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Sociology Of Education

by letare hemrom

Chapter Outline

1.0 Introduction
1.1 Learning Objectives
1.2 Sociology of education: concept and origin
1.2.1 What is sociology?
1.2.2 What is education?
1.3 Relation between sociology and education
1.3.1 Social Reproduction
1.3.2 Structural Function and Social Reproduction
1.3.3 Conflict theory and Social Reproduction
1.3.4 Concept of Cultural Capital
1.4 Issues in Sociology of Education
1.4.1 Language
1.4.2 Gender
1.4.3 Ideology
1.4.4 Technology
1.4.5 Family Structure
1.4.6 Cultural Diversity
1.5 Let us Sum Up
1.6 Glossary
1.7 Reference and Further Readings
1.8 Check your Progress :The Key


Education as a process and an idea exists within a societal context. Whether formal or informal learning, education is organized in the society by individuals who are members of a particular group, community, states and nation. So, you understand the significance of the society in educational transactions and organizing curricular events. While pursuing your Bachelor of education you must have studied the Philosophical foundations, Psychological foundations and sociological foundations of education. In this unit we will deal with the sociology of education in details; and the relation between sociology and education. This will be useful in managing educational institutions. In this unit we discuss two broad issues i) the concept of sociology of education and ii) the relation between sociology and education.

In order to study this unit, you must recall the educational philosophies and psychological foundations.Go through page 14 of book Philosophy of education by T.W.Moore .This is an online book you can find this book in Google book search .It would be useful to go through these topics before you start this course.

Learning Objectives
After reading this chapter, you are expected to learn about:

Having gone through this unit carefully,you should be able to :

  • Define the concept of sociology of education;
  • Describe the relation between education and sociology;
  • Evaluate the social concerns in their institutions, and
  • Plan and design the most effective social net in educational institutions.

1.2 Sociology of education: concept and origin

The sociology of education is the study of how social institutions and individual experiences affects education and its outcome. Education is It is concerned with all forms of education ie formal and informal education systems of modern industrial societies. It is relatively a new branch and two great sociologist Émile Durkheim and Max Weber were the father of sociology of education. Émile Durkheim's work on moral education as a basis for social solidarity is considered the beginning of sociology of education.

After the second world war it gained entity as separate subject of knowledge.Technological advancement and engagement of human capital(work force) in industrialization America and Europe gave rise to the social mobility .Now it is easier to move up to the upper strata of society gaining technical skills,knowledge.People who were farmer earlier became worker in factories.In that period social mobility was at top gear.And sociologist began to think that education promotes social mobility and undermines the class stratification.

It gained interest and lot of sociological studies done on the subject.Statistical and field research across numerous societies showed a persistent link between an individual's social class and achievement, and suggested that education could only achieve limited social mobility . Sociological studies showed how schooling patterns reflected, rather than challenged, class stratification and racial and sexual discrimination . But sociology of education is a branch of study and very helpful in finding the relation between sociology and education.

The sociology of education is the study of how social institutions and forces affect educational processes and outcomes, and vice versa. By many, education is understood to be a means of overcoming handicaps, achieving greater equality and acquiring wealth and status for all (Sargent 1994). Learners may be motivated by aspirations for progress and betterment. Education is perceived as a place where children can develop according to their unique needs and potentialities.The purpose of education is to develop every individual to their full potential.

1.2.1 What is Sociology?

We all have studied sociology little bit in bachelor programme in Education.Here we will refresh our knowledge. The word Sociology originates from latin prefix :socius, "companion"; and the suffix -ology, "the study of", from Greek lógos, "knowledge" .

Sociology is the systematic study of society.Sociology encompasses all the elements of society ie social relation, social stratification, social interaction, culture .Scope of sociology is wide and it ranges from the analysis of interaction of two anonymous persons to the global social interaction in global institution. like UNESCO UN etc.

Sociology can perhaps be best regarded as an attempt to name that which secretely keeps society going ( Whitty and Young,1976).

1.2.2 What is education?

We all have studied Education in details in bachelor programme in Education.Here we will refresh our knowledge. Education is a broad concept, referring to all the experiences in which learners can learn something.It is a social endeavor designed to get the maximum from the ability of each of the member of the society .Education is covers both the teaching and learning of knowledge, values. It thus focuses on the cultivation of skills(communication,intellectual,specialized skills),advancement of knowledge and spreading of secular view(values).

Education consists of systematic instruction, teaching and training by professional teachers. This consists of the application of pedagogy.Teachers depends on many different disciplines for their lessons like psychology, philosophy, information technology, linguistics, biology, and sociology.

So far we have learned about the Education and Sociology and the concept of Sociology of education.Before we proceed further let us work out the following exercise.

Self-Assessment Questions (SAQs) -1
Note :
  • Compare your answer with the one given at the end of the unit.
  • Answer the multiple choice question by selecting the correct answer.

1.Sociology of education is the study of :
a. sociology and education. sociology is used in education.
c.why sociology is used in educationd.
d. how social institutions affects education and its outcome.

2. The scope of sociology is:
a. Limited to a particular society only.
b.Limited to Global social interaction only.
c.Ranges from interaction between two person to global social interaction.
d.Interaction in schools only.

3. Education is a:
a.Social effort.
b.Psychological effort.
c.Ideological effort.
d.Physical effort.

1.3 Relation between sociology and education

As a school teacher and administrator all of you are living in a small society known as school. You will find various relation(learner and teacher, peer group, boys and girls, different social background etc), values(religion and culture) in in educational institutions.So we must know the pattern,concerns of this society for effective educational outcome.

The relation between sociology and education has always been a subject of debate.One concept says education is meant to overcome the inequalities of society whereas the other says the prime function of education is to promote the equilibrium status of the society ie it it tries to maintains equality/inequality whatever state is prevalent in the society.

The sociologist who favours second theory says that education is a social effort hence it runs the way society wants.And society moves in the direction the dominant group of society wants.According to them the second theory is a propagated myth by the promoter of first theory.The first theory is said positive and second is leveled as negative thought.Although there is conflict which theory is most relevant ; one thing is crystal clear that education is social effort and it reflects rather than directs society.If education is said to directs society it is true only because there is a social force favouring this.

Both the theory has a role to play in defining the relation between sociology and education.This relation plays a great role in learning outcome.So it is a matter of great interest for the people like you; who is directly linked to educational institutions.

1.3.1Social Reproduction

We know that every living entity has a reproduction syatem.The same way, according to social reproduction theory the society has also a reproduction system.Society wants to reproduce itself as it is.
Society has its institutions through which it reproduce itself Family,Economy,Government,Religion,Education.All institutions are meant to socialize its member. This means these institutions trains(socialize) the members Education is one of the most powerful social institution as it has access to the children. Right from the beginning in their life education institutions has great control. Education institutions decides the future perspective of the children.

1.3.2 Structural Function and Social Reproduction

Structural functionalism is a sociological paradigm which addresses the issue of social functions, various elements of the society is meant to play.This is based on the view of Durkheim according to which society tends to maintain equilibrium through moral values.The prime function of educational institutions is to maintain the status-quo of the society.

It is the general moral values(consensus) which keeps the society intact.And according to social structuralism all social institutions particularly educational institutions plays important role to maintain the state of equilibrium in society. Other social institutions like govrnment,,religion and economy also helps in maintaining this equilibrium and keeps the society healty.Society is called healthy when every member of the society accept the general moral values and obey them.

Structural functionist believe that role of educational institutions is to incorporate common consensus among the new member (children) of the society.According to Durkheim in educational institutions the behaviour is regulated to accept the general moral values through curriculum and hidden curriculum.Educational institutions also sort out learners for future market.It plays the role of grading learners out come to fit them to different future jobs.High achievers will be trained for higher jobs and low achievers will be fitted in less important jobs.The behaviour of member of society is regulated in such a way that they accept their roles in society according to their social status.Thus structural functionalism opposes social mobility.

The weakness of this perspective lies in unability to answer the question why would the working class wish to stay working class? And this debate has given birth to another perspective theory that is conflict theory.We will study conflict theory in next sub section.

1.3.3 Conflict theory and Social Reproduction

The perspective of conflict theory, contrary to the structural functionalist perspective, believes that society is full of vying social groups with different aspirations, different access to life chances and gain different social rewards.Relations in society, in this view, are mainly based on exploitation,dominition,subordination and conflict.This is the opposite view of society than the previous idea(structural functionalism) that most people accept continuing inequality. Some conflict theorists believe education is controlled by the nation which is controlled by the powerful social group, and its purpose is to reproduce existing inequalities, as well as legitimise acceptable common ideas which actually as reinforcement to the privileged positions of the dominant group.
Education is one of the most powerful social institution as it has access to the children.Right from the beginning in their life education institutions has great control. Education institutions decides the future perspective of the children.But the question arises that what is the dominant force behind Educational institution.Who decides the way educational institutions should run.As we read society has many social groups with different social aims and aspirations, different status and life chances. As the aspiration of different group are varied and may be conflicting.So there is conflict for becoming the dominant force of Educational instutions.And obviously the dominant group will be the force behing educational institutions.

And educational institutions follows the directions of dominant group to maintain the status -quo of society ie the lower, middle and upper class children become lower, middle and upper class adults respectively.This is a cyclic process as the dominant group roots the values,and aims favouring themselves in educational institutions.Dominant group also promotes the myth through other institution like government, economy that education is for all and provide a means of achieving wealth and status. Anyone who fails to achieve this goal, according to the myth, has to blame himself; not the social inequality and unfavourable educational.

Conflict theorists believe this social reproduction is a cyclic process because the whole education system is flooded with ideologies provided by the dominant group.According to this theory people always tries to go up in level of society.Thus this theory promotes social mobility.

1.3.4 Concept of Cultural Capital

Before we proceed further let us first discuss what is cultural capital. Cultural capital denotes the accumulation of knowledge, experience,skills one has had through the course of their life that enables him to succeed more so than someone from a less experienced background.

Pierre Bourdieu a sociologist has further elaborated the social reproduction theory and developed the relation between the structure( educational institutions) and the learners.

Bourdieu has built his theoretical framework around the important concepts of cultural capital. This concepts is based on the idea that social structures (educational institutions particularly) determine individuals' chances, through the mechanism of the cultural capital.. Bourdieu used the idea of cultural capital to explore the differences in outcomes for students from different classes.He explored the conflict between the orthodox reproduction and the innovative production of knowledge and experience.He found that this conflict is intensified by considerations of which particular cultural capital is to be conserved and reproduced in schools. Bourdieu argues that it is the culture of the dominant groups, and therefore their cultural capital, which is embodied in schools, and that this leads to social reproduction.

The cultural capital of the dominant group, in the form of practices and relation to culture, is assumed by the school to be the natural and only proper type of cultural capital and is therefore legitimated. Students who possess this legitimate cultural capital gain educational capital in the form of qualifications.Learner having cultural capital different from accepted cultural capital are therefore disadvantaged. To gain qualifications they must acquire legitimate cultural capital, by exchanging their own (lower-class) cultural capital. This exchange is not straight forward and easy.Learner of lower class find success harder in school due to the fact that they must learn a new way of ‘being’, or relating to the world, and especially, a new way of relating to and specially using language.They have to act also against their instincts and expectations.Their expectations and instinct influenced by the cultural capital found in the school, also helps in social reproduction by encouraging less-privileged students to eliminate themselves from the system as drop outs. That is why still,only a small number of less-privileged students achieve success. And majority of these students who get success at education had to incorporate the values of the dominant classes and use them as their own. The process of social reproduction is not perfect and very few learners gets success to overcome the barrier of cultural capital;but most of them fails to do so.

Therefore Bourdieu's perspective reveals how structures play an important role in determining individual achievement in school.This also allows for an individual to overcome these barriers.

We can say Bourdieu's has combined the structural functionalism and conflict theory in his cultural capital concept.Both functionalism and conflict theories have meaning and place in Education.

Self-Assessment Questions (SAQs) -2
Note :
  • Compare your answer with the one given at the end of the unit.
  • Select true or false (√)

1.Structural function opposes social mobility. (True/False)
2. Conflict theory favours social mobility. (True/False)
3. Rich cultural capital helps in better educational outcome. (True/False)
4.Most disadvantaged social group decides the common values of Educational institutions. (True/False)

1.4 Issues in Sociology of Education

Educational institution is a good sample of society.It is a miniature form of society.You can find various group like group of learners(boys and girls),group of teacher(male and female),group of non teaching staff.Various roles are played in educational institutions like Evaluation (peer evaluation, tutor evaluation, evaluation of teacher by learner etc).

Teacher play role of Judge(evaluation),helper (help learner in achieving objective ),detective(find out the law breaker),Idol(promotimg values).The environment of educational institution is a complex one and various issues like gender,Social background,language technology,ideology interplay in a complex social milieu at micro(within institution) and macro (broad perspective) level.Let us go through these issues in brief.this will be useful in arranging effective learning experience.

1.4.1 Language

A language is a set of visual, auditory, symbols(gesture and posture) of communication. We know that learning is a process resulting from the communication(interaction)between learner and teacher.So you can understand what importance language have in education.In a single language society where one language is used there is no concern of language of education at local level.But in a bigger social sphere(global) again language issue comes.

But in a multilingual society the issue of language selection comes at both local and global level.We can see hues and cry over the language issue in schools.In India we opt to put our children in English medium schools though our mother tongue is not English.Non English speaking student need extra effort to get the better results.

1.4.2 Gender

Let us understand what gender is.Gender differs from sex.Sex is a biological state that defines being male or female.Gender is the social difference a person face due to his sex.Did you notice the gender issue;I have used his not her.Our is a male dominated society and this reflects in educational institutions also.We have some of the indexes which indicates the social biases in all sphere of education like language and literature of texts, male female ratio of learners,teachers.

You can find the status of gender issue in your institution by calculating these indexes.As well you can decide these indexes by including these issues at policy making stage.

1.4.3 Ideologies

Before going through this subsection I advise you to go through the Teaching learning strategies.You can find this in IGNOU website online eGyanKosh (India,IGNOU,School of education, Course ES-316 Block 3, unit 3).

The term ideology of education is a complex one.This can be defined as the set of common agreed ideas and beliefs based on which the formal arrangement for education is made.Ideology is deciding factor at every level of educational activities.Ideology affects curriculum,flow of order in institution,teaching methods.

Curriculum have the strong impression of Idealism,Pragmatism,Essentialism,Reconstructionism,Existentialism.Generally no single philosophy guides curriculum but the mixture of philosophies guides the curriculum.

Any educational institution can have any Teaching learning strategies or the mixture of them.

Teacher centered strategy (word of mouth,demonstration)
Learner centered strategy (open school/university,Computer assisted learning,individual project,Blended learning,flexi-study)
Group learning strategy ( group project,Tutorial,seminar)
Experiential learning strategy (play and learn,discovery learning,role play,simulation method).

You can adopt democratic or authoritarian way of giving instructions.The flow diagram of these orders is as follow.

flow of order from autocratic to democratic

Authoritarian order generates fear and gap between learner and teacher whereas democratic order fills the gap.It is up to you to choose the method of flow of order.

1.4.4 Technology

The question arises what is technology? Technology is the use of science.We read in the earlier subsection that learning is a process resulting from interaction between learner and teacher.This means communication plays a vital role in education.Various teaching strategies needs electronics gadgets, electricity.Print material,educational CDs,audio and video learning materials are used for teaching.Libraries in institutions are getting digital having access to web.Evaluation of learners can be done in Computers.

But what is the sociological aspect of technology.The access to these technologies is not equal in the society.Very few percentage of people in India have access to these technological advancement.In India most of the government primary schools even do not have electricity.According to the Electricity connections(%) in upper primary is as follow

States Electricity
Andhra Pradesh 52.68
Assam 10.36
Bihar 5.8
Chattisgarh 18.54
Gujarat 94.08
Himanchal Pradesh 42.22
Jharkhand 20.97
Karnatka 64.58

(source: DISE analytical report 2004)

So you can easily understand children having education in these institutions are far from getting the fruit of technological advancement.How can we expect children of these schools to move ahead at par with the children of schools having all technological advancements.

1.4.5 Family Structure

The concept of nuclear Family is prevalent now days in India. The concept of combined family is loosing its identity. the percent of family having both parents working is getting higher.They also work in shifts.Parents have very little time for their children.In this case the self study at home is not done well.As a teacher you can identify the family structure of the learner and plan learning activities accordingly.

1.4.6 Cultural Diversity

India is a multicultural society and as a teacher and administrator you must think for your action with this perspectives. Recently we have seen lot of turmoil on the issue of text books having matters hurting some section of society. I am not judging the issue. What I want to say that you must think every action for its social consequences. Dress code (veil, skirts,saaries), ornaments (bindi,ear rings,nose rings,mehndi) etc may be the concerns of cultural diversity in educational institutions.Best practice should be to hurt no one.

Self-Assessment Questions (SAQs) -3
  • You are given an activity.
  • Give your answer in 25 words.
  • Space is given below for your answer.

As a teacher you want to introduce combined sitting arrangements in your classroom for boys and girls; list out the problems you may face.



Social mobility :the degree to which one can move up in the social stratification.
UN: United nation (an international body).
UNESCO :united nation educational,scientific and cultural organization.
Curriculum: Course content,Planned learning outcome.

Practice Test

1.Define the following terms each in 25 words
a. Education.
c.Sociology of education.

2.Explain the relation between education and sociology in brief?
3.Write the five major sociological concern in your institutions ;and what improvements would you like to incorporate to get better learning outcome (30words).

Answers to SAQs

Self-Assessment Questions 1


Self-Assessment Questions 2


Self-Assessment Questions 3
Note : This is a model answer and may not be the best.

While introducing combined sitting arrangement I may face oppose from family members.Girls and Boys may feel uncomfort.I may feel uncomfort to teach subjects having sexual orientation (biology).

References and Further Readings

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