Social Theory in Education refers to the study of how social structures and institutions impact education. It involves examining the ways in which societal factors such as race, gender, class, and culture influence educational practices and policies.

Social theory is an essential tool for understanding the complex relationships between education and society. In this article, we will explore the key concepts of social theory in education.

What is Social Theory?

Social theory is a framework for understanding the social world around us. It seeks to explain how society works and why people behave in certain ways.

Social theory is concerned with questions about power, inequality, and social change. It provides a way of analyzing social phenomena by examining their underlying structures and processes. Social theorists use a range of different approaches to understand society, including Marxism, feminism, postmodernism, and critical race theory.

Social Theory in Education

Social theory has been applied to education since the early 20th century. Educational theorists have drawn upon ideas from sociology, psychology, philosophy, and other fields to understand how schools function within broader societal contexts. They have sought to identify the ways in which social structures impact educational outcomes for students.

One of the key concepts in social theory in education is that of cultural capital. Cultural capital refers to the knowledge, skills, habits, and values that are transmitted from one generation to another through socialization processes. According to Pierre Bourdieu’s cultural capital theory, children from advantaged backgrounds possess cultural capital that gives them an advantage over children from disadvantaged backgrounds.

Another important concept is that of hidden curriculum. The hidden curriculum refers to the unwritten rules and values that are taught implicitly through schooling but are not part of the official curriculum. The hidden curriculum can be seen as a form of socialization that reinforces dominant ideologies about gender roles, race relations, and other issues.

Implications of Social Theory for Education Policy

Social theory has important implications for education policy. It suggests that educational outcomes cannot be understood solely in terms of individual effort or ability.

Rather, they are shaped by broader social structures such as economic inequality, racism, and gender discrimination. Social theory also highlights the importance of addressing inequities in access to educational opportunities and resources.

In recent years, there has been a growing interest in using social theory to inform education policy. For example, scholars have advocated for policies that address the root causes of educational inequality, such as poverty and segregation. They have also called for reforms that promote more culturally responsive teaching practices and curriculum.


Social theory is a powerful tool for understanding how social structures impact education. It provides a framework for analyzing the complex relationships between schools and broader societal contexts. By applying social theory to education policy, we can work towards creating more equitable and just educational systems that serve all students equally.