Social Class and Socialization in Education


Education is an important element of every society. It is through education that individuals learn to face various challenges in life. There have been many research studies intended for improving education. The main objective of these studies is to overcome the challenges in education and make it more fruitful in people’s lives. One area of research in the recent past has been on the influence of socialization on education. Social class socialization affects the teachers’ and students’ approaches to education.

Overview on socialization

In conventional terms, socialization is defined as how an individual learns to be a member of a certain society. It consists of the process through which an individual acquires ideologies, customs, and norms of a certain society. The term “Socialization” is, however, used differently by individuals in different fields or in different contexts. Socialists, politicians, anthropologist educationalists, and social psychologists use the term according to their context. Socialization is also used to refer to social interaction among individuals. Socialization seeks to retain certain beliefs, norms, and values in a certain society (Germov & Poole, 2007, p. 136). However, the process may be different for different individuals. An individual in a certain society may be socialized differently from another individual in the same settings. The phenomenon is in agreement with many social-political theories that claim that socialization determines only part of an individual’s behaviors and beliefs.

Social-political theorists have identified various types of socialization. Primary, developmental, secondary, and anticipatory socialization have been identified. Primary socialization is the fundamental socialization process where a child learns to be a member of a certain society (Kerckhoff, 1992, p. 37). The family in which a child is born and brought up has a great influence on this socialization. Secondary socialization occurs after primary socialization and involves learning to be a member of a small group such as a profession. Developmental and anticipatory socialization are consciously learned behaviors intended to make an individual fit in certain social settings.

Social class socialization in Education

Socialization, especially socialization in childhood, has been known to affect the way of life of an individual. Family, race, gender, schools, peer groups, workplace, and mass media have been identified as the common agents of socialization. These agents play an important role in forming the social life of an individual. Social class is another major socialization factor in the recent past. Being brought up in a certain social class has a great influence on how one views certain issues and influences an individual’s way of life (Kerckhoff, 1992, p. 28). Our society is strongly stratified according to social classes. Individuals can belong to lower, middle or upper social classes. Socialization within social classes is very evident in the society. The tendency of individuals to take up occupations or way of lives similar to their parents is a clear evidence of social class socialization. Social class socialization has great influence on education. Many studies in the recent past have shown strong correlation between social class and education achievement. The socialization affects the way in which an individual student responds education (Woolfolk, & Holy, 1990, p.289). It also influences the relationship between a teacher and students and how the teacher is able to be effective in his or her duties.

Socialization has great influence on choice of a career. An individual tend to choose a career that is in agreement with the ideologies, values or expectations received from a certain society. Teaching career has for long been associated with middle class individuals. An individual brought up in the middle social class may be more prepared to be an educator than other individuals from other social classes. Individuals in the middle class are brought up seeing teachers within their neighborhood. Some of the middle class individuals have teachers as their parents and learn from them that teaching can be taken as career. On the other hand, there are less teachers from the lower and upper classes.

The social class of a teacher can affect his or performance. The social class socialization affects the drive behind a teacher taking the teaching career. An individual from the lower social class may take teaching a necessity rather than passion for teaching. The financial gain from teaching can motivate an individual to take a career in a field that he or she does not enjoy. Lack of passion and self drive in such cases can affect a teacher’s job motivation and performance. Individuals in the middle social class may be influenced by social and family expectations to take careers in teaching. The influence may have negative effect on a teacher’s performance especially when the teacher does not have other positive motivations to teaching. When an individual from the upper class takes teaching as a career, it is mostly out of their free choice. The free choice of a career can have positive effect on the performance of a teacher. A teacher that chooses teaching out of passion for teaching may be more dedicated and invest more on the career (Kerckhoff, 1992, p. 31-37).

Social class has great influence to the development of self-identity. Social class determines the experiences and the things which an individual is exposed to. In consequence, social class influences the way an individual views the world and how they respond to various aspects in their surrounding. Social class constrains the opportunities that an individual has in life. It also influences the decisions that an individual can make in life and how they make the decisions. An individual in the upper social class may have more opportunities in life. The individual can have more opportunities to travel, make purchases and experience many things in life. On the other hand an individual in the lower or middle class do not have as many opportunities in their lives. An individual in the upper class also has a wider range of choices to careers and other aspects (Germov & Poole, 2007, p. 137). Opportunities and experiences have great influence to teaching. In teaching, a teacher is likely to use his or her experiences to capture the students’ attentions. The teacher’s attitude, language and examples are strongly influenced by their socialization. A teacher can use his experiences to capture the students’ attention or motivate them towards certain subject. However, the success of this is determined by the socialization of the teacher and the students. For example, narrating personal experiences in international travels may have positive effects on upper class students but fail to motivate students from lower class.

Social class socialization influence the way in which a student respond to education. Family is a major agent in socialization. The family instills value, attitude and expectation over an issue. Although socialization in families may differ from one family to the other, there is high influence of social class. Research studies have shown differences in the way in which parents have faith and support schools. The attitude of the parents, in consequence, influence the way students respond to education (Woolfolk, & Holy, 1990, p.281). In families that wholehearted support education and school, the students from such homes are more likely to respond positively to education. Such students are more likely to accept the values instilled on them and cooperate in educational activities. Parental influence on attitude to education has been observed to have social class elements. The upper-middle-class has been observed to be great believers in education. They believe that education is important and view it as a solution to social problems. On the other hand, the upper-lower class and lower-middle class have a different attitude towards education. Most families in this category view education just as a means to adulthood. These families expect the schools to provide their children with necessary skills to help them in their lives (Woolfolk, & Holy, 1990, p.285). Many families in the lower class, on the other hand, have negative attitude towards schools and education. There is general suspicion, distrust and rejection of education in lower class families. In class management, students from middle and upper class are more likely to be more cooperative that those from lower class. On the other hand, students from the lower class are more likely to exhibit negative class behaviors such as inattention and absenteeism.


Education system determines the success or failure of a society. The education system should provide the members of a society with necessary skills to face their day-to-day challenges. Socialization is important factor that influences education. The kind of socialization can either promote or inhibit education. Social class socialization has become more prevalent in education systems. To respond to effects of social class socialization, a teacher must be able to respond positively to social class stereotypes.


Germov, J. & Poole, M. (2007). Public sociology: an introduction to Australian society. Crows Nest: Allen & Unwin.

Kerckhoff, A. (1992). Socialization and social class. New York: Barnes & Noble.

Woolfolk, A. & Holy, W. (1990). Socialization of Student Teachers. American Educational Research Journal 27(2), pp 279-300.