Does Education Really Change Society?

Geetha B. Nambissan and S. Srinivasa Rao

in Sociology of Education in India

Published in print October 2012 | ISBN: 9780198082866
Published online January 2013 | e-ISBN: 9780199082254 | DOI:
Does Education Really Change Society?

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Sociologists and anthropologists always have a sense of unease over what education is doing to society. Does education really make any difference? Or is it only reproducing inequality? And how can one know the answer? This chapter highlights some of the ways in which recent social theory can help us grapple with these questions. This chapter evaluates the notion that education leads to the reproduction of inequality in society, culture, and economy, and examines the roles played by structure and agency. It argues that a literal interpretation of the reproduction thesis is misleading, and suggests that a more nuanced understanding—with a more differentiated conceptual treatment—is needed. This author identifies the ways by which social theory can help illuminate the role of education in inequality, and discusses the views of Margaret Archer and Anthony Giddens who integrated systemic theorizing with the play of individual agency. In conclusion, the author suggests that we need a vision that encapsulates a wider view of the concrete roles, groups, and processes in society. Only then may one begin to address the question of whether education is making any difference at all.

Keywords: education and improvement; reproducing inequality; educational theory; structure and agency; education and social roles; sociology of education; Margaret Archer; Anthony Giddens

Chapter.  7581 words. 

Subjects: Sociology

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