How Does Education Facilitate Social Change?

Social change can be referred to as the transformation of a group’s customs, beliefs, laws and institutions. Social change can occur in two ways: progressively/positive change or digressively/negative change. In progressive change, the community abandons strange customs, such as barbarism and adopts universally accepted norms (civilization).

In digressive change however, a civilized society reverts to social evils that threaten its existence. While there are various factors that can facilitate social change, education is the most universally accepted method.

This can be attributed to the fact that education is probably the only method of social change that eradicates ignorance, others facilitate it. For instance, take an example where social change is brought about by either a new authoritarian/dictatorial government or influence from a superior nation that a normal state looks up to. In the first case, the society is coerced to submit to the new social changes by use of force and fear.

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However, as history has shown us people always abandon these oppressive laws once the dictatorial regime collapses. In the second case, the inferior state completely loses its own identity. It becomes a watered down replica of the original state, adopting even its degenerative customs. A good example of this case is many states adopting American customs and values- even the negative ones.

The importance of education to society is summarized by the maxim: the pen is mightier than the sword. While swords may conquer empires, to keep an empire to be self-sufficient and successful for many generations, there has to be education. Look at all the great ancient civilizations, such as the Egyptians, Sumerians, Mayans, Greeks and Romans, they all had one thing in common- education.

They had their own mathematics, writing styles, record keeping methods, art, astrology and philosophy. In contrast, there were barbaric nations in Europe that did not have much going on for them and were easily subdued by the more developed nations. So, how does education facilitate social change?

Education brings social change both to the individual and the community at large. Teachers are the agents of change, education the stimulus and the students are the recipients and preservers of change.

At the individual level, education eradicates ignorance. Children at an early age are taught principles that are not only beneficial to them, but also to their society. This is the most effective method of bringing social change, because children never loose whatever is taught to them at a young age easily, unless they are mentally challenged. The adage that ‘old dogs can never be taught new tricks’ is true.

Kids learn their importance in society through education. They are the leaders of tomorrow and education equips them with the right tools to take on the leadership roles. Education is also a means through which they learn about their cultures. Education at a community level is done to foster change, as a result of an endemic issue that has established itself as a thorn in the flesh of the whole community. A good example would be sensitizing people about a new disease, in order to keep them safe from it.

Role of Education in Propagating Change in Society

The first role of education is it is a preservation instrument for all cultural values and beliefs. Education preserves all cultures. We have learnt about cultures dated several centuries back because of education. It acts as a sieve, separating the negative cultural values and helps transmit beliefs and practices that are beneficial to human kind.

The modern civilization, as we know it today is actually a replica of the Roman Empire, which also adopted the Greek civilization structure before it.

For such a milestone to occur, there had to be a method of transmitting the craftsmanship and the technical knowhow to the modern world. That is where education came into play. It seems like everything we use today is borrowed from ancient world. From numbers, calendar, mathematics, philosophy, agriculture and other disciplines, they are all traced back to ancient civilizations. After sieving out the bad culture, it unites all practices all over the world into an edified set of beliefs and practices that are used for the betterment of human kind.

For instance, we know that philosophy originated from Greeks, the first writing system was the Cuneiform in Mesopotamia, while the first people to practice organized farming practices were in Mesopotamia around 11,000 B.C. All these practices have been adopted and improved over the years to create this complex civilization we have today.

Education facilitates economic development in society. Education instills the ability for people to think. It makes people innovative and always looking for ways to improve the livelihood of mankind. People get acquainted with tricks to various trades that enable them maintain comfort in their lives. It is education that is credited with creation of all these professions. It is a fact that without education, there would be no doctors, engineers, lawyers, teachers and so forth. In fact, there would be no civilization.

Case in point are the indigenous tribes of Africa and the unconquered people of the Amazon. Although they have their own societies, lack of education has rendered them outdated and unable to compete with the current times.

It has also brought forth unity both nationally and internationally. At the national level we can see students from different races, ethnicity and religious backgrounds sharing the same curriculum, classrooms and other school facilities. They help each other in assignments and are even clustered in educational groups to build the spirit of team work in them.

This all inclusive nature of education actually makes students appreciate different customs and cultures. Through this interaction, they are able to see and understand different points of view from their own. It also helps to eradicate cultural biasness that they may have acquired from their ethnic backgrounds.

The situation is not much different in the developing and third world nations. They have borrowed the same education structure from the developed nations. They have schools, although in a more despicable state and the teacher-student ratio is also not something to smile about. However, there is a clear difference between illiterates and the educated, despite the latter group struggling through school with no facilities.

They also have a higher chance of succeeding in life than their illiterate counterparts. With education, the world has become a global village. We see students from third world nations seeking scholarships to study overseas and the knowledge they get they impart it back to their own nations. Education has made it possible for people to relocate to wherever they want and also earn a comfortable livelihood in the process.

Education also leads to development of the political landscape of a nation. Gone are the days when societies were ruled by absolute power from royal families. While there are aristocratic nations to this day, most of the power lies with the people.

They select who should represent them and the people play a pivotal role towards policies of a nation. It is a fact that nations that were/are under dictatorial form of governance had/have a weak education system that was/is skewed to keep few dictators in power (North Korea) or there was/is none at all.

But in a civilized society with a good education system, people are aware of their rights and civic duties. In terms of leadership, education brings out the best in leaders. Educated leaders are more articulate in their approach to decision making and problem solving. They are also open to new ideas and suggestions, which are prerequisites for progress in society.

Take an example of former American President Abraham Lincoln. He was a charismatic leader and very eloquent in speech, thanks to his self-education. He is also the person who is accredited for bringing an end to slavery in the US. Stemming from his actions, America underwent a complete social transformation that saw it rise to a global leader it is today. President Lincoln was actually a lover of learning and as a result made commendable decisions that made America great.

Just to show you how powerful education is white slave owners forbade African slaves from learning how to read and write. They understood that the slaves were completely helpless, because their minds were shackled with ignorance and if they were to get a bit of education, they would be self-sufficient. Fast forward to today and you can see many African Americans and other races are successful, owing to education. America even had the first Black President, Barack Obama, who is an alumni of Harvard Law School.

Many factors can lead to social change. However, for the change to be meaningful and propagated to the future there needs to be education. Many ancient societies did not have education and they relied on memory to keep account of their history and culture and the word of mouth to transmit them to the young ones. Look at how that turned out for them. They delved deeper and deeper into ignorance, superstition, and lack of progress.

Education preserves cultures and keeps a record of facts that will be used by future generations. It equips people with skills and tricks to trade to uplift them economically. It also gives them the ability to think, make better decisions and become innovative. Above all, it eradicates ignorance, which is the main stimulus for human stagnation.