Monday, September 17, 2007
The sociology of education is the study of how social institutions and forces affect educational processes and outcomes, and vice versa. By many, education is understood to be a means of overcoming handicaps, achieving greater equality and acquiring wealth and status for all (Sargent 1994). Learners may be motivated by aspirations for progress and betterment. Education is perceived as a place where children can develop according to their unique needs and potentialities (Schofield 1999). The purpose of education can be to develop every individual to their full potential. However, according to some sociologists, a key problem is that the educational needs of individuals and marginalized groups may be at odds with existing social processes, such as maintaining social stability through the reproduction of inequality. The understanding of the goals and means of educational socialization processes differs according to the sociological paradigm used.
According to The Borgen project, 115 million children lack access to education. In developing countries, the number and seriousness of the problems faced are naturally greater. People are sometimes unaware of the importance of education, and there is economic pressure from those parents who prioritize their children's making money in the short term over any long-term benefits of education. Recent studies on child labor and poverty have suggested that when poor families reach a certain economic threshold where families are able to provide for their basic needs, parents return their children to school. This has been found to be true, once the threshold has been breached, even if the potential economic value of the children's work has increased since their return to school. Teachers are often paid less than other similar professions.
A lack of good universities, and a low acceptance rate for good universities, is evident in countries with a relatively high population density. In some countries, there are uniform, overstructured, inflexible centralized programs from a central agency that regulates all aspects of education.
Due to globalization, increased pressure on students in curricular activities
Removal of a certain percentage of students for improvisation of academics (usually practised in schools, after 10th grade)
India is now developing technologies that will skip land based phone and internet lines. Instead, India launched EDUSAT, an education satellite that can reach more of the country at a greatly reduced cost. There is also an initiative started by a group out of MIT and supported by several major corporations to develop a $100 laptop. The laptops should be available by late 2006 or 2007. The laptops, sold at cost, will enable developing countries to give their children a digital education, and to close the digital divide across the world.
In Africa, NEPAD has launched an "e-school programme" to provide all 600,000 primary and high schools with computer equipment, learning materials and internet access within 10 years. Private groups, like The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, are working to give more individuals opportunities to receive education in developing countries through such programs as the Perpetual Education Fund. An International Development Agency project called nabuur.com, started with the support of American President Bill Clinton, uses the internet to allow co-operation by individuals on issues of social development.
Education is becoming increasingly international. Not only are the materials becoming more influenced by the rich international environment, but exchanges among students at all levels are also playing an increasingly important role. In Europe, for example, the Socrates-Erasmus Programme stimulates exchanges across European universities. Also, the Soros Foundation provides many opportunities for students from central Asia and eastern Europe. Some scholars argue that, regardless of whether one system is considered better or worse than another, experiencing a different way of education can often be considered to be the most important, enriching element of an international learning experience (Dubois et al. 2006).
The goal of education is fourfold: the social purpose, intellectual purpose, economic purpose, and political/civic purpose. Current education issues include which teaching method(s) are most effective, how to determine what knowledge should be taught, which knowledge is most relevant, and how well the pupil will retain incoming knowledge. Educators such as George Counts and Paulo Freire identified education as an inherently political process with inherently political outcomes. The challenge of identifying whose ideas are transferred and what goals they serve has always stood in the face of formal and informal education.
In addition to the "Three R's", reading, writing, and arithmetic, Western primary and secondary schools attempt to teach the basic knowledge of history, geography, mathematics (usually including calculus and algebra), physics, chemistry and sometimes politics, in the hope that students will retain and use this knowledge as they age or that the skills acquired will be transferable. The current education system measures competency with tests and assignments and then assigns each student a corresponding grade. The grades, usually a letter grade or a percentage, are intended to represent the amount of all material presented in class that the student understood. Pre- and post-tests may be used to measure how much was learned.
Educational progressives or advocates of unschooling often believe that grades do not necessarily reveal the strengths and weaknesses of a student, and that there is an unfortunate lack of youth voice in the educational process. Some feel the current grading system lowers students' self-confidence, as students may receive poor marks due to factors outside their control. Such factors include poverty, child abuse, and prejudiced or incompetent teachers.
By contrast, many advocates of a more traditional or "back to basics" approach believe that the direction of reform needs to be the opposite. Students are not inspired or challenged to achieve success because of the dumbing down of the curriculum and the replacement of the "canon" with inferior material. They believe that self-confidence arises not from removing hurdles such as grading, but by making them fair and encouraging students to gain pride from knowing they can jump over these hurdles. On the one hand, Albert Einstein, the most famous physicist of the twentieth century, who is credited with helping us understand the universe better, was not a model school student. He was uninterested in what was being taught, and he did not attend classes all the time. On the other hand, his gifts eventually shone through and added to the sum of human knowledge.
There are a number of highly controversial issues in education. Should some knowledge be forgotten? Should classes be segregated by gender? What should be taught? There are also some philosophies, for example Transcendentalism, that would probably reject conventional education in the belief that knowledge should be gained through more direct personal experience. A recent book argues that children are being expected to learn too much. "There is an ongoing tendency to increase the length of textbooks. There are various reasons why people want to add to the education of children. People who work on education often believe, nobly enough, that the most important contribution is to get children to learn more. Publishers want to sell new books and adding new material is an important aspect of an effective sales pitch". Also, the cost of higher education in developed countries is increasingly becoming an issue.
Fundamental purposes that have been proposed for education include:
The enterprise of civil society depends on educating young people to become responsible, thoughtful and enterprising citizens. This is an intricate, challenging task requiring deep understanding of ethical principles, moral values, political theory, aesthetics, and economics, not to mention an understanding of who children are, in themselves and in society.
Progress in every practical field depends on having capacities that schooling can educate. Education is thus a means to foster the individual's, society's, and even humanity's future development and prosperity. Emphasis is often put on economic success in this regard.
One's individual development and the capacity to fulfill one's own purposes can depend on an adequate preparation in childhood. Education can thus attempt to give a firm foundation for the achievement of personal fulfillment. The better the foundation that is built, the more successful the child will be. Simple basics in education can carry a child far.
A central tenet of education typically includes “the imparting of knowledge.” At a very basic level, this purpose ultimately deals with the nature, origin and scope of knowledge. The branch of philosophy that addresses these and related issues is known as epistemology. This area of study often focuses on analyzing the nature and variety of knowledge and how it relates to similar notions such as truth and belief.
While the term, knowledge, is often used to convey this general purpose of education, it can also be viewed as part of a continuum of knowing that ranges from very specific data to the highest levels. Seen in this light, the continuum may be thought to consist of a general hierarchy of overlapping levels of knowing. Students must be able to connect new information to a piece of old information to be better able to learn, understand, and retain information. This continuum may include notions such as data, information, knowledge, wisdom, and realization.
There has been a great deal of work on learning styles over the last two decades. Dunn and Dunn focused on identifying relevant stimuli that may influence learning and manipulating the school environment, at about the same time as Joseph Renzulli recommended varying teaching strategies. Howard Gardner identified individual talents or aptitudes in his Multiple Intelligences theories. Based on the works of Jung, the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator and Keirsey's Temperament Sorter focused on understanding how people's personality affects the way they interact personally, and how this affects the way individuals respond to each other within the learning environment. The work of David Kolb and Anthony Gregorc's Type Delineator follows a similar but more simplified approach.
Education can be physically divided into many different learning "modes" but the learning modalities are probably the most common:
Kinesthetic learning based on hands-on work and engaging in activities.
Visual learning based on observation and seeing what is being learned.
Auditory learning based on listening to instructions/information.
Depending on their preferred learning modality, different teaching techniques have different levels of effectiveness. Effective teaching requires a variety of teaching methods which cover all three learning modalities. No matter what their preference, students should have equal opportunities to learn in a way that is effective for them.[11
Teachers need the ability to understand a subject well enough to convey its essence to a new generation of students. The goal is to establish a sound knowledge base on which students will be able to build as they are exposed to different life experiences. The passing of knowledge from generation to generation allows students to grow into useful members of society. Good teachers are able to translate information, good judgment, experience, and wisdom into a significant knowledge of a subject that is understood and retained by the student. As a profession teaching has very high levels of Work-Related Stress (WRS) which are listed as amongst the highest of any profession in some countries, such as the United Kingdom. The degree of this problem is becoming increasingly recognized and support systems are put into place.
Parental involvement is an important element in a child's educational development. Early and consistent parental involvement in the child's life, for example by reading to children at an early age, teaching patterns, interpersonal communication skills, exposing them to diverse cultures and the community around them, and educating them about a healthy lifestyle, is critical. The socialization and academic education of a child are aided by the involvement of the student, parent(s), extended family, teachers, and others in the community. Parent involvement is more than the parent being the field trip helper, or the lunch lady. Parents need to be asked about how their child learns best. They need to share their career expertise with the children. Today's educators need to remember that parents are the child's first and foremost teacher; parents, too, are experts, and teachers should learn from them.
Academic achievement and parental involvement are strongly linked in the research. Many schools are now beginning parental involvement programs in a more organized fashion. In the US this has been led in part by the No Child Left Behind legislation from the US Department of Education
Technology is an increasingly influential factor in education. Computers and mobile phones are being widely used in developed countries both to complement established education practices and develop new ways of learning such as online education (a type of distance education). This gives students the opportunity to choose what they are interested in learning. The proliferation of computers also means the increase of programming and blogging. Technology offers powerful learning tools that demand new skills and understandings of students, including Multimedia literacy, and provides new ways to engage students, such as classroom management software. Technology is being used more not only in administrative duties in education but also in the instruction of students. The use of technologies such as PowerPoint and interactive whiteboard is capturing the attention of students in the classroom. Technology is also being used in the assessment of students. One example is the Audience Response System (ARS), which allows immediate feedback tests and classroom discussions.
Information and communication technologies (ICTs) are a “diverse set of tools and resources used to communicate, create, disseminate, store, and manage information.” These technologies include computers, the Internet, broadcasting technologies (radio and television), and telephony. There is increasing interest in how computers and the Internet can improve education at all levels, in both formal and non-formal settings. Older ICT technologies, such as radio and television, have for over forty years been used for open and distance learning, although print remains the cheapest, most accessible and therefore most dominant delivery mechanism in both developed and developing countries. The use of computers and the Internet is still in its infancy in developing countries, if these are used at all, due to limited infrastructure and the attendant high costs of access. Usually, various technologies are used in combination rather than as the sole delivery mechanism. For example, the Kothmale Community Radio Internet uses both radio broadcasts and computer and Internet technologies to facilitate the sharing of information and provide educational opportunities in a rural community in Sri Lanka. The Open University of the United Kingdom (UKOU), established in 1969 as the first educational institution in the world wholly dedicated to open and distance learning, still relies heavily on print-based materials supplemented by radio, television and, in recent years, online programming. Similarly, the Indira Gandhi National Open University in India combines the use of print, recorded audio and video, broadcast radio and television, and audioconferencing technologies.
Computer assisted learning (CAL), CAL has been increasingly used to describe the use of technology in teaching.
Each discipline usually has several sub-disciplines or branches, and distinguishing lines are often both arbitrary and ambiguous. Examples of broad areas of academic disciplines include the natural sciences, mathematics, computer science, social sciences, humanities and applied sciences.