Sociology focuses on the study of human relations. It is a study directed towards the behavior of an individual to others and behavior of groups. Understanding on the nature of the society primarily depends on the nature of these interrelationships. Sociology relies on sociological perspectives and theories to explain on social phenomena. These theories emerged within the changing societies. They tend to explain comprehensively a given social phenomena.
The society establishes social institutions to carry out specialized functions. The operation of these social institutions is highly influenced by the sociological perspective held by majority of its members. Members of the social institution respond to social changes differently as influenced by the sociological theories.
The theories use different approaches in explaining social phenomena. Some study human behavior at macro level while others at micro level. Each aims at explaining with certainty the social environment. The paper focuses on the influence of functionalism, conflict and Interactionism sociological theories on the educational social institution. Priority is also given on the influence on individuals, society and the social change.
Sociology is asocial science concerning itself with individuals and the society. It interprets social phenomena clearly stating the cause and effects of human behavior. It tries to explain social actions of individuals and group’s .This actions may be either explicit or purely inward or subjective .sociology uses scientific methods of inquiry to study social behavior and human groups. According to (Schaefer, 2009) sociology is the scientific study of social behavior and human groups. Human behavior is influence by culture, authority, emotions, genetics attitudes coercing, hypnosis, ethics etc. sociologist use the concept of social behavior to explain social relationship. Social behavior is behavior directed towards others.
A social institution is a mechanism of social order. (Harre) 1979: “A social institution was defined as an interlocking double-structure of persons-as-role-holders or office-bearers and the like, and of social practices involving both expressive and practical aims and outcomes.” It governs the behavior of all people belonging to it. There are several social institutions in the society. Each of this social institution has a well-defined role to play. The laid down rules and regulations guiding the human behavior enables a social institution to attain its role. These institutions include the education, health care, family, media, political and economic institutions among others. They are continuously interacting and influencing each other as they play their roles.
Sociologist employs a sociological perspective to explain social phenomena (Schaefer, 2009). There several perspectives used to explain the nature of the society. These perspectives have led to the development of different sociological theories to explain the nature of human interaction. Theory is a statement or a group of related statements that explain comprehensively a given phenomenon. An effective theory has both predictive and explanatory power. The sociological theories include functionalism, critical, conflict, social interactions, feminism, symbolic interaction, structural interaction and positive theories among others.
Sociological theories greatly influence social institutions. Conflict, Interactionism and functionalism are the most common theories that have been applied in management of social institution. Education is a major social institution that plays the role of transmitting societal norms and values from one generation to the other. The operation of the education institution is guided principles, rules and regulations that have their foundation on the conflict, Interactionism and functionalism sociological theories.
1.2 Application of sociological theories on Educational institution
Functionalism theory explains or sees the society as a living organism with various parts. “The society is a vast network of connected parts with each part contributing to ensure survival of the whole” by Marx Weber. Therefore each part performs specialized function. According to talcott parsons, these parts are interdependent and interrelated. The effective coordination of this part brings about stability within the society. Any aspect of social life that does not serve a role in ensuring societal goals are met, it is not passed to the next generation (Schaefer, 2009) .This means that any aspect must satisfy its importance in ensuring societal stability. The social cohesion may be as a result of people within the society up holding like beliefs, values and performing similar work. This is mechanical solidarity and is usually common in simple societies. On the other hand organic solidarity arises as a result of interdependence among the members of a society. These members may hold different values, beliefs and performing different tasks (Abraham, 1978).
Functionalism addresses the society at a macro level in terms of elements which include traditions, norms, and social institutions. The parts must come in to a consensus so as to hold the society together. The society is made of social institution in which education is a major institution. Educational institutions play critical role in transmitting societal norms and values. The roles of an educational institution may be manifest, latent or dysfunction roles. Manifest roles of educational institutions are clearly stated in the school curriculum, for example acquisition of skills and knowledge. They appear as aims and objectives .latent roles are those roles which are attained unconsciously and reveal the hidden functions of educational institutions (Gidden) 1987.
Educational institutions are organized into departments and sections. Each department plays a specialized role in ensuring the stability of the institution. The policies of each department should not contract that of the other, but rather proper coordination is required for harmonious operation of the institution. In an education institution main department include sports, administration and academic.
Education plays several functions to ensure the stability of the society. This functions ranges from intellectual, political, economic and social functions. Intellectual functions include acquisition of cognitive skills, knowledge and inquiry skills. Educational institution play a major function in educating future citizens, promoting patriotism , promoting assimilation of immigrants and ensuring order and respect of the rule of law. Though education students are prepared for economic roles .Education trains the labor force needed in the society. Education plays social roles, such as promoting a sense of social and moral responsibility, serve as an avenue for resolving social problems and enhancing the socialization process.
Groups within the society are in continuous struggle for resources, power and political control. The society in general is in continuous state of tension (Schaefer, 2009). This tension is not necessarily resolved through violent means. Representative of several groups engage in bargaining and negotiations to instill stability back in the society. The conflict theory advocates that those in the senior positions struggle to maintain their social class, while those in low-class struggle to enhance social mobility. The conflict theory has its origin on the works of Karl Marx. Social conflict is inevitable in a society in which there is a potential inequality (Schaefer, 2009). This in equality may exist in terms of gender, religion, economic, racial, and so on. Unequal groups within the society usually have conflicting values. This brings constant competition which in turn leads to the ever-changing society (victor, 1980).
According to the conflict theory the role of education is to preserve the power of those dominating the society and maintaining social inequality. The role of education according to the proponents of conflicts theory is to promote the status quo by making the local class more obedient workers.
Groups within the society interact in a way which does not allow mutual benefit .This means that there is no time when members of different classes cooperate willingly, as a result the subservient may result to violence .This aims at bringing radical change of norms, customs and values of the society. In an educational institution the administration hold power, while the students belong to the subservient. In many time the administrators impose rules and regulation which affect the welfare of the students without consulting them. This may lead to students rioting and strikes.
The symbolic Interactionism theory focuses on the use of symbols within the society. Members of different groups in the society keep on interacting. They make use of symbol to communicate. Every symbol has an attached meaning and members respond differently to different symbols. This interaction brings about social phenomenon .The symbols used have a shared social meaning understood by every member of the society (Schaefer, 2009). Every society has a unique mechanism of ensuring that these symbols are passed from generation to the other. As young grow they interact with the old ones in this process they learn new symbols which they use to communicate symbols (scharnberg) 2002.
The symbols used in communication are either non verbal or face to face symbols. Individuals respond according to the way they interpret the symbols. For an effective communication the symbols must be interpreted correctly as intended. Human beings have the ability to alter and change the many meanings of symbols. This implies that the society is a social product.
The school involves a continuous interaction among teachers, students and other stake holders’ .This involves use of symbols in communications and therefore the aspect of common language is essential. Educational institution mostly put emphasis on use of the national language to enable communication of values and norms of the society conveniently. Non verbal symbols such as the bell, gestures are used for various communications. Ringing the bell may be used to indicate end of a lesson. The teachers’ usually respond to the bell by leaving the class room, while the students adjust from one subject to the other, hence a mutual understanding. New students adjust as they interact with their peers (maureen, 2000).
The language level used by the teacher should match that of the learners’ .Teachers in lower classes tend to use simple words as opposed to those in colleges and universities. Students in lower levels of learning use concrete objects in acquiring knowledge, but those I high levels of learning use abstract thinking. This is because those in lower classes cannot relate objects in their absence.
Use of labels is a common practice within the education institutions. The behavior of individuals is influence by the terms used to describe them. There are positive and negative labels. Negative labels are used to describe those deviant to social norms. They aim at discouraging socially undesirable behaviors. On the other hand positive labels are used to encourage socially acceptable behaviors. The name is a primary symbol that greatly influence the behavior of an individual, every individual has a unique name that identifies each individual. Teacher use positive labels to encourage their students and use negative labels to discourage bad behaviors. Learners give labels to their teachers based on their social interactions (maureen, 2002).
Similarities and differences of sociological theories: conflict, Interactionism and functionalism sociological theories
All the three theories explain social phenomena. They give explanations to how different social institutions operate. Each has its own perspective of explaining the realities.
Both functionalism and conflict theories explain human behavior at a macro level. They concentrate on explaining behavior of one group towards another. This is unlike Interactionism which explains human behavior at a micro level. It bothers on explaining the behavior of one individual towards another. This people may come from one group or different groups. (Schaefer, 2009).
Functionalism is of the view that society is being stable and well integrated where each group interrelates well with the other. Conflict view of the society is characterized by tension and continuous struggle between groups. Interactionism views that members of the society are active and behavior of one individual influence that of the others. (Schaefer, 2009)
Social order according to functionalism is predictable and can be reinforced because the role of each group is well-defined. The proponents of conflict theory are of the view that social order keeps on changing with time. These changes may have positive impacts on the society which the privileged group may not like. In the view of Interactionism people of different or the same social position keeps on communicating to enhance social cohesion. (Schaefer, 2009)
Functionalism proponents are of the view that individuals are socialized to perform laid down societal functions. This is unlike conflicts who argue that people are shaped by power coercion and authority to act in a certain way. Interactionism proponents argue that human beings manipulate symbols to create a world full of meaning. (Schaefer, 2009)-
Implications of functionalism, Interactionism and conflict theories on views of individuals in educational institutions
The administration views are influenced by functionalism such that all related educational activities are grouped into departments .Each department is run by qualified staff trained on handling all the activities. The functions performed by each department contribute to the success of the educational institution. These departments are interlinked through proper communication channels. The administrators have defined roles with each performing distinct roles, for example in ministries of education, departments such as finance, curriculum development, quality assurance and so on. Likewise in a school set up subject that are related are organized in to departments, e.g science, humanities, social sciences, languages etc.
The administrators are always in a continued smuggle to rise to higher position within the organization. With those at higher levels desiring to maintain their status while those at lower position struggling to rise up the hierarchy of power.
Administrators in educational institutions relies on a system of rules and regulations for maintenance of social order, the tool in which conflicts relies on for maintenance of social order. Those who defies to this rules face sanctions, suspensions or punishments.
In the daily operations there is a continued interaction between different administrators. The social interactions have an impact on the overall administration of the educational institution. Strong social interaction leads to high levels of coordination and reliability of administrators. Incase of harsh relationships within the management the organizational goals may not be fully achieved. These social interactions are governed by the symbolic interaction theories.
Each educational institution is governed by a common language which the administration ensures is fully adhered to. Administrative policies are best understood when simple language is used to convey such. School boards are used to pass administrative messages to students and other stake holders.
Administrators within same departments should have a common understanding of symbols for proper communication, for example mathematical symbols are only understood best by those who practice it .such symbols should not be used when communicating with people from other departments.
1.4.2 Students/ learners
Functionalism has influenced the role students in educational institutions are expected to play. These roles are not limited within the school but also outside the school. Students have specific roles such as acquisition of knowledge and skills among others. Individuals view this role as part of their daily life and they work towards achieving them. They integrate the specific roles within and outside the educational institutions. Each student’s works towards a set level of performance.
Social interaction among students, teachers and other educational stakeholders is inevitable in an educational institution; hence the student is transformed through the process of interaction. Interactionism views the student as a social product. Student’s decisions are influenced by their peers, teachers through the process of interaction. The students as they interact with peers they learn to view things at different angles.
Conflicts are of the view that major reforms results from violent reactions for change or bargaining .This influence the student’s view that significant change can only result through engaging the administration in continuous bargaining for change. This view sometimes results to violent strikes within educational institutions.
Teachers form unions to bargain for increment of their enumerations. This is because it is very rare to have the administration adjusting salaries according to the economic conditions. This is a conflicts view where changes only result from continued struggle.
Teachers interact with each other and others outside their educational centers. This influences their view on teaching methods and classroom management. They are able to adapt to new ways of teaching. The approach on ideas within the school may change with the realization that strong social network serve as a mechanism for maintaining social order.
Functionalism approach influence teachers view on educational matters. Teachers view their function in education as essential in success of the educational institution. They view that an effective educational organization results from proper performance of the specific role of each individual within the organization. These functions should be well-defined and coordinated for harmonious functioning of the institution.
Effect of functionalism, Interactionism, and conflict theory on approach to social change
The sociological theories great influence the nature of approach used to bring about social changes. They play a major role in determining the steps individuals take to bring these changes. The approach used is all dependent on the sociological perspective up held by the individuals
Those who hold conflict perspective they tend to use revolutionary or violent means to bring about social change. In educational institution students result to strikes to bring changes that seem necessarily for their wellbeing. Continued struggle and bargain to bring about social change is inevitable in educational institutions. The institutions result to amending and making new rules and regulations to maintain new social order. (Baldridge, 1980)
Individual those who advocate for functionalism predict and reinforce social change .This is done through adjusting the functions of each element. They can predict future social changes. Every individual in the society is socialized to perform a laid down role. This ensures social changes are adequately accommodated within the society.(Abraham,1987).
People in the view of Interactionism see social change as resulting from continuous communication. The members of school institutions are actively influencing each other. Social changes are maintained through an active process of interaction.
Effects of sociological theories on views of society in education
The society is of the view that education has definite roles to play within the society. These roles are influence by various sociological theories. The society responds to important issues such as selection and sorting, this is dependent one sociological perspective.
According to the conflicts view of the society, selection and sorting of individuals should be based on various social classes and existing inequalities. In this view the society aims to attain social equilibrium by focusing on the exiting inequalities.
When the society is dominated by functionalism, the society view educational aspects in terms of the roles each individual is expected to play within the society. Opportunities within such societies are allocated with regard to ones potentials and abilities to perform such functions.
In some society social integration is achieved through interaction among members of a group. These societies select individuals based on their abilities to relate with each other and the ability to understand specific symbols as required.
Sociological theories are dominant over the operations of social institutions. They influence the institutions mode of social order, the individuals and the society in general. Functionalism, conflict and Interactionism sociological theories find their application in understanding the nature of social institutions. This has implications on the structure, administration, and interrelationships among various elements of the institution. Educational institution has greatly been influence by these three theories mentioned above. The operation is guided by principles, rules and regulations that lay their foundation on conflict, functionalism or Interactionism theories. These sociological theories can account on how individuals and the society respond to the social changes within the society. They explain depending on one sociological perspective how the response brings about desired changes. It is therefore important to uncover how social changes take place in the society’s social institutions. The understanding of the approaches used can only be understood if the sociological perspectives up held by the members of the society are put into considerations.
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