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How Education as a social institution impacts the Caribbean

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Several social institutions exist in today’s society and they are family, education, religion and the justice system. The Caribbean is defined as that area on the earth located between five and twenty five degrees north of the equator and fifty five and ninety degrees west of the Greenwich meridian. In the Caribbean, education is one of the institutions that is viewed as having the most promise for betterment of a people. Education as a social institution greatly impacts the society and culture of the Caribbean. Education can be defined as the group of social organizations which see to the transmission of knowledge and skills needed for economic production. These processes are viewed to have two sides coming from the functionalist and Marxist perspectives. It is the general view however that the society which can be defined as a formal association of people with common interests and is directly affected by education. Education also impacts the culture of the Caribbean. Culture includes but is not limited to the beliefs, knowledge, attitudes and roles acquired by a people over time. Education influences the socialization, role allocation and social mobility of a people’s culture and society.

Secondary socialization refers to the process where persons are made to react with others outside of the family setting which often leads to a broadening of social skills. The functionalist believes that society works in harmony also believes that this social institution places the child in a better position to make their way in society. This process has direct influence on our society in the Caribbean. As a person enters into an educational institution they become participants of secondary socialization whether they are aware of it or not. They become influenced with new views of religion, roles, material objects, knowledge and simple values previously known by them. Education is an ongoing process starting from a child is born right into adulthood. Educating a person it moulds their mind to the established norms and values of the society and culture of the Caribbean. The culture will become shaped to fit the new views that education presents to the people who make up the society and are responsible for the culture.

On the other hand, the Marxist believes that society functions as an arena of conflict and also believes that education is largely engaged in structural or social reproduction. Thus they believe that it is used to perpetuate ruling class advantage which refers to those of a higher social standing. This is evident in our society as it is projected as the people believing that only those who are in the upper class can reap the benefits of education. This leads to a division in society as those of lower class will view those of a higher class with disdain thus causing conflict to arise producing a rift. As conflict and division arise in society this will lead to a shift in culture as there will no longer be one set of beliefs, values or attitudes to be adhered to but rather two or more.

This is a result of the society drifting apart as the perpetuation of the ruling class advantage continues. In the Caribbean culture is held in high regard and education plays a big part in the spreading of our culture. However, if only the Marxist view is to be seen as right then if only the “ruling” class has access to education then the spreading of our culture will be limited and most likely will die out quickly. This is because though the ruling class has the most power they tend to be few in numbers and the lower class that are greater in number will not be able to receive our culture in order to spread it.

Another aspect of society and culture influenced by education based on the functionalist’s view is that of role allocation. Role allocation results from the preparation of persons for the labour force. It is defined by Parson, Davis and Moore as the process in education by which students are judged on aptitude, ability and suggested suitable career or work roles, making sure the highest jobs are undertaken by the most talented people. This process directly influences the society and culture of the Caribbean. Societies are made up of persons who live, work and generally interact with each other; role allocation allows each person to have a set position in the society to know what it is that they are responsible for.

In Caribbean culture it is seen for men and women that certain jobs are for men and certain jobs are for females. However, with access to education these traditional roles can be changed where men and women are able to do any type of job they aspire to. As this happens each person can feel more at comfortable as they can now have a be sure of a place in society and also allows a changing of culture as it expands the roles, beliefs and attitudes in our society as men and women are no longer looked at with disdain if they are doing a job which may be seen as not fitting to their gender.

In contrast to this the Marxist believes that education results in the generation of a group of unskilled who settle for low paying jobs or the increasingly prevalent occurrence of skilled workers doing jobs they are overqualified for. Our Caribbean society is filled with person in this position and as a result this has adverse effects on the growth of the society and culture. As this occurs many have chosen alternate routes in order to make money and do better for themselves, some to crime and others to the process of migration. Migration of the people, more commonly the youth, results in brain drain of a country as it loses valuable educated members of society.

Our culture becomes stagnant as there are no longer any persons to pass the traditions and beliefs held dear due to the job and opportunity debt in the Caribbean. As this continues with unskilled workers and skilled workers doing the same jobs the people become demotivated to make better of themselves by legal means and some decide to turn to a life of crime which projects a negative image of the Caribbean on international stages. All of this, as seen by the Marxist will lead to a degradation of society and culture as we know it.

A third way in which education influences Caribbean culture and society is through the provision of a means of social mobility. Social mobility refers to the movement upwards in the social ladder and thus gaining power and prestige. The functionalist believed that being educated leads to this happening where persons move from their ascribed statuses to their achieved statuses. This leads to a motivation of the general public as they will now have the belief that despite the situation they are born in especially if not to their liking they have a way to improve themselves. The culture in the Caribbean is such that only the upper class is seen to have access to this privilege however, with the establishment of institutions such as the University of the West Indies all walks of life are able to have access to a tertiary education which is seen as the key to betterment. Educational institutions such as this are Caribbean based and as such it also leads to the perpetuation of Caribbean culture and offer ways for everyone to have access to it by offering many different types of scholarships and student aid. The achievement of social mobility disrupts the notion that those of lower class can only ever be in that status and that only the higher class will be successful.

Once more the Marxist opposes this train of thought as they believe that education only serves to further highlight the inequalities between social groups. This is evident is our society as the perception of the masses is that those who are wealthy or have “links” are the only ones who are able to attain all levels of education. Often times this is true as through nepotism or the easy access to funds those of the upper class are more able to afford and gain access to the means needed to propel them into the valued position in society. Whereas the lower class end up having to work twice as hard and sacrifice much more and still may or may not gain access to these means. Our culture and society is affected by this because many times those who do not gain access to these means turn to illegal methods of gaining them and thus contribute to the already high rate of crime in the Caribbean and causes society as we know it to operate in chaos.

Our values, morals, hierarchies and experiences are then affected by these happening and thus our culture receives a blow as aspects of it are damaged. As education magnifies the division of classes it also leads to our culture and society not growing as everyone is distrustful of the system and chose to settle for their ascribed statuses in life. The views of the functionalist and the Marxist have opposing stances on the influence of education as an institution on Caribbean culture and society. The functionalist through their view sees education as being responsible for secondary socialization, role allocation and social mobility.

Whereas the Marxist views it as a way to highlight ruling class advantage, inequality of social groups and the generation of semi-skilled or unskilled workers. While both views have merit as they are both evident in society the view of the Marxist is better highlighted and suited to the present situation in the Caribbean today. This is because it is commonplace for persons to be unemployed or settles into jobs that they are overqualified for simply because of no other option being available as the positions they seek are often given to those undeserving due to nepotism.

In conclusion, it is seen that education as an institution does influence Caribbean society and culture. While its role is to facilitate the transmission of knowledge among the people it can result in the betterment of persons in society. Once used in the correct way this social institution Caribbean society and culture can experience growth and positive change and development. However, it must be noted that once poorly utilized it may result in the division of a society, a people and a culture unlike any other and thus it must be the duty of the people to ensure that they use this institution to the best of their abilities.

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