Education and society

Offer semester
2nd semester

Lecture time
Friday 15:30 - 17:20

Lecture venue

Course description

Education is a major institution in modern society. A formal system of schools is compulsory to everyone, whereas non-formal and informal education also play a crucial role for individuals and societies. In Hong Kong and many other parts of the world, it is not rare to observe policymakers arguing “ideal” education systems, mass media covering various education-related topics, and children studying hard for exams. Behind such phenomena, we often share a belief that education is the key to nurturing the young, promoting social mobility and equality, solving social problems, and realising shared prosperity. However, does education really contribute to these goals? If yes, how? If not, why?

This course is designed upon the foundations of the sociology of education. We will examine the structure, process, and function of education with various sociological concepts and data, ranging from classical theories to state-of-the-art empirical findings. In each class, students will be encouraged to ask/answer questions and to facilitate discussions with peers and the instructor. Students will also undertake an original research project focused on one educational topic of their choice.

Course learning outcomes

  1. Critically reflect their education experiences in connection with the basic concepts in the sociology of education.
  2. Describe the structure, process, and function of education in modern society.
  3. Utilise relevant theories and data to analyse educational phenomena from the sociological perspective.
  4. Identify contemporary issues in education and discuss implications for policy and practice.


Class participation and contribution20%

Required reading

Ballantine, J., J. Stuber, and J. Everitt. 2021. The Sociology of Education: A Systematic Analysis (9/e). New York, NY: Routledge.

Recommended reading

Arum, R., I.R. Beattie, and K. Ford. 2020. The Structure of Schooling Readings in the Sociology of Education (4/e). SAGE.

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