Education

Topic: Social Institutions

Education is a social institution as it provides a formal structure and an opportunity for a transfer of cultural knowledge.

Most places in the world have some type of formalized education. The purpose of education is generally two-fold within a society. Education provides a formal structure during childhood and the transition to adulthood and an opportunity to instruct youth on the social norms, expectations for behaviors, knowledge, and skills that they will need to operate within a society. In other words, education is a transfer of cultural knowledge. By creating a formal space for learning, education encourages technological advancement, innovation, and discovery.

The effects of educational systems are not always explicit. The hidden curriculum in school transmits cultural ideas beyond the stated goals of the institution. It encompasses the unspoken aims of education, such as teaching children to conform to social expectations. Students’ education and school experiences are also affected by teacher expectancy, where teachers treat students differently according to preconceived ideas about their capabilities. This treatment, in turn, influences students’ achievement.

Social forces also affect educational outcomes. Segregation is the separation of groups according to social constructed characteristics such as gender or race. Communities are often racially segregated with minority communities enjoying fewer socioeconomic resources. Segregation affects educational outcomes because communities with greater socioeconomic resources can spend more on education. The result of educational segregation is that students in disadvantaged groups receive a lower quality education than more privileged students. Educational stratification refers to the separation of students into groups on the basis of academic achievement. This process begins early on in education and creates a snowball effect that influences opportunities later in life.


Key Points

• The purpose of education is generally two-fold within a society.

• Education provides a formal structure during childhood and the transition to adulthood and an opportunity to instruct youth on the social norms, expectations for behaviors, knowledge, and skills that they will need to operate within a society (transfer of cultural knowledge).

• The hidden curriculum in school transmits cultural ideas beyond the stated goals of the institution (i.e. such as teaching children to conform to social expectations).

• Students’ education, school experiences, and achievement are also affected by teacher expectancy (where teachers treat students differently according to preconceived ideas about their capabilities).

• Social forces like segregation also affect educational outcomes because communities with greater socioeconomic resources can spend more on education.

• Educational stratification refers to the separation of students into groups on the basis of academic achievement.


Key Terms

social institutions: mechanisms or patterns of social order focused on meeting social needs (e.g. government, economy, education, family, healthcare, and religion)

hidden curriculum: cultural ideas beyond the stated goals of the institution are transmitted to students

teacher expectancy: where teachers treat students differently according to preconceived ideas about their capabilities

educational segregation: students in disadvantaged groups receive a lower quality education than more privileged students

educational stratification: refers to the separation of students into groups on the basis of academic achievement

society: a group of people who live in a defined geographical area, and who interact with one another and share a common culture

social norms are informal understandings that govern the behavior of members of a society



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