms suited to their talents. In this way schooling enhances meritocracy bymaking personal merit a foundation of future social position.

Formaleducation helps people assume culturally approved statuses and perform rolesthat contribute to the ongoing life of society. In this way the schools preparethe youth for making a living.

Perpetuating Inequality

Schoolsprovide learning according students’ background, thereby perpetuatinginequality.

Schoolsalso help continuing inequality between men and women i.e. more boys go toschool than girls; girls select different subjects than boys. Schools reinforcethe cultural values of gender inequality.

School Tracking

Schoolshelp the assignment of students to different types of educational programs.This is a usual practice in most of the developed countries. Aptitude tests aregiven to students at grade 8, and with the help of guidance and counseling,students are put on different streams. The official justification for trackingis to give students the kind of learning that fits their abilities andmotivation.

Researchshows that social background has as much to do with tracking as personalaptitudes. Students from affluent families generally do well on standardized“scientific” tests and are to better tracks while those with modest backgroundsend up in programs that curb their aspirations and teach technical trades.

Trackingeffectively segregates students – academically and socially – into differentworlds.

Qualification Certification

Schoolsnot only transmit the knowledge and skills to the youth, they are also theagencies that certify the level of education achieved.

Other Latent Functions

Schoolsperform many latent functions. Schools have become vital for relieving singleand dual earner parents of some childcare responsibilities.

Schoolshelp in establishing social networks

Schoolhelp stabilize employment. Schools continue to hold on to the youth for alonger period – a period, which be utilized for the creation of jobopportunities for the educated youth.