• Charles Farrugia

2. Schools as Socializing Agents.

Updated: Oct 5, 2020

I will not be surprised if some readers of the previous blog about the role of schools, remarked: “So, what’s new? We all know that teachers go to schools to teach and students attend the place to learn.” Well, the actual situation is not so clear-cut because schools also contribute to society’s evolution and development in more subtle ways than most people realise.

The function of schools extends beyond merely teaching several subjects on the curriculum to help students pass examinations and obtain qualifications. Schools fulfil the additional important role of helping students fit in their social environment and improve their quality of life as society’s future members.

In our post-modern world, schools perform many of the functions previously undertaken by the family and the community. In pre-industrialised societies, one generation transferred to the next the limited knowledge, skills, culture and values of their restricted communities.

A skill passed on from father to son (

Thus, sons inherited their fathers’ trade that had been passed on from one generation to the next. Daughters learned the household skills, food recipes and medical remedies that their mothers had acquired from their mothers, grandmothers and great grandmothers. Folklore, accepted behaviour, communal rituals and shared experiences provided by the extended-family networks, served as the primary sources of initiation and instruction.

Todays’ lifestyles conditioned by the knowledge explosion, technological innovations and the electronic mass media, have changed all that. The required skills, knowledge and values have increased exponentially. They have become too complex to be satisfied by the old, traditional methods.

The majority of parents living in modern societies tend to lack the expertise, the time, and perhaps the aptitude to provide the formalised type of education their children need and deserve. Therefore, they gladly delegate the responsibility to those who provide professional educational services, namely teachers and schools.

In response to demands for more, better and increasingly sophisticated educational provisions, society (notably represented by the State) establishes educational systems, construct buildings, set up institutions, enact laws, and employ professionals to cater for the community’s expanding educational requirements.

Schools reinforce and reflect society’s norms and values

As a result, in addition to providing instruction, schools have become the main agencies for promoting the norms and values of society. They also provide most of the life-skills and occupational know-how that enable young people to function efficiently in the complex milieu of the 21st Century.

Moreover, schools contribute to satisfy the needs of society not merely by teaching and transmitting knowledge, skills, concepts and beliefs, but actually by embodying society’s norms and values. For example, schools reward hard work and achievement, encourage competition and perseverance, stress obedience and conformity. Schools also discourage deviance and protests. In this traditional perspective, schools are considered as necessary, indeed indispensable extensions of well-adjusted and stable communities.

To conclude:

1. Schools provide the necessary knowledge for people to function properly in life. There, students learn to read, write, do mathematics, and science. They discover about peoples, places, and the wider world around them. Schools also provide exposure to activities, ideas, and fields of knowledge that students might never encounter otherwise.

2. Schools provide students with the skills they will need for future success in the job market. These include a strong work ethic, time management, collaboration with people they might like or dislike, multi-tasking, self-discipline and satisfaction for a job well done.

3. Schools help students develop moral, social and emotional attributesto interact fruitfully with others through good behaviour, honesty, love for truth and justice, care for the less fortunate, and a strong sense of fairness

Through a structured curriculum and expert tuition, schools provide the preparation for adult life that unorganised instruction and haphazard experiences can never achieve.

How is it then that some thinkers on Education demand the abolition of schools? Next Wednesday, we will discuss the ideas of The De-Schoolers and their influence on current teaching and learning methods.

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