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Perspectives of social change on Education


Education and its relationship with social institutions has been examined from various perspectives. Functionalists are concerned with two fundamental questions – what functions does education perform? and how is it related to other social institutions? According to Durkheim it is an agent of transmission of social norms. By respecting rules in educational institutions like school, colleges children learn to respect norms of the society and they learn to be part of a larger group. Education provides functions which family and peers cannot provide in a modern society. Education also helps in imparting skills which sustain division of labor in a society. Education helps in transmission of both the general and specific values. Parsons says schools are society in miniature and education plays a key role in role allocation in an increasingly specialized industrial economy. In a family a child is judged on particularistic standards and in schools child learns universalistic values which are necessary for social integration. To build consensus in society school instill two important values in children the value of achievement and the value of equal opportunity. Differential educational achievements lead to differential rewards as well. Other functions that are performed by education are social control, communications of knowledge, character building, development of human resources and contributing to human and economic development. Feminist perspective also emerged in late 1970s. According to McRobbie and Sue Lee schooling reproduces appropriate feminine roles in girls. Schools saw their task as preparing girls for family life and responsibilities and boys for future employment thus reproducing the gender stereotypes prevailing in society. According to Althusser in his Ideology and Ideological State Apparatus,1972 education is the most important ideological state apparatus appropriated by the ruling classes to pursue their own ideas and interests and it reinforces dominant ideology and thus hinders real change in the society. It merely leads to reproduction of labor force. Bowles and Gintis in their Schooling in Capitalist America ,1976 say that it is a giant myth making machine with a hidden curriculum which serves the interests of the dominant groups.  Modern education has become synonymous with schooling and it removes focus from wider learning opportunities. Raymond Boudon in his Education, Opportunity and Social Inequality ,1974 shows that the role of education in providing avenues for social mobility is not very significant. In fact education based on equality only perpetuates inequality. Power, wealth and other material resources play a greater role in such societies. Commercialization of education has further diluted the role of education in social change as there is now unequal access to quality education based on one’s class. According to Pierre Bourdieu education also helps in reproducing cultural capital which is as necessary as social capital and economic capital. Cultural capital influences acquisition of other capitals as well. Thus cultural reproduction in schools in unequal societies also leads to unequal educational attainments. Sally Tomlinson in her Education in Post Welfare Society 2005 also makes a similar point and laments it being reduced as a means of economic development. According to her, education should be liberalizing ,humanizing and democratizing force.