Since time immemorial, education has often been regarded as a fundamental social institution in the society. The concept of education includes teachings in writing, arithmetic, and reading as well as teachings in ethics, morals and values (Bulle 56). The field of education had gained a lot of interest from sociologists, who have developed theoretical perspectives that have different views on education as discussed below.
The Symbolic Interaction approach to Education
The symbolic interaction approach is developed on an understanding that, people attach different meanings to symbols and consequently act according to the interpretation of the symbols. Therefore, this perspective seeks to determine meanings that people attach to symbols and how they respond to their own actions.
The symbolic interaction approach views education in terms of the relationship and interaction developed by students and teachers. The central focus of symbolic interaction approach is the outcome of interaction between the teacher and student. The interaction process between the student and the teacher creates certain behaviours and develops some expectations. Giddens refers to such expectations as “teacher expectancy effect” (325). For example, if a teacher expects students in his class to perform excellently well in a math test compared to an English test, more often than not, the teacher will constantly encourage students to put more effort in math studies.
Another example of symbolic interaction approach is where a teacher promises a reward for the student who takes the first position in class. For instance, the teacher can promise the students that whoever takes the first position become the school captain. In this example, the students will associate being number one with the position of the school captain. This symbolism will make them strive to work hard to take the first position and consequently the position of the school captain (Bulle 48).
The Structural Functionalist approach to Education
The structural functionalist approach is based on the premise that education serves many valuable functions in the society. During the socialization process, education is a critical component in socializing and preparing children for life in the society. Through education, children are able to learn about the society’s culture, religious beliefs, norms, habits, politics, ethics and moral values (Crib & Gewirtz 112).
Education also helps people to acquire relevant life skills through training. Giddens argues that unlike in the past, when people relied on inheriting life skills from their parents, today, most of the professional jobs in developed countries require a college and university degree (350). In this respect, education plays the role of “sorting” out individuals when it comes to occupying professional positions in different careers.
According to the Crib & Gewirtz, education plays a pivotal role of social control or regulating deviant behaviour. When children go through the process of schooling and get an education, they acquire knowledge and life skills. This safeguards them against engaging into deviant behaviour such as using abusing drugs joining unscrupulous company (125).
According to the functionalist theorists, education plays a key function of preserving and changing culture. They argue that most of the students who go through formal schooling up to the university level and beyond end up becoming liberalists. This is because schooling has enabled them come across a variety of perspectives that broaden and develop their knowledge.