Education in Canada
Education responsible for the transmission of particular knowledge, skills, values, and attitudes
deemed desirable in a given society
Formal education tend to be regulated and organised by the state
Informal education: learning activities that people seek outside of formally structured education
Formal and informal education contribute to social reproduction by stressing societal norms and
values; socialises next generation.
Seen as critical to economic development
Origins of Public Schooling in Canada
Formal public schooling compulsory until age 16
Earliest forms of formal education in Canada established in the 19th century by missionaries and
o Before formal education was established by religious orders, Native peoples practiced an
organic education; tailored to practical needs of the family, clans and communities that took
place amid the natural environment. No formal teachers, individual community members
responsible for ensuring children learned key knowledge, skills, traditions and values.
Education was a means of ensuring cultural survival
o European missionaries and religious orders wanted to replace Native knowledge and lifestyles,
believed that these practices were inferior to European morality and consciousness.
o Government supported, church operated residential school systems were created to teach
Native children European customs.
o Separated Native children from their families; intent was to assimilate Native children into
dominant economic and cultural system.
o Native children were not allowed to speak in their own languages, could not see their families
except for short periods of time during the year, and subjected to harsh disciplinary measures.
o Industrialisation and immigration created the need for a system that would educate the
Argued mass education would serve the public by providing common moral education
o Common education not the same education. Boys and girls received different educations;
boys were directed to vocational training and higher education in preparation for labour
market; girls streamed into domestic science courses.
o Girls and boys went to the same schools, but had separate entrances, playgrounds and seating
Post Secondary Rates
Used to be that post secondary education allowed one to claim membership in an elite group.
Significant rise is post secondary attainment
Massification: the mass increase in post secondary enrolment, in contrast to the smaller numbers
that once constituted an elite group. More than 50% of Canada's population over 25 has some form of post secondary education
High school diploma no longer earns the same kind of job it used to
Credential inflation: the ever-increasing cache of educational credentials required for a particular
Currently more women undergrads than men
Education leads to jobs, greater income, improved health status, increased standard of living.
Sociological Approaches to Education
Macro level; example: how globalising process are shifting priorities in education
Micro level; example: daily work of teachers in schools
Explain educational process and investigate changes over time
Talcott Parsons: "The School Class as a Social System"
o Because schools function as social systems, they need to serve and reflect the values and
interests of society in which they operate
o Schools help children transition from individual environments of their homes to future citizens
able to function as workers and participants of public life
Manifest functions: written down functions that an institution does. Get a diploma, increase
chances of getting a good job
o Latent functions: unintended consequences of institutions. Universities are usually the place
couples meet, but nowhere is that written
Schools maintain equilibrium of the social system through two functions: allocation and socialisation
o Allocation: assign grades, hand out certificates, degrees, diplomas. Sorting mechanism for
future roles in society. Education credentials are indicators of peoples' position in social
o Socialisation: teach students how to function in larger society. Children learn to respond to
authority, respect punctuality, taught to be "good citizens". Not limited to teaching through
instruction through formal curriculum; also happens through hidden curriculum: the informal
or less overt aspects of schooling that influence and shape children; teaches student to be
obedient, value competitiveness, etc.
Kindergarten: space for children to learn "student role". Obedience and classroom routines. Class
time is structured, children are told what to do, how to do it, where it should be done.
Functionalist analyses rarely used in contemporary research
o Criticised for clinging to meritocracy: society in which resources are distributed fairly on the
basis of merit.
o In this perspective is a failure to understand how one's social location and other larger socio
political relations and conditions affect one's achievements.
Education is doing what we have designed it to do, it works
Human capital theory:
o Looks at the worth and value of everyone
Understand schooling as serving the capitalist aims of profit and compliant workers. Schools perceived as instrumental in preparing future conformers
Say that school is designed by and for the middle class and therefore the middle class have an
Education is a way to ensure that middle class kids have advantages for success over other students.
Device for allocating individuals to unequal economic positions
Education replicates existing social relationships
Bowles and Gintis
o Criticise liberal education reforms. Argued that they were unsuccessful because they were
based on the assumption that one's success was tied to innate ability. Inequality is embedded
in design of capitalist society
o Argued for correspondence principle: the principle whereby the structures of the workplaces
are reflected in the structures of schools. Both use similar methods (grades and wages) to
motivate behaviour through external rewards.
o Demonstrated that students from privileged class backgrounds more likely to continue to
higher education than students from lower class backgrounds. Argued that schools in
capitalist societies are structured to prevent social class mobility
Tuition rates and Class Inequality
o Tuition for Canadian universities increasing over the last few decades
o Tuition increases as program gets more professional, with medicine and dentistry being the
o Most medical students come from families with high household incomes, high status parental
occupations and high levels of parent education.
o High tuition rates mean only the wealthiest students can afford to pursue professional
o Financial barrier limit participation of those in lower social classes
Micro look: relationship between students and teachers, students and students etc
Society and social arrangements are fluid; negotiated and renegotiated.
Examine meanings attached to school practices, explore symbolic aspects of education
Teacher imposed labels can lead to self fulfilling prophecies among students. If a student is labelled
a troublemaker, they are more likely to be a troublemaker
o AKA labelling theory
Ray Rist's participant observation study
o Observing a kindergarten class and noticed that the teacher, after eight days with the
students, felt they could divide the students into three according to educational performance:
fast, average and slow learners. No formal assessment to back up teacher's perceptions.