What Is the Sociology of Education?
The sociology of education is a perspective that aims to study and understand education in its social dimension. Using sociological concepts and methodologies, the sociology of education contributes to the educational field. It’s also nourished by other disciplines, such as pedagogy, psychology and philosophy, applied to educational.
Objectives and definition of the sociology of education
The main development of the sociology of education took place in Western countries in the 20th century, in the 1960s and 1970s. Authors such as Emile Durkheim, Max Weber and Karl Marx are the most representative authors of this theory. In particular, Durkheim was the first sociologist to consider education as an object of study.
Thus, sociology began to influence pedagogy and, as Alexis Rojas León states, in his article “Contributions of sociology to the study of education”:
“Sociology can deal with both the social factors that can have a consequence or relationship with education and vice versa, and with educational institutions (in general and not only schools) as a social institution and social stage where the social interaction of numerous individuals (teachers, students, mothers, fathers, etc.) occurs.”
In simpler terms, the sociology of education is a branch of sociology that deals with the study of the relationship between education and society. That is, it studies the social function of education, the influence of the environment, and the social context on educational systems. To this end, it uses the theories and methods of the sociological discipline.
Main characteristics and objectives of the sociological perspective of education
- Understanding the processes of socialization and the relationship between society and education. Also, to study the social function of education, as well as to analyze the educational system and its subsystems and elements.
- Highlighting the determining factors existing between different social forces (economic, political, and cultural) and the educational agents, educators, students, parents…
- Studying formal and informal educational institutions and processes and various educational levels. For example, preschool, elementary, high school, university.
- Developing descriptive and explanatory studies. Unlike other disciplines, such as educational psychology or specific didactics, whose main objective is to intervene in the educational process.
- Focusing on analyzing problems regarding socialization and education. More specifically, the connection between education and social power; equality and social equity; mobility and social structure, and school structure, the classroom as a group…
- Providing educational agents, teachers, professors, and students, with knowledge about the methods or methodology of sociological research, as a way to understand in-depth social factors of the educational environment.
The sociology of education today
Today, the different trends, authors, and studies of the sociology of education focus on a deep knowledge of the social processes that take place in the classroom. Therefore, the purpose is to analyze current issues having to do with the social function of schools and the task of teaching. These issues include the following:
- Social welfare.
- Social and political participation.
- The acquisition of occupational skills (social and technological skills).
- Transmission of dominant values.
- Construction of social identities (gender, for example).
- Social control.
- Formation of a critical attitude towards the relationship and reciprocal influence between society and education.
- Development and social change.
- Equality of opportunities.
- School failure.
- Social justice.
Finally, it’s good to emphasize the importance of an interdisciplinary approach that brings together theories and methodologies in the study of education. Our current educational system, as well as our society, has a very complex social fabric.
Thus, the sociology of education requires the contribution of other disciplines and perspectives. These aid in achieving a deeper understanding of the intimate and reciprocal relationship between educational and social institutions; schools and the community.