Education – Definition and Functions as Social Institution

This entry is about the definition, characteristics, and functions of education as one of the important social institutions. 

What is education as a social institution? 

Education as a social institution is a set of patterns, norms, roles meant to provide an environment of learning skills and cultural values to live a prosperous life. 

What are the characteristics of education as a social institution?

1. Teaching-learning

Education helps fulfill the teaching-learning needs, e.g. academic knowledge, skill training, learning of cultural norms, etc. This role is being performed by other institutions also but theirs is a peripheral role. In actuality, it is predominantly a role of education as a social institution. 

2. Variance in its form

The education system varies in its from society to society. Availability of resources, overall culture, and ideology of people of society shape the form of the education system. For example, the two best education systems in the world are the education system of Finland and Singapore which are based on two different philosophical approaches. Nevertheless, they are considered the best education systems in the world. 

3. Two Types of Education systems

There are two main types of education i.e. formal and informal education

i. Formal education

The formal education system in the educational system is characterized by a formal curriculum. This system of education is controlled and regulated by the government. Teaching-learning processes right from Pre-primary 1 to the doctorate degree take place in legally recognized educational organizations i.e. schools, colleges, political technical institutes, universities, etc.  

ii. Informal education

Informal education refers to the process of learning through participation informal settings in society. Whatever a man learns by watching a television channel, going to church, daily life social conduct with people, etc. are examples of informal learning. That is to say, many a thing we learn not necessarily only from schools, colleges, and universities, we learn important social skills from our casual and informal social dealings. 

What are the functions of education as a social institution?  

1. Socialization

Socialization is one of the functions of education as a social institution. It provides a conscious instruction program aimed at inculcation of values and skills needed to live a prosperous life. Similarly, education forms and develops the personality of individuals and society as a whole by developing physical, emotional, and intellectual capabilities and habits. 

In nutshell, it can be concluded that education enables individuals to learn to adjust to society. 

3. Regulation of behavior of citizens

Education plays an important part in cultivating behavior which is conforming to the collective norms and values of society. Through education, people transmit a way of life and values to the new generation. 

4. Broader integration

Education integrates people into a broader society by providing opportunities for extra-curricular’ activities and the informal relationship among students and teachers.

5. Social and economic mobility

The educational system is expected to provide opportunities for social and economic mobility by selecting and training the ablest and industrious youth for a higher-status position in society.

6. Social development

Education ensures social development by increasing the basic competencies of an individual and nation as a whole. It acts as the most important tool used for social progress as it helps improve living conditions through knowledge creation and research. 

According to scholars, education serves four important purposes thereby stimulating meaningful social development. These important purposes of education are as follows: 

i. Humanistic Purpose

Education focuses on the development of virtues to their full extent both at the personal and collective levels.  

ii. Civic Purpose

Development and promotion of civic sense are one of the important functions of education as a social institution. This helps enhance public life and provides opportunities for young people to participate in the progress of society. 

iii. Economic purpose

Social equips individuals with intellectual, emotional, and physical skills. These skills make them productive and instrumental in the enhancement of society’s living conditions. It is education that also inculcates values of social equity and justice to do away with the economic miseries in society. 

Content Generator

I am a social activist and educationist. I write on politics, culture, education and economy.

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