Education and society

Offer semester
1st semester

Lecture time
Tuesday 13:30-15:20

Lecture venue

Course description

Education is a major institution in society. It is found in every society but the form and process come in many varieties. In modern industrialised or industrialising societies, a formal system of schools is compulsory to everyone and it plays a crucial role in society and people’s life.
Schooling is expected to be the nurturer of the young, the means for social mobility and equality, as well as the saviour of social ills and problems. However, are they challenging goals to be realised, promises unfulfilled or simply enduring myths?

This course is designed upon the foundations of the sociology of education. We will examine the structure, process and content of formal education with various sociological perspectives and theories. We will discuss the questions concerning the fundamental roles and impacts of schooling as well as updated educational issues in a rapidly globalising world – Why do we all go to school? Who gets ahead and is it fair? Why some students are ‘good’ and some are unruly, while many more engage in pragmatic calculations? What dilemmas do teachers confront and how do they affect their teaching? Why do we need to learn the things we have learned? Can we learn through the things we love in our everyday lives, in the way we like? Can we unlearn things we do not want to learn? How do people study in other societies? Why do we need to study so many years but are still being judged as inadequate? What possibilities, after all, can education provide?

Course learning outcomes

On completing the course, students should be able to:

  1. Understand critically their education experiences by engaging with the debates surrounding the historical nature and current developments of formal education.
  2. Explain the roles and impacts of modern education with sociological concepts and theories.
  3. Expand the vision of education by engaging in course exercises and exploratory projects.
  4. Develop new insights and awareness to deal with educational settings in future.


Tutorial presentation and discussion20%
Term essay15%

Required reading

Ballantine, J. and F. Hammack. 2013. The Sociology of Education: A Systematic Analysis (7/e). Upper Saddle River, N.J.: Prentice Hall.

Ballantine, J. and J. Spade. 2018. Schools and Society: A Sociological Approach to Education (6/e). Thousand Oaks, Calif.: SAGE.

Brooks, R. 2019. Education & Society: Places, Policies, Processes. London: Red Globe Press.

Course co-ordinator and teachers

Student view

This course broadened my horizon regarding education. It helped me understand that good education is not necessarily only delivered through schooling system. Rather I realised how the institutional design of schooling systems mean they tend to nurture conforming citizens.
– Christopher Weng Cheong Chan, 4th year Sociology Minor undergraduate student