The Sociology of Education – Definition, Objectives, and More
Sociology of Education – Sociology was born in the 19th century and was directly inspired by philosophy, particularly the philosophy of Enlightenment of the 18th century.
Sociology appears with the industrial revolutions, which cause profound changes in the daily organization. It is with the will to understand these transformations that sociology develops. A research method was established to make sociology a natural science and go beyond ideological interpretations.
In “the rules of the sociological method”, Experts defines sociology as the science of social facts or the study of social realities.
“A social fact is any way of doing things, fixed or not, capable of exercising an external constraint on the individual, or else, which is general in the extent of a given society while having a specific existence, independent of its manifestations.
The characteristic of social facts is their constraining aspect. They impose themselves on the individual. Durkheim is a strong advocate of “methodological holism” (a way of analyzing points as existing independently of the individuals they apply – the whole more important than the parts).
Max Weber is attached to “methodological individualism” (collective phenomena only exist through the people who embody them – the parts more important than the whole). Durkheim distinguishes physical behaviours (practices) and mental dispositions (representations). Social facts influence both at the same time.
Objectives of Sociology
We will remember two:
The first objective is the description of social facts. Sociology wishes to grasp social facts as they exist and adopts an objective scientific approach. Weber calls this “axiological neutrality”. In other words, to fully understand the social world, we must distinguish:
- judgments of fact that relate to tangible realities (e.g. this group includes ten students)
- value judgments, intended to give an appreciation (I wouldn’t say I like this group)
Only judgments of fact form the basis of scientific reflection.
The researcher’s work consists of collecting the limited points of view of each individual, of accumulating them to overcome the subjective character and tend towards objectivity. It mobilizes different methods to describe social facts: Quantitative method –statistics and Qualitative method – interviews, observation.
Bringing the two together, sociology mobilizes comparison to grasp familiar or marginal. Comparison is a guarantee of objectivity: by observing the diversity of the social world, we can understand and explain what is specific and common to each individual.
The second objective is understanding and explanation. From the descriptions obtained (sociological data), the sociologist tries to explain the situations studied. These explanations are not unique or total, and they are partial and pluralistic. K.Merton distinguishes between general theories and medium-range theories. The distinction between the so-called “hard” sciences, those which make it possible to establish variable and universal truths, and the so-called “soft” sciences, such as the SHS, is due to the reflective capacity of the human being.
Every sociologist emphasises certain aspects to explain social facts; for some, behaviours result from social determinism, while others use strategies specific to the individual. In any case, there are no good or bad explanations, only interpretations that favour certain explanatory factors.
Knowing their meaning is essential.
Socialization can be defined as learning ways of being and acting that characterise the social groups’ individuals belong to. Thanks to socialization, the individual appropriates the norms and values specific to his social environment. Examples (laws, regulations, etc.) learns through sanction, values (respect, etc.) are not binding. These principles inspire people to behave daily—norms and values transmitted through socialization. Socialization takes place throughout life.
- Primary socialization occurs during childhood and concerns the learning of basic and general knowledge and behaviour. This socialization occurs in the family, school and friends, and the media. The child learns without questioning – the critical distance from what is instilled in him arises through involvement in various social groups. Transmission of a normative and interpretative system of reality that serves as a daily compass. The knowledge incorporated by the young child depends both on the environment in which primary socialization occurs (family or school) and on the ability provided by the socializing adults.
For example, families from working-class backgrounds educate more authoritarian way than families from more affluent backgrounds who leave more autonomy.
- Secondary socialization takes place in adulthood because socialization is never complete nor entirely successful. They take place through learning during adult life and specific behaviours – the individual, personalizes his identity and can oppose norms and values due to his involvement in multiple social groups.
The process of socialization operates in two directions:
- Identification – learning behaviours common to the social group one belongs to.
- Identification (or personalization) – the individual tends to differentiate himself, become autonomous, and assert himself by a relative distinction from others.
Therefore, secondary socialisation takes place in this double movement: identifying with one’s group and distinguishing oneself from it.
Free and compulsory school system. It appeared in Europe in the 18th century with the school. Children then perceive themselves as immature beings who must be educated. Socialization is based on a pedagogical relationship between master and student, the transmission of knowledge.
School socialization can therefore be defined as all of the learning achieved within the framework of the education system. Explicitly inculcated knowledge and all the experiences carried out in the school setting. School socialization implies a pedagogical relationship, a submission to a certain number of rules. Behaviours and interrelationships between socializing children and adults can also produce changes or a particular ethos. Students co-construct school situations in the process of subjectification of the school experience. Acquisition of the “student profession” (Philippe Perrenoud in “student profession and the meaning of school work”)
Culture is the result of the socialization process. (we are not talking about culture in the sense of arts or literature). The anthropological definition is broader. Every individual has a culture, that of society. Culture is the cement of societies. It can be defined as the way of life of its members, i.e. the set of ideas and customs that we learn, share and pass on from generation to generation. In culture, we distinguish the material and immaterial elements which relate to mental and behavioural processes, which can classify into 3 groups:
- The system of values, beliefs and symbols
- All standards or conduct (formal or informal standards)
- Spoken and written language.
Culture is not a single, indivisible whole. It sets up multiple cultural characteristics and practices according to social class, gender, age, and religious beliefs. We speak of a subculture for a particular group within a global society and a counterculture if a specific group conflicts with a dominant culture.
The Social Structure
Therefore, a social group consists of people who maintain lasting relationships with similar behaviours and have common objectives, beliefs, and values. For a social group to exist, there must be group consciousness, identification, cohesion in actions and mutual integration of members (family, class, etc.)
Social institutions: A social institution is a constituent unit of the structure of society. It is the set of standards and rules of conduct that regulate the activity of a company. Its persistence is to regulate relations between individuals.
Ex of social institutions = social practices which enjoy an essential meaning. They concern kinship, reproduction, production of goods etc., ex of a family institution (marriage), educational (school regulations), economic ( employment contract) politics (democratic principles).
However, according to Pierre Bourdieu, the term “field” designates a part of the social world (called social space) governed by laws that are partly specific and partly common to the rest of society. Power relations define it—Ex: political, religious, scientific, educational field.
The different approaches to social phenomena
Macrosociology: This analyses social relations within vast social groups such as a country or a group of countries, what sociologists call global society. We will talk about the education system as a whole, at the international level, for example.
Microsociology: This study of social interactions within small social groups, i.e. comprising only a few people.
In the educational field, we will remain interested, for example, in an establishment, or a class, or even a group of students in particular.
Constructivism: Social realities are subject to permanent construction. The most natural behaviours are the product of internalized learning and constantly renegotiated social norms.
Functionalism: Functionalists are concerned with the purpose of social institutions. What is the goal of an institution in a distant tribe such that they then attribute an economic, family function to it, etc. the limit is that identifying the parts of an institution does not make it possible to explain the change?
Interactionism: This approach is born in reaction to macrosociology. We find the principle of constructivism as a basis. Society is not given once and for all. It is constantly being built through social relations’ dynamics through interactions between individuals.
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