Historically education served both social and economic needs; which dictates the function of education. Three theories however mainly represent these views and Kenya can learn a lot from them. They are: Functionalist theory, the conflict theory and symbolic interaction theory.

Functionalist theory.

It focuses on the ways that universal education serves the needs of society; in this way education conveys basic knowledge and skills to the next generation. Durkheim (founder of the functionalist theory) identified that education primarily serves to socialize people: bringing people from diverse backgrounds just like in metropolitan Nairobi. Under this theory, core values in education support political and economic systems that originally fueled pic

For the case of American classroom; individualism- the ideology that advocates liberty and rights or independent action of the individual is the important value. It reveres and seeks out the person who achieves the best score in a test or the most pints in a game. The carefully constructed curriculum helps the students develop their identities and self esteem. In Japan the idea swerves from self-esteem to social esteem. In Kenya we are in between the two though we are more into the American way. This theory also incorporates competition in their education through competitive learning games in classroom and through activities and athletics outside their classroom and Kenya performs fairly well on outside games of promoting competitions only. Some kind of prize or reward motivates them to play or study and hence instills on students the relationship between winning and possessing.

This theory revolves around sorting as a principle in education separating students on basis of merit, also called social placement in sociology. Here, society demands that the most capable people get channeled into most important occupations. After sorting, the next function of education is networking according to this theory. These networking may be personal or professional; these lead couples together of similar backgrounds, interests and income potential. This is the reason why marriages are between people of almost same class in Kenya and around the world according to this theory.

Confict theory.

This theory sees the purpose of education as maintaining social inequality and preserving the power of those who dominate society. This theory sees education as perpetuating the the status quo by dulling the lower classes into being obedient workers.

This theory on sorting argues that those in the working classes accept their position as lower class member of society; termed as “hidden curriculum.” Conflict theorists argue that property taxes fund most schools; therefore schools in affluent districts have more money. Such areas are predominantly white. They can afford to pay higher salaries, attract better teachers and purchase newer texts and more technology unlike those from less affluent neighborhoods who hardly go to college. That can be easily seen prominently in Kenya.

Conflict theorists also argue that school testing favor the white affluent particularly in IQ testing. They claim that questions that assume to test intelligence actually test cultural knowledge and hence exhibit cultural bias. In Kenya for example; asking a pupil in Samburu to choose which one is not a musical instrument and give the choices as Saxophone, piano and others, this may pose a challenge due to the fact that they might not have heard or seen any of them.

Symbolic interaction theory.

This theory limits their analysis of education to what they directly observe happening in the classroom. They focus on how teacher expectations influence student performance, perception and attitude.

Robert Rosenthal and Lenore Jacobson conducted a study of the students with standard IQ and identified a number of students who could have higher abilities in the future years. Later the predicted students did show higher IQ and brought about self seeking prophesy-The false assumption that actually occurs because one predicted it. This theory is based on the teachers’ perception of student abilities due to their interactions with the students.

The Kenyan system can learn some tips from these theories and put them down into practice and we could have done our system a whole good at the end of the day.


Geoffrey Ndege

Geoffrey Ndege

Geoffrey Ndege is the Editor and topical contributor for the Daily Focus. He writes in the areas of Science, Politics, Policy, Technology, Current Affairs, Opinion, Agriculture, Energy, Education, Entrepreneurship, Governance, International Emerging Issues, Society, and culture. For featuring, promotions or support write to us at
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