It is said that Education is a basic tool for the survival of an individual. Education is the primary differentiating factor between animals and human beings. It makes man the smartest creature on earth. It equips individuals to attain knowledge and provide them the ability to manage the challenges faced in life. As in all sectors of life, our education system is also channeled or regulated by a class of society with different thoughts and beliefs. Education is also accorded to based on our class, society, and social status. The urban class has always had an upper hand in education while the poor don't have sufficient money to get the best education. But in comparison to the rich, poor are getting quality education in government-aided and non-profitable institutions or schools too. The development of a curriculum is a debatable issue and many perplexing theories have emerged on the framing and re-framing of a school curriculum. An effective curriculum must have well-defined learning objectives and unit learning outcomes. It should provide a holistic education for the children which promotes social, mental as well as the physical well-being of the child. This essay entails basic of education which is that whether the school curriculum promotes Functionalist ideas and norms or it should follow the philosophies of the Social Justice Educators.
Two main ideologies or theories appear in the sociology of education, one is functionalist theory and another is the theory of social justice educators and how both the theories contribute in shaping the understanding of the educator for effective development of the curriculum and also enable them to resolve conflicts in the society by using different approaches (Sever, 2012). A French sociologist named David Emile Durkheim formally founded the discipline of sociology along with Karl Marx and Max. Weber who is commonly recognized as the principal architect of modern social science (Mthethwa-Sommers, 2014). They argued that the human body is like a society with different institutions that act synchronously just like the body. An individual is like a cell of the body and a group of individuals working together make up an organ of the body just as they make up a relevant institution in the society. Similarly, the education system is a depiction of one's economical background, family background, and the religious and political systems involved with the child. Keeping this theory of Functionalism, a knowledge that will be included in the curriculum of a school is considered to be genuine only if it is embedded into the part of their culture.
It is about the needs of the children and keeping in mind the family background which they belong to. Thus, these children will need a good infrastructure with the entire world's best facilities, modern sciences, and legitimate knowledge transmission at their disposal which will work towards solidarity and integration of the community in a broader way rather than differentiation (Blackledge & Hunt, 2019). Functionalists help in what can be said as sorting- which means, categorizing the students based on their academic competency. Certain schools recognize the efficiency of the student at an initial stage and the students with higher marks or score are permitted to enter further advanced learning programs and courses which prepare them for further college education, but the students with lesser academic excellence and the ones who score lesser in tests are not provided the same opportunities. Thus, more educated individuals or rather privileged class of society are generally more copious, whereas, the people with the less educated background are more orthodox in their thoughts and action (Daniel, 2007).
Coming to the second theory in the sociology of education is the theory of norms followed by the Social justice educators of the educational society (Santone, 2018). It is also recognized as the Critical theory of social justice. It came out during the 1920s in Germany with the foundation of the Institute for Social Research at Frankfurt (Varenne, 1985). The term “critical theory” has been coined by Horkheimer. There were three main issues with the critical theory, “first, mapping injustices in education, tracing those injustices to their source, seeking and proposing remedies to those injustices. They began to work by defining inequalities in education.” It is always been a dictum that Rich rules the poor in all sectors of life be it social status, economical imbalance, health benefits, exposure to modern-day facilities, and education system.
Working-class kids or certain minority groups have always been at the center of discussions because of their relatively low performance in education in comparison to their white middle- or upper-class counterparts (Solomon & Sekayi, 2020). So, a trend if formed or a kind of vicious cycle that a child born in a rich or influential family will from the starting of his or her life get all the necessary modern-day facilities which can be made available within their reach and power to make the daily existence easier. On the contrary, a child born to a poor or substandard family who lives below the poverty line bracket will form the start only suffer or will have to struggle for the very necessities also like food, water, shelter, and clothes. After attaining these fundamentals when the question of education or going to school arise, either they will not have an option only to try it out or the opportunity which they have is beyond their reach due to either financial, economic, social, or communist constraints (Santone, 2018).
After going through both the Functionalists and Social justice educators' theory of education, it is understood that the social justice educator approach is better for the holistic development of a child who is the future developer, uplifter, or game-changer of any society (Mthethwa-Sommers, 2014). The pillars of a society, the nation as a whole or in a global context are democracy, equality, freedom of expression, are the center of the social justice education, the seeds of which are embedded during the initial years of a child's education. According to the developmental theory of Bronfenbrenner, the immediate environment of the child, and the kind of exposure the child gets in the initial five years of his education form the basis of the blueprint of actions for its years of life ahead (Brown, 2019). The situations and learning during the initial years of a child's education play a vital or a key role in determining the abilities and weaknesses of a child, in also determines the mental and emotional makeup of the child and determines a child's behavior and attitude as an adult. Utilizing the approaches of social justice in the curriculum frame and learning practices is possible if all the students are treated equally and given equal opportunities to enhance their skills.
It requires educators to identify the weaknesses of the students and address them on an individual basis as the learning curves of all the children is not the same. They should be treated as treasured contributors in the classroom space, regardless of their social, cultural, or academic problems. It can behaviourally impact a child's social and psychological mind if he or she is constantly getting nagged, constantly getting ashamed because of not being socially and economically so well off (Sever, 2012). A child should be looked upon based on his or her educational capacity and wellbeing. A child should not be categorized based on his or her caste, creed, religion, or community rather he or she should be judged based on his intellectual thinking, mental capability, academic results, and holistic understanding of a subject. However, it can be said it is a tough task many educators hone the idea that the application of the social justice approach to education is non-compulsory and only meant for sessions that pertain to professional development, but not to be followed or implemented upon. The practice of social justice education must be mandated across all the curriculum framework and courses. At the initial stages, educators seem to agree with this approach but soon lose the vigor, which does not help in reaching the stage of implementing the changes in the curriculum (Santone, 2018).
The effective curriculum helps in providing quality education which eventually suppresses poverty and unemployment in the society. Furthermore, education in the right direction helps in providing a good economic stand to the government of the nation. Thus, the higher the level and quality of education, the better prospects of growth are present in the development of the nation and in turn help in the growth and development of a country in the global market. Additionally, there are manifold benefits of education such as increasing knowledge and the ability for decision making, higher chances of innovation and success, and thus in the upliftment of his family's social status and background (McGuinn & Stevens, 2004). This is because education helps in multiple aspects of society, issues of the curriculum and schooling lead to various societal conflicts, such as racism, hatred, and lack of respect for nature and lack of useful knowledge.
Therefore, to enable the process of learning through apt education and to let it serve various functions in the life of a child or to play its role in the society, many reforms must be undertaken in the building the curriculum framework (Zúñiga, 2007). One example of this process involves the concept of social placement. Students who perform academically well are placed in faster tracks mainly in subjects such as language and mathematics, whereas, the students who exhibit a slow learning curve are placed in the slower tracks. This sort of tracking only helps in perpetuating social inequality and psychological disturbances in the mental and physical development of a child. It urges one to strongly believe that equality in education is the need of the hour as the system of education which is resourceful for all the students in providing knowledge and giving them the ability to enhance the skills which would help them to develop critical and analytical thinking required to find solutions required in today’s world (Mthethwa-Sommers, 2014).
Most prominently, it is the right of every student to attain knowledge and equal opportunities to yield better economic and social outcomes in their lives regardless of their background or history or financial issues. This approach is necessary for the growth of an individual as it also promotes the growth and development of the regions and the nation. Reducing the gaps in education means that society should provide everyone the basic work skills of reading, writing, and simple arithmetic (Santone, 2018). It means making sure that personal and social circumstances are not obstacles to achieving educational potential. When God has made every human being the same with the same organ system and a pure heart, who are we humans to create barricades among them and divide them into groups depending on their caste, economic status, education, and financial wellbeing.
Educational institutions play a key role in developing the right mindset of children. It helps them to attain knowledge and to improve their skills by learning how to positively interact with the educators, family as well as with their peers at school. A curriculum based on Social Justice Education approach encompasses learning outcomes that help develop healthy relationship skills and holistic development of the students, in all the environments, such as the classroom as well as in the real-life functions. Education increases the level of creativity as well as productivity (Murphy, 2017). It promotes free enterprise and advancement in technology by encouraging logical thinking and improving critical analytical skills in the students. Also, it has a vital role in seizing economic opportunities and promote social and mental well-being.
It gives financial as well as health security to an individual. It has a primary role in the progress and improving income distribution, helping the society and nation to develop. Curriculum designing includes effort from an educator in recognizing the correct approach and planning activities and lessons based on the interest of the children, a curriculum that focuses on asking questions, and not only remembering the answers, it encourages innovation and variety in thoughts. It acknowledges and appreciates that every child is unique and that they have their own set of abilities and disabilities. It the primary role of the educator that the curriculum must be developed in a way that enhances their abilities and gives the means to work around the weak areas (Brown, 2019). The curriculum must address the development needs of the children across various stages of the educational journey (Blackledge & Hunt, 2019)
Therefore, from the discussion, it can be deduced that more emphasis is to be laid cultivating curriculum which is based on providing a holistic approach to the children. On one hand, Functionalists help in what can be said sorting which means, categorizing the students based on their academic competency. Certain schools recognize the efficiency of the student at an initial stage and the students with higher marks or score are permitted to enter further advanced learning programs and courses which prepare them for further college education, but the students with lesser academic excellence and the ones who score lesser in tests are not provided the same opportunities. Thus, more educated individuals or rather privileged class of society are generally more liberal, while less educated people tend to be conservative in their thoughts and deed. On the other hand, the theory of social justice educator believes in the equality, the importance of the principles and guidelines shared and given by the social justice educators are effective for developing life-saving skills in the early childhood.
Social justice is more than just a single subject to be taught. This concept must be imbued in all the subjects. Social justice is important because it promotes and works toward a society that celebrates diversity and equality. Having more equality and diversity in a society is good for society because it promotes opportunity, growth, and social well-being. Social justice advocates hope to build a society in which individuals have equal access to resources and receive equitable treatment regardless of their race, gender, religion, sexuality, income level, or disability. Ultimately, social justice can't be in any easier way. Its values must be integrated into pedagogical concepts and methods of teaching to be followed by all the educators. In the end, it can be said that the educational curriculum in the schools should not promote social consensus as Functionalists maintain, rather our education system should challenge social conflicts as Social Justice Educators maintain.
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Zúñiga, X., Zuniga, X., Nagda, B. R. A., Chesler, M., & Cytron-Walker, A. (2007). Intergroup Dialogue in Higher Education: Meaningful Learning About Social Justice: ASHE Higher Education Report, Volume 32, Number 4. John Wiley & Sons.
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