Research Paper on Education Systems
Sociological Frameworks of Education: Education systems serve those who control them
Traditionally, education was extremely important to the life of society at large and each individual in particular. Nowadays, the role of education has increased considerably due to the development of modern science and technologies, which made knowledge and information the major values in the modern world. At the same time, it is obvious that education is an essential tool that helps to convey the experience of past generations to following ones. Moreover, many sociological theories argue that education should contribute to the formation of the independent identity, an individual, which is a highly developed personality, cultural and really human being.
However, in actuality, such a goal of education is rather a hypothetical ideal educators should strive for, but this ideal seems to be unachievable at the present moment as some sociological theories state, such as the Activity theory or the Critical theory, for instance. In fact, the historical development of human society and education prove the fact that often, if not to say always, education serves to interests of those who control them, i.e. to interests of the ruling elite which defines the education system, its essence and basic goals. Moreover, the ruling elite may indirectly affect education and use it in its own interests by means of culture and ideology since these two notions also produce a profound impact on education and, at the same time, are, to a significant extent, defined by the upper classes of society. In such a way, it is possible to estimate that education, being influenced by culture and ideology, serves to the interests of those who control education, which, at the same time, have economic and political power and which define ideological and cultural development of society. In order to better understand the extent to which education system is subordinated to interests of those who control it, it is necessary to analyze the impact of culture and ideology on education and the role of the ruling elite which actually defines culture, ideology, education and use them amply in its own interests.
The impact of the dominant culture on education
At first glance there is no obvious correlation between interests of the ruling elite which actually controls all aspects of life, including culture, and education. Nevertheless, there is still quite a strong link between culture and education. In this respect, it should be said that the discussions concerning the loss of identity and the negative impact of globalization which basically serve to interests of rich who control both culture and education. Basically, culture produces a profound impact on the development of a personality and affects identity considerably.
At the same time, it is not a secret that culture of society is traditionally defined by the dominating social group. In fact, it is possible to estimate that culture is affected not only by a limited group of people that have political and economic power, but it is also possible to estimate the culture of society is, to a significant extent, defined by the culture of the dominant ethnic or socio-cultural group. What is meant here is the fact that many modern societies are multicultural by nature. Nevertheless, the culture of the entire society is basically defined by the dominant group, which, by the way, is also dominating in socio-economic life of society.
In this respect, it is really important to trace the link between culture and education. It is worthy of mention that education constitutes an essential part of culture since it is through education people get acquainted with the culture dominating in society and it is through education people acquire knowledge about their own traditions, customs, and ethical norms. In other words, people learn culture in the process of education. At the same time, it is not a one-sided process when people simply learn some facts and acquire information about their culture, but it is rather a complicated process which implies mutual interaction between culture and education. To put it more precisely, culture imposes the norms, values and traditions that are accepted within society, while education provides learners with knowledge about these norms, values and traditions.
In such a way, it seems to be obvious that education, in its essence, is a tool of acquisition of social culture but, at the same time, it is also influenced by this culture since people in the process of learning are affected by the existing cultural norms and traditions. In other words, through education people do not simply learn culture but they are influenced by it and, in fact, their identity is shaped under the impact of this culture and cultural norms dominating in a particular society.
However, it is worthy of reminding that culture of society is often diverse due to its multicultural nature. In such a situation, it is possible to estimate that dominating culture imposes its norms to the entire society and, therefore, education serves to interests of the dominating culture that means that it serves to interests of the dominating socio-cultural group, which simply imposes its norms to other groups and cultures. What is more, the dominating socio-cultural group controls education and, in such a way, can amply use it to promote its own culture, norms, and traditions.
In this respect, it is possible to refer to numerous examples when education systems were dramatically affected and totally controlled by only one socio-cultural group. For instance, not a long time ago, the education system in the SAR was under the total control of white ethnic group of the country while the non-white majority of the population was simply deprived of an opportunity to receive good education, if any at all (Chitty, 1992). As a result, in terms of the policy of apartheid, South African education system promoted the traditions of racial inequality and dominance of white people provoking the sense of inferiority of non-white people, which were treated as second-class citizens and often did not even have access to education in the SAR.
Also, it is worthy of mention that the current situation still does not differ from the past epochs since education systems are still susceptible to the influences of dominating culture which is affected by the dominant socio-cultural group of society controlling education and by imposing its culture, norms, and traditions to other groups it uses education in its own interests. In this respect, it is possible to refer to ideas developed by Jurgen Habermas who insists on the idea that there is a principle immanent in history to guide human actions, or to put it more precisely, this principle is immanent in language (Wertsch, 1991). In practice it means that through language people acquire existing cultural norms and get integrated in society, i.e. become a part of the community, but it is necessary to underline that language, as an important element of culture, is not simply a means of communication but it also possesses a significant cultural and integrating power. This means that through language people are integrated in socio-cultural environment and, in such a way, they may lose their original socio-cultural identity and, instead, become a part of the new community. For instance, it is not a secret that the UK is the multinational state but English is the language of the dominant socio-cultural group, which basically controls the entire education system, and this language is predominantly used in education depriving ethnic minorities of equal opportunities to receive better education. As a result, they are forced to get educated using English language and, in such a way, becoming a part of homogeneous socio-cultural, English-speaking community that is the desirable goal of English dominated education system.
The impact of the dominant ideology on education
Basically, the role of the dominant ideology is not less significant than the role of the dominant culture in its impact on education. It should be said that the dominant ideology is not always the ideology really or consciously shared by the majority of society but it is often the ideology imposed to the society by the ruling elite. At the same time, it is necessary to underline that often the dominant ideology is closely related to the dominant culture and enforces its impact on education consistently. In this respect, it is possible to refer to Leont’ev (1994), who states that personal sense cannot adequately express itself when culturally available meanings are of an ideological nature, which leads to personality disorders. Practically, this means that the culture as well as education can be affected by the dominant ideology and, what is more, the impact of ideology apparently prevents an individual from the really free and independent development.
In contrast, according to supporters of the Critical theory, the dominant ideology creates artificial boundaries in which the education system operates and in which, therefore, the formation of individuals and their identity occurs. It proves beyond a doubt that the impact of the dominant ideology on education is destructive since by means of ideology the ruling elite simply uses education to meet its mercantile purposes. This is a really serious problem because such a situation prevents the fulfillment the humanistic ideal many sociological theories tend to promote in education. To put it more precisely, sociologists working on the problem of education often argue that its basic aim is to create the internally consistent person (Newman and Holzman, 1993) but, unfortunately, the current situation is far from this ideal.
In this respect, it is possible to refer to the Critical theory the supporters of which argue that the existing education systems can produce either a disharmonic and internally divided personality or an ideologically curtailed personality structure, depending on how one estimates the degree of dominance of hegemonic culture (Chitty, 1992). At this point, it is necessary to underline the role of ideology which helps promote the dominant culture and which actually serves the interests of those who control socio-economic and political life of society, and, therefore, those who control education. To put it more precisely, the dominant ideology defines the essence of education and its major purposes and, therefore, those who control or create ideology, control the education system and use it in their own interests, and vice versa those who control the education system can relatively easy promote their ideology in education in order to meet their own mercantile interests.
For instance, it is possible to refer to numerous examples of education systems that were developed in totalitarian states, such as Nazi Germany, or countries of the Soviet bloc. It is obvious that these education systems, being different and often contrasting in its principal standpoints, still were similar in their essence since they imposed the dominant ideology on the masses of people by means of education. To put it more precisely, the totalitarian state defined the major goals of education and forced educators to promote the dominant ideology converting students into devoted followers of the totalitarian regime. This means that people did not have any freedom and, naturally, it is impossible to speak about the ideal of many educators when the education contributes to the development of harmonic, internally consistent, humanistic individual. In stark contrast, two world wars have proved the fact that the impact of ideology and culture controlled by a limited group of people on education can transform the latter into a kind of machine producing individuals with absolutely inhuman qualities (Robbins, 1999).
However, it would be a mistake to think that the current situation has changed considerably and that the impact of the dominant ideology on education is inconsistent, especially in democratic countries, such as the UK. Even though, nowadays, in many countries of the world and in all democratic countries there are no officially supported ideologies, there is still possible to trace the impact of the ideas dominant in society on the education system and, what is more, these are not spontaneous ideas but rather ideas stimulated or even created by the economic and political elite of society, which directly or indirectly controls the education system. In this respect, it is worthy of reminding the profound impact mass media produce on the modern society and naturally affect education. Moreover, media, such as Internet, for instance, are more and more widely used in the learning process getting students accustomed to the use of mass media in education purposes but, at the same time, the ideological impact of media is often ignored, while Naom Chomsky (1997) warns about the potential threat hidden in media impact on individual and the process of their formation and education since mass media basically serve to interests of those who really control them and who can promote their own ideas through media. In such a way, education may also be affected by this ideological impact.
Furthermore, it should be said that it is those who control education systems define the ideological essence of education and naturally attempt to use it in their own interests. For instance, the development of public schooling implies that public schools will meet the demands of the modern society but, in actuality, these demands cannot be objectively defined and, instead, it is those who control education systems can define their ideology according to their own will or interests. No wonder that, in spite of numerous efforts to provide equal education opportunities to all students, there is still a considerable gap between perspectives for students in public and private schools and, what is more, public schools basically serve to the interests of the state which simply attempts to create formally diverse and multicultural society but actually society where all people are united by common culture and ideology.
Thus, taking into account all above mentioned, it is possible to conclude that education systems, in spite of their seeming independence and freedom, are still bound to the cultural and ideological limits which are established and controlled by the ruling elite, which, as a rule, represent interests of the dominant socio-cultural group within society. Moreover, basically, by means of education, the ruling elite attempt to impose its own ideas to students in order to shape a desirable type of personality or, as the Critical theory states, to ensure the production of persons that fit in the existing societal structures. In fact, education, at least in the current situation, cannot exist independently or separately from culture and ideology because consciously or not educators and, naturally, educating are influenced by these two important concepts, which, however, are not of their own but they are rather products of the limited group of people that have all the power in society and defines not only cultural and ideological development of society but also controls education of people and use it in its own interests. In such a situation, the formation of independent, free of biases and stereotypes, humanistic individual still remain an unattainable ideal, which can be only when education systems will not be dependent economically and politically on the government and private capital.
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