Sociological Approach in Education

Sociology is an unsystematic body of knowledge gained through the study of the whole and parts of society. Sociology is the study of how individuals perceive education and its dividends.

Sociology of education is specifically concerned with the public schooling system which further widens to higher, disabled, and continuing education usually looked after and offered by the state.

When the sociological approach is referred it is taken from the perspective of the society and their demands or expectations from the educational system.

Education is visualized as the tool for guiding and modelling the next generation into the value system and blending them with the requisite knowledge and skill which could help them in future livelihood to become a potent member of the society.

The sociological approach critically examines the aspiration of the society developed related to the educational system in order to provide the society with a force of intellectuals, skilled manpower, and leaders to address societal problems with longer-lasting and sustainable solutions.

Society looks towards the educational system to provide all citizens equality in providing an opportunity to be equipped with the prerequisites for a successful future.


It advocates that existence of everything and happening in society has a purpose no matter how strange, damaging or unethical it is in its meaning.

Functionalism has its core perspective of balance or equilibrium that naturally exists with consensus.

Functionalism defines society as the self-regulating and organizing system with interconnected and dependent elements.

Emile Durkheim is acknowledged as the pioneer of the sociological approach towards education, who professed that an adequate degree of homogeneity is the factor for the existence of a society.

Education reinforces and sometimes generates that element of homogeneity in an individual from the outset by developing basic similarities that interdependent and collective lifestyle demands.

According to Durkheim adult generation influence the younger generation, which is still not ready to take on social life, through education by developing and stimulating physical, moral, and intellectual states.

Society expects the younger generation to be sound in the above-mentioned areas in order to confront the challenging milieu which lies ahead in time.

Under no circumstances education can be separated from society as they are reflective of each other in terms of behaviour, problems, and solutions.

Education is closely related to all institutions and also to values and beliefs.

According to the functionalism theory of the sociological approach education has the following important functions:

  1. Reinforces the social solidarity by learning about noble people in history and by pledging allegiance with the society, restricts, and individual to do the crime.
  2. Maintaining a social role by presenting a model of mini-society, a school has a
    hierarchy similar to the outside world, which trains individuals.
  3. The co-curricular activities sort the talents of the students just like people in society have a variety of specialties and choose different professions.
  4. Moral values for the foundation of the school system and society as well.
  5. Any change in society has an impact on the educational environment and similarly, the change in educational policies influences the whole society.
  6. Classrooms are mini societies and are agents of socialization.
  7. The school acts as the transformational machinery between affective norms and moral values of the family and affective morality in the society.

Conflict Theory

The conflict theory of socialization approach advocates that the relationship in the society is dependent upon domination, oppression, exploitation and subordination.

These ideas came up after Karl Marx who emphasized the materialist approach in history, taking a critical stance towards a situation and ripening it to revolution.

Since education is controlled by the state machinery and that in turn is controlled by the most influential in the society by purpose want to reproduce the social inequalities.

The so controlled educational system controlled by the dominant group enforces its doctrine by:

  • Ensuring that the status quo to be maintained where lower-class students would grow into lower-class adults and middle and higher class students grow into the same class adults.
  • McLeod professes that teachers are always status-conscious and treat the children of the higher class by providing them the maximum opportunities to participate, develop language, critical thinking, and social skills so that they can easily surpass the students
    of lower classes.
  • Educational institutions also act as tools of socialization to provide power to one group over the other.
  • The theory believes that people believe that the major goal of education is to establish equality in society but contrarily schools do not transform but maintain the earlier stature of influence and dominance.

Open System Theory

Open system theory was introduced by Ludwig von Bertalanffy, a biologist but recognized in many disciplines.

He defines a system as an assemblage of a combination of parts where their close interaction makes them interdependent.

It has a preferred state and parts of the
the system may have a system within themselves.

The system approach is the process of comprehending how entities influence each other when they interact.

Without interaction, there would be no interdependence and thus the element would become independent.

The system includes the solar system where each planet has its own orbit, angle of axis, conditions, etc., and on planets, e.g., taking Earth has its own ecosystem in which a number of entities such as water, air, plants, animals, and natural phenomena work together to generate life.

In society exists a social system different people do different jobs and life goes on.

When a system holds an intermediary position it reacts two-way within its self with integral parts and with the surrounding system or systems.

Visualizing the properties of an open and closed system:

  • A closed system has no other system at higher hierarchy therefore would not
    interact with the environment. Such a system is considered to be a theoretical
    abstraction with regard to human experience and observation.
  • The open system interacts with the environment under imposed conditions and contingencies on the dependent system.
  • In a dynamic environment, the conditions randomly change, whereas in stable
    environments the conditions remain uniform.
  • Contingencies are the unusual and unexpected changes that occur due to the influence of the ultra higher system on which the higher system is dependent.

The open system considers education as an independent integrated entity within the framework of society in which a number of collaborating or interacting system influence the process.

An education system has the inputs in the form of knowledge skills, and attitudes to be maintained in an organization dictated by the higher system.

That comes through curricula designed for a variety of courses and grades in an educational organization. Then the structure provided to facilitate learning activities that include the staff and the physical plant.

The central processing or organizational activities of the educational system include teaching, learning, skill development, and associated administrative activities.

The output is the changes that occurred in the knowledge level, skills, and attitude of the
processing material i.e. students.

The review of the system output proposes a change in the curricula and the infrastructure.

The environments of the educational organizations are political, technological, social, economic, and ecological environments.

The open system provides a clear picture of all the elements which influence the
the educational system internally and externally.

In an open system since there is a number of higher systems surrounding the organization therefore their influence on the educational institution is inevitable as a guideline it has to be a participatory decision making including all the stakeholders.

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