The sociology the theoretical basis of preschool education education is the study of how public institutions and individual experiences affect education and its outcomes. Education has often been very much so seen as a fundamentally optimistic human endeavour characterised by aspirations for progress and betterment. The sociology of education contains a number of theories.
Some of the main theories are presented below. Structural functionalists believe that society leans towards social equilibrium and social order. Social health means the same as social order, and is guaranteed when nearly everyone accepts the general moral values of their society. Hence structural functionalists believe the aim of key institutions, such as education, is to socialize children and teenagers. Education must also perform another function: As various jobs become vacant, they must be filled with the appropriate people. Therefore, the other purpose of education is to sort and rank individuals for placement in the labor market . Those with high achievement will be trained for the most important jobs and in reward, be given the highest incomes.
According to Sennet and Cobb however, “to believe that ability alone decides who is rewarded is to be deceived”. Meighan agrees, stating that large numbers of capable students from working-class backgrounds fail to achieve satisfactory standards in school and therefore fail to obtain the status they deserve. 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. Where teachers have softened the formality of regular study and integrated student’s preferred working methods into the curriculum, they noted that particular students displayed strengths they had not been aware of before. Conflict theorists believe this social reproduction continues to occur because the whole education system is overlain with ideology provided by the dominant group. In effect, they perpetuate the myth that education is available to all to provide a means of achieving wealth and status.
This perspective has been criticised as deterministic and pessimistic, while there is some evidence for social mobility among disadvantaged students. It should be recognised however that it is a model, an aspect of reality which is an important part of the picture. This theory of social reproduction has been significantly theorised by Pierre Bourdieu. However Bourdieu as a social theorist has always been concerned with the dichotomy between the objective and subjective, or to put it another way, between structure and agency.
Bourdieu used the idea of cultural capital to explore the differences in outcomes for students from different classes in the French educational system. He explored the tension between the conservative reproduction and the innovative production of knowledge and experience. 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. Therefore, Bourdieu’s perspective reveals how objective structures play an important role in determining individual achievement in school, but allows for the exercise of an individual’s agency to overcome these barriers, although this choice is not without its penalties. Social location is considered important but its role is complex.
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