Essay on Education and Social Mobility

Peter Blau and Otis Duncan (1967), in their study of social mobility in America, found that important factor affecting whether a son moved to a higher social status than his father’s was the amount of education the son received. A high level of education is a scarce and valued resource, and one for which people compete vigorously.

Due to the increased awareness regarding the importance of college-level education, large numbers of persons are trying to avail of the same to increase their social standing. As a result, the number of new college graduates is now far greater than the number of’ college-level jobs available to them.

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“In fact, it has been calculated that only 15% of the increase in educational requirements for jobs during the course of this century can be attributed to the replacement of low-skill jobs by new jobs requiring greater expertise [Collins – 1971]”.

What has actually happened is that the “educa­tional threshold” has risen: people need higher qualifications to get jobs that previously required much lower educational credentials?”

Lack of Educational Qualification Restricts Social Mobility:

In developed nations people want to attain higher level of education to equip them to obtain more prestigious jobs. What is observed is that people want to receive extra years of educa­tion even if it is not necessary for some of the jobs or occupations that they are seeking for.

There is evidence that educational achievement has no consistent relationship to later job performance and productivity. What is significant, however, is that the lack of educational qualifications restricts social mobility of those people who for one reason or another have been unable to obtain them.

Education as a Solvent of Inequalities:

Education serves as a solvent of inequalities to certain extent especially in .societies where the traditional systems of stratification did not permit large scale social mobility. Here the introduction of formal education [as was done by the British in India] gave an opportunity for people who were hitherto confined to lower or intermediary statuses in the traditional system of stratification [say caste] to try for attaining a higher status in the changed situation.

That is what the scheduled caste and the scheduled tribe people and the people belonging to the backward classes have done and are doing. Thus, education under conditions has the potentiality of radically altering the previous system of stratification. Thus education has often been hailed as a solvent of inequalities.

Education and Internal and External Constraints on Mobility:

There are a number of factors which impede mobility of the individuals in a social structure. They are referred to here as constraints on mobility. These constraints may be internal or external. The internal constraints are values, aspirations and personality patterns of the individuals. The ex­ternal constraints are the opportunity structure of a society with which the individual is influenced.

(i) System of Beliefs and Values.

The major constraint in the upward mobility is a system of beliefs and values prevailing in social structure. H.H. Hyman in his study regarding – class differ­ences in educational values, motivations for economic advancement and perceptions of the opportu­nity structure -found that the lower socio-economic groups place less emphasis upon college educa­tion as necessary for advancement, and are less likely to desire college education for their children. This holds true in the Indian situation also.

Further, opportunities for education to the lower classes are very limited, particularly in the rural areas. Thus the prevalent value system governs their aspirations and actions. Hence they may lag behind the upper classes in this regard.

(ii) Family Influence:

Upward mobility is also restricted due to the family influences. In a study made by Stephenson it was found that both occupational plans and aspirations are positively associated with the prestige ranking of father’s occupation. If the family itself lacks initiative it is reflected in the child’s desire for not moving out of the family bonds.

The child develops a tendency to take up a job which the parent wants him to take up in his hierarchical set up. The child also does not show much interest in education because the parents are least concerned about it. This influence is very much visible in joint families.

(iii) Factors in individual personality:

Individual’s personality structure may also contrib­ute to his immobility. It has been found in a number of studies that achievement motivation, intelli­gence, aspirations and values are related with mobility. In one study it was found that I.Q (Intelli­gence Quotient] plays an important role in the school performance in the early years of an individual’s life.

But as the person grows older he begins to shape his performance according to certain values that he learns from his family and friends. Here desire to go to the college is taken as an aspect of mobility. One who performs well is expected to go to college and thus is mobile in upward direction.

In the above mentioned study it was found that upper-status boys learn that good performance in school is necessary, and that they are expected to do well enough in secondary school to get admitted to college.

On the other hand, a boy from a lower status home is taught that college is either not meant for him or at best a matter of indifference to his parents. The boy’s friends are not interested in college or in high school. Consequently, even a bright boy among them gets discour­aged.

Various findings have revealed that the strength of the achievement motive is clearly related to upward mobility. It seems that youth from upper strata of society may not need strong personal motivation for mobility.

Such youth get good advice, they live in such environment where ‘looking- up’ is encouraged and where they are provided with wise decisions for setting up their careers. This is not the case of lower class youth. They have to learn a great deal to make these decisions.