top of page

Discuss Parsons' view on education and its role in achieving status and meritocracy.


Roles and Functions

 A Level/AS Level/O Level

Free Essay Outline

Outline: Parsons' View on Education and Meritocracy


⭐Briefly introduce the concept of functionalism and its key figures, including Talcott Parsons.
⭐State the main focus of the essay: Parsons' view on education's role in achieving status and meritocracy.

Parsons' Functionalist Perspective on Education

⭐Explain Parsons' concept of the "social system" and the need for value consensus.
⭐Discuss how education contributes to the maintenance of social order and stability.
⭐Explain the key functions of education according to Parsons:

⭐Socialization: Transmitting norms, values, and skills.
⭐Selection and allocation: Sorting individuals into roles based on ability.

Meritocracy and Status Attainment

⭐Explain Parsons' concept of meritocracy: achievement based on talent and effort.
⭐Discuss how education provides opportunities for social mobility and status attainment.
⭐Explain how education legitimizes inequality by suggesting that those who succeed deserve their position.

Criticisms of Parsons' View

⭐Discuss criticisms of Parsons' focus on consensus and overlooking conflict and inequality.
⭐Explain how education may reproduce existing inequalities rather than promoting meritocracy.
⭐Mention alternative perspectives like the Marxist and interactionist views on education.


⭐Summarize Parsons' key arguments about education's role in achieving status and meritocracy.
⭐Acknowledge the limitations of his perspective.
⭐Suggest that while education can play a role in social mobility, it is not a perfect system for achieving meritocracy.

Free Essay 

The Gatekeeper: Parsons and Education's Role in Achieving Status and Meritocracy

Talcott Parsons, a prominent figure in structural functionalism, viewed education as a crucial institution in modern society, playing a vital role in both achieving status and establishing a meritocratic system. He argued that education serves as a "gatekeeper," selecting and sorting individuals based on their abilities and potential, thus contributing to social order and stability.

Parsons believed that education fulfills several key functions within society:

⭐⭐1. Socialization:⭐⭐ Education instills societal values and norms, preparing individuals for their future roles in society. Students learn about citizenship, respect for authority, and the importance of hard work, ultimately contributing to social cohesion.

⭐⭐2. Skill Development:⭐⭐ Education equips individuals with the necessary skills and knowledge for participation in the workforce. This includes both technical skills needed for specific professions as well as soft skills like communication and teamwork, which are essential for navigating social interactions.

⭐⭐3. Status Allocation:⭐⭐ Parsons saw education as a primary mechanism for allocating social status based on merit. Through standardized testing, academic performance, and qualifications, individuals are assessed and ranked according to their abilities. This system, he believed, ensures that the most competent individuals occupy positions of power and influence in society.

⭐⭐4. Meritocracy:⭐⭐ Parsons' view of education is deeply intertwined with the concept of meritocracy, a system where social mobility is based solely on individual merit, rather than social background or privilege. He argued that education provides a level playing field, allowing individuals to demonstrate their abilities and achieve success regardless of their socioeconomic status.

However, Parsons' theory has been subject to criticism:

⭐⭐a) Inequality and Privilege:⭐⭐ Critics argue that the "level playing field" envisioned by Parsons often fails to account for existing inequalities. Socioeconomic backgrounds, access to resources, and cultural capital all play a significant role in students' educational outcomes. Students from privileged backgrounds often have advantages in terms of access to better schools, tutoring, and extracurricular activities, creating an uneven playing field.

⭐⭐b) Social Reproduction:⭐⭐ Some argue that education perpetuates existing social stratification rather than challenging it. Students from privileged backgrounds are more likely to succeed academically and enter prestigious universities, which, in turn, open doors to high-paying jobs and positions of power. This cycle reinforces existing power structures and perpetuates inequality.

⭐⭐c) Cultural Bias:⭐⭐ Critics point out that standardized tests and educational systems often reflect dominant cultural values and perspectives, which may disadvantage students from marginalized communities. This can lead to the mislabeling and underachievement of students from diverse backgrounds, undermining the very notion of meritocracy.


While Parsons' view of education as a gatekeeper for status and meritocracy highlights its important social functions, it fails to fully account for the complex realities of inequality and social reproduction. Contemporary sociologists recognize the significant impact of social factors on educational outcomes and emphasize the need for a more nuanced understanding of education's role in society. While education undoubtedly plays a crucial role in skill development and socialization, it's imperative to acknowledge its limitations and strive for greater equity and social justice within the educational system.

bottom of page