The society is made up of individuals who relate with one another in various ways daily. That is to say, there is a network of relationships among human beings living together in small or large groups. This network of relationships is what we call society (Ezern 1983: 1). The scientific study of the origin, development, organization, and process of interactions within society is known as sociology. In other words, sociology is concerned with the examination of the structure and the type of social relationships that occur within society. Thus, in their study of human society and social behavior, sociologists focus on groups. Institutions and social organizations unlike psychologists focus on individuals.
Sociology as an academic discipline is not as old as philosophy or history. In fact, it could be said that sociology like some other disciplines originated from philosophy. The first person to use the word sociology was a popular French philosopher by the name, of Auguste Comte who lived between 1798 and 1857. He used the word in some of his lectures given in 1837 to designate the application of the scientific method to the study of human nature and society (Agganwal 1982: 75). Thus, as noted by Tiryakian and cited by Morrish (1974), these separations of sociology from philosophy have made the academic disciplines of their own, and divorced themselves from metaphysics and social philosophy. They actually have helped sociology to become an empirical science.
Therefore, as a scientific study that is concerned with social facts, sociology has gained wide acceptability in other disciplines such as medicine and education. This is why we now have separate disciplines such as the sociology of medicine and the sociology of education which is our focus in this article.
Sociology of Education
Educational Sociology and sociology of education have been used to classify this relatively new discipline. There has been some controversy on whether to adopt educational sociology or sociology of education since both are seen to mean different things. We are not going to be involved in the argument here. Rather we are going to adopt the Sociology of Education which is now more popular and preferred by various University faculties and Colleges of Education.
George Payne is regarded as the father of educational sociology/Sociology of Education. According to Aggarwal (1981), George Payne felt that a consideration of social relationships and their place in the evolution of the educational system could facilitate the understanding of education as a means of social control. He took three steps to propagate the importance of educational sociology/sociology of education. First, he organized the Society for the Study of Educational Sociology, he founded the Journal of Educational Sociology in 1927 and published the Principles of Educational Sociology in 1928 (Aggarwal 1981:76).
If Payne is regarded as the father of the sociology of education, John Dewey made it popular in America while Sir Fred Clarke made it popular in England through their publications. While Dewey published The School and Society as well as Democracy and Education, Clark published Education and Social Change.
The sociology of education as a discipline focuses on the social force through which the individual is developed and the social reactions by which the individual gains experience. In other words, the major concern of the sociology of education is the investigation of sociological aspects of educational phenomena and institutions; it has therefore become an important area of study for educators. There cannot be a good aim of education without a clear understanding of the nature, interests, and needs of society which is the focus of sociology. In the same way, a good knowledge of the sociology of education is necessary for the design and development of the school curriculum as well as methods of teaching.
Therefore, for the teacher to be able to discharge his responsibilities effectively and efficiently, he needs a good knowledge of the sociology of education. Apart from knowing the important relationship between the school and society, the teacher will be exposed to certain sociological concepts, principles, and methods for understanding and solving some of the problems of teaching and learning in the classroom.
One important principle of life generally is that nothing is static and that everything is constantly changing. Human societies are dynamic as they grow and change very often. In other words, change is present in every society. However, some societies may change more rapidly than others. Even, within the same society, some parts may change more rapidly than others. In some places or situations, changes may lead to problems because not everybody within the society will adjust quickly. Thus, social change may occasionally lead to periods of social disorganization as old ways erode and collapse while new ways of behaving or doing things are developed (Landis 1974: 229).
Therefore, there is a tendency to regard what takes place within society as social change. However, as Morrish (1975: 64) has observed, there are three types of change that give rise to social change. They include cultural change, civilization change, and social change.
Cultural change: This is concerned with changes in aspects of the culture such as knowledge, beliefs, habits, traditions, religions, arts and music, etc.
Civilization change: This involves the physical elements in the society such as the inventions in science and technology and the improved form of communication.
Social change: This refers to changes in the structure and function of the social relationship within a society.
These types of change, as noted by Landas (1974) are similar and one usually affects the other hence, it is often difficult to view them separately. Therefore, we shall use the term social change in the broad sense to include civilization and cultural and social changes.
Social change may be caused by external or internal factors. It may be caused by individuals or groups, for instance, invasion, colonization, natural disaster, and war. Some individuals such as Hiller, Napoleon Nyerere, Awolowo, etc have through their actions/policies brought about some changes in their societies.
Therefore, according to Lindas (1974), we could generalize and say that social change represents the coming together of a number of events. It is something that is always happening in a variety of ways. It is not just a once-and-for-all affair or something that may be linked to only one factor, event, or situation.
Education and social change
As we are already aware, education is the aggregate of all the means or processes by which human beings develop or acquire the necessary skills, attitudes, and values for a happy and useful living. In other words, education involves changes in the knowledge, skills, attitudes, interests, and values of people generally. However, for education to be an effective and efficient instrument of change, it must help in the continuous reconstruction and reorganization of the ever-changing experiences and needs of society in order to build a happier and better society world. Educational institutions must assist in the promotion of social change and not just in the transmission of the culture from one generation to another.
Above all, education must be for social for social mobility, flexibility of thought and action as well as for the production of individuals with a high level of awareness that could make them adequate to changing conditions. (Morrish 1974-76). By so doing, the fear and rejection of change and the inability to adapt to change, all of which, make real social progress difficult and not impossible will be greatly reduced.