Ch. 11 – Education

Social institution:  Longstanding pattern of social relationships, which is perpatuated and maintained because we have some sort of common agreement within socity about what is important and how best to achieve these goals; ie, education functions to fulfill certain goals that hold society together.

Education – formal learning that takes place in settings that are primarily designed to deliver courses, learning activities, or credentials in an organized way (ie, there is a ciriculum, streaming of courses, enterance requrements, etc).

Informal learning – lifelong learning that takes place outside of formal education systems; occurs when people take it upon themselves to learn about certain phenomena/proceses.

Socialization – includes formal learning (schooling/education) and informal learning; people learn these things in order to understand and negotiate the social world.

1. a) How has formal education (schooling) become a central social institution (describe changes and continuities in formal ed. in Can.)?

How has education in Canada changed over the years?


Most Canadians spend some amount of time in formal schooling, which wasn’t always the case:  Schooling was more sporadic and short-term in the nineteeth century – kids entered at later age and left earlier (by early teens).

-Poor economic conditions contributed to transence and poverty; these factors in turn affected attendance:  In the nineteen century, parents were more likely to send kids to school when times were good. When crops were failing and parents needed help at home, they’d pull kids out of school.

-Regional differences in access to education:  Some communities didn’t have schools or qualified teachers



-Schools are now larger and more sophisticated architecturally and technologically

-Students exposed to a greater diversity of teachers, subject matter, work projects

-Students display and experience a greater degree of cultural and personal variation

-Increased access to learning opportunities


-Educational activities are still very regimented, superivised, and distinct from other social activities

-Regional variation in educational quality and opportunities still exists, as well as differential access depending on what social category you fall into

-What are the dimensions/features of educational growth in Canada?

-Institutionalized fairly recently: Formal educational systems have become increasingly common in Canada – ie, it’s an institution now

->Expanded in Canada after WW2 – in the early ’50s over half of the Canadian pop didn’t have more than a gr. 9 ed; now we’re one of the most hightly ed. pops in the world (nearly half of Canadians now have post-secondary)

->Most of this growth happened in 60s-70s, co-inciding with baby boom

-Factors promoting growth of formal ed/instutitionalization of ed:

->Education increasingly available in Canada

->More common for members of the Canadian public to attain some type of credentials as a result.

->Immigrants allowed into Canada more likley to have high credentials

Economic aspect:

-Formal education wasn’t seen as being so significant, nor were opportunities as widely available because most occupations didn’t require formal ed in the  late 19th and early 20th Centuries. Now employers are far more likely to seek out credentials when selecting candidates, and credentials are now requred for some field – hence the growth of post-secondary.

Function of schools have changed: It wasn’t the credentials that were necessarily important;  ppl relied on schools to help kids develop skills and knowledge, but schools also served to socialize and look after kids.

-Focus on teachers as good role models, discipine, rote learning

-Belief in the importance of formal education: Instutionalization/growth patterns are connected to public opinion – Canadians generally believe that formal ecducation contibutes to individual personal growth and promotes social need for knowlege, innovation, credentials.

-Transition from a private to a public good:

-In 19th and Early 20th Centuries, education was delivered informally, through parents, businesses and churches – now the state is responsible for ed in Canada

-Difference between formal ed and other “sites” of learning:

-More flexible and comprehensive cirruiculum than that offered by parents, churches, and businesses

Centralization/consolidation of smaller schools into larger schools/districts

-1900’s – schools starting to be consolidated into larger schools and school districts

-1940s-60s – smaller schools/districts increasingly amalgamated into larger ones

1990s – number of school boards in each province continues to decline; decreasing numbers of public schools (ed is increasingly available in other forms; increased enrollment is being “absorbed” within larger schools and by over-crowding smaller ones)

life-cycle changes – we spend more of our lives in the institution:

-People start school earlier and attend school for longer – more common to continue into post-secondary and re-enter schooling later in life

Post-secondary is more common; content oriented towards uni credit instead of vocational training:

-Used to focus on specific vocational training; community colleges in particular made university credit courses more accessible

-What are challenges associated with this growth?

-Public ed required taxation, which some resisted

Regional variation in the availablity of qualified teachers and quality of education (increased specialization wrt to teacher’s credentials and curriculum in urban areas)

-Demand for schooling sometimes exceeded schools’ capacity to provided teachers, textbooks, facilities

-Disputes between school boards and community members re: curriculum

b) Why has formal ed become a central social institution (explain changes in formal ed. in Can.)?

Demographic changes, particularly during the 1960’s – 1970’s, ie, the baby boom – increased number of school aged children after ww2

Changing views re: the purpose of education: No longer seen as a primarily a “moral/social training” ground and a place to put kids when parents were busy; Now education is seen as an activity that promotes the personal as well as the social good (ie, social needs for knowledge, innovation, credentials)

Economic changes – transition from an economy based on primary and secondary industries to a “knowlege economy.” Credentials are required to obtain job opportunities, even in fields that didn’t always require these  (the class exampe of the aluminum manufacturing plant that came to require a college diploma even though that wasn’t required for the job comes to mind – too many applicants, which is linked to demographic changes).

A successful claims-making process: Public schools played the socialization card, convincing the public that formal ed was the best way to promote individual and social goals

Consolidation/amalgamation facilitated by proliferation of transportation networks, as well as financial/administrative difficulties in smaller schools/districts

Availablity/content of post-secondary caused by labour market changes, demographic changes, expansion of community college system

2) What are forms of lifelong learning beyond formal education (ie, how do ppl learn informally)?

lifelong learning – Occurs when people engage in education (formally or informally) beyond limits mandated by the state (you usually “have to” attend b/t ages 5-18 in most provinces, but many ppl go for longer than that)

New Economy/knowlege-based economy –

-Characterized by an increasing reliance on IT and scientific advancements in all spheres of social life.

->Learning activities are relevant throughout all stages of the lifecycle, in whether in your career (through formal ed and on the job training, testing products/services, processing info, building individual’s capacity to manage/process/integrate info) and personal life (significance of informal learning)

->Capacity to learn, integrate, apply, and transfer knowlege is central to the personal and professional oppotunities available to a person.

Informal learning – Occurs when groups/individuals take it upon themselves to acquire new knowlege that they can apply to work, personal, or community circumstances – ie, teaching yourself how to play poker

->More common among highly literate segments of the population

->More common among those with formal ed

globalization – Flow of goods/services, media, info, labour b/g countries around the globe; controlled and co-ordinated by private-sector interests unconstrained by state regulations

->formal ed and lifelong learning are associated with globalization; these factors are associated with economic development, which is an objective championed by the private interests that run the globalization show (seen in modernization/development projects).

->formal ed is associated with a high SofL; where formal ed is limited incidence of disease, unemployment, crime, etc increases

3) What are theoretical perspectives socis use to explain educational systems, practices, outcomes?

Conflict: How does education perpetuate power differentials and inequalities within society?

Structural Functionalism: Focuses on education’s contribution to social needs and economic goals.

Symbolic Interactionism/microsociology: How do interactions between those who participate in educational processes shape/change these processes?

Feminist: How is education gendered? Can talk about differential access, how formal education perpetuates “masucline” values such as competition, how men and women have different experiences within classrooms.

4) What is the relationship between education and social inequality?

There is a strong relationship between SES and educatinal attainment. Formal education is a significant determinant of the social and economic opportunities available to certain groups, depending on gender, race/eth, and class. It is becoming increasingly important factor in the experiences of members of each group.

5. a) How does the relationship between educational systems and participants shape education (ie, content of ed, what it means to be educated) and educational outcomes?

b) How does the social context in which ed inst. operate shape educational processes and outcomes?

6) What are major educational issues right now? Outline the debates and evaluate merits/weaknesses of each position.

digital divide


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