Editor’s Note: Notes on Education from a sociological perspective.
Primitive / ancient societies had no educational institutions. Children learnt what they needed to know by watching whatever was going on and helping wherever practical. Families, parents and siblings were the sources of learning for children. Schools appeared when cultures became too complex for all needed learning to be handled easily within the family. In other words, evolution of societies from simple to complex structures led to the growth of formal systems of education, where the citizens needed to be trained in skills much beyond the managing capacity of one’s family. Slowly and gradually education institutions came into picture, with the two important constituents, the pupils and the teacher.
Education is the bringing up, the process of developing and training the powers and capabilities of human beings. It is the entire gambit of moral, intellectual, spiritual as well as physical learning that a pupil goes through during his/her training time for facing adult life. Education lets one move towards attainment of an ‘achieved’ status, and differentiates one’s personality from one’s ‘ascribed’ status.
“Education is the influence exercised by adult generation upon those who are not yet ready for the adult life.”
– Emile Durkheim
According to Talcott Parsons and Bronislaw Malinowski, education is one of the most important institutions of society. It enables integration among members of a society. Like family and religion, education trains an individual for adapting well into the economic and political structure of his/her society.
KINDS OF EDUCATION
Formal education: education imparted in schools i.e. a well defined institutional setting. It has three important components:
- An organized structure
- A defined curriculum and content
- Definite rules and regulations
Informal education: education that individuals receive from day to day life activities in the family, community and circle of friends. Learning of societal culture, language, norms and values happen through these informal channels of education e.g. pre school children learn daily routine activities and language at home.
These two formal and informal systems of education comprise the mechanism of overall grooming of an individual in a society. Broadly education aims to:
- Socializes younger generation to adapt to society.
- Transmits cultural heritage of a society from one generation to another
- Reforms attitudes which have become obsolete and redundant in a social set up
- Provides for an individual’s occupational placement in a social set up
- Triggers and precedes through social change
- Conserves desirable values in a society
Horton and Hunt have classified the functions of education into manifest (obvious) and latent (hidden).
Manifest functions of education: the manifest or obvious/intended functions of education are to:
- Prepare people to make a living
- To help people reach their potential for personal fulfillment and social contribution
Although these two functions are related, they are not identical. They are complimentary in nature.
Other manifest functions of education are:
- Preservation of culture
- Encouraging democratic participation by teaching verbal skills and developing the person’s ability to think rationally and independently.
- Improving personal capacity for judginf life situations
- Promoting integration in a society
- Character building
Latent functions of education: are those which take place as a byproduct of the manifest functions. These functions are hidden and unintended and often take place simultaneously with the manifest functions. These are:
- Creation of adolescence: one latent function has been creation of ‘adolescence’ and prolonging of immaturity. Extended education postpones the child’s assumption of adult roles. It delays their entry into the labour market, which some parents applaud while others resist.
- Weakening of parental control: parental authority over the child is diminished by school. Parental values are challenged or even ridiculed as quaint and old-fashioned. Schools often promote student behavior and use teaching materials which challenge parents’ moral standards.
- Preserving the class system: the educational establishment accepts the hierarchy of occupational roles and statuses, for this is necessary to prepare students to fill them. Meanwhile, students are being socialized to fit into this system of statuses and roles. Socme sociologists believe that the education institutions are framed with the intent of preserving the class system unchanged.
- A haven for dissent: universities deal with ideas, development and serious discussions on ideas will lead to dissent sooner or later. Teacher associations and student unions emerge as strong bodies of advocating social and political dissent in a society, which can lead to long term changes. University students in Asia, Africa and South America have a long history of political activism. Intellectuals including scholars and faculty members have often comprised as critics of present political systems. Through this mechanism, education institutions provide for a permanent critical overview of the current socio-political status of a society.
Edited by Hariharan Kumar