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Schooling is a program of formal, systematic instruction that takes place primarily in classrooms but also includes extracurricular activities and out-of-classroom assignments. In its ideal sense according to Durkheim, "education must make the child cover in a few years the enormous distance traveled by mankind in many centuries".

In modern context, schooling represents the means by which instructors pass on the values, knowledge, and skills that they or others have defined as important for success in the world.

Schools perform a number of important functions that serve the needs of society and contribute to its smooth operation. These functions include transmitting skills, facilitating change and progress, contributing basic and applied research, integrating diverse populations, and screening and selecting the most qualified students for what are considered the most socially important careers.

Societies use education-based programs to address a variety of social problems, including parents' absence from the home, racial inequality, drug and alcohol addictions, malnutrition, teenage pregnancy, sexually transmitted diseases, and illiteracy.

In the most general sense, illiteracy is the inability to understand and use a symbol system, whether it is based on sounds, letters, numbers, pictographs, or some other type of symbol. People are considered functionally illiterate when they do not possess the level of reading, writing, calculating, and other skills needed to succeed (that is, function) in the society in which they live. This point suggests that illiteracy is a product of one's environment.

Schools are not perfectas it is seen that not all minds are liberated. Many students drop out, refuse to attend, or graduate with skill deficiencies. Sometimes schools misclassify students etc. The point is that the functionalist analysis best describes ideals, which some school systems realize better than others. The conflict perspective draws attention to the dynamics among dominant and subordinate groups and to unequal power arrangements in which those with more wealth and power can exercise their will over others with less status.

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