Gender and racial identities affect the relationship of individuals in all aspects of mass education. This is especially evident in the factors such as adjustment, self-esteem, and well-being of students. Social Group identities can be used to determine why some students succeed at school, while others do not. Educators, parents, potential employers, and even students can use the knowledge of social group identities in order to determine the reasons for complex social diversity not only in classrooms, but also in the community in general. Mass education institutions have treated students in the different ways depending on their social identities. This is evident by the differences that exist in academic achievement and educational opportunities for the different social groups. Thus, educators must understand social group identities and their relationship to mass education in order to interpret the current treatment of students in different social groups. They can examine whether there is social justice in education with the help of different sociological perspectives. This way, they can make the education system in the country more effective.
Gender refers to a social group that every individual identifies with due to their sex. Male and female members of the society have different roles and opportunities attached to their gender. However, they both have similar needs for survival. The social structure in Australia has differences in the opportunities available to the genders. This has come with several challenges. The main challenge is the discrimination and prejudice against women, which has been constant over time. This is common not only in education, but also in work and family with pronounced gender differences (Thomas, 2011). This inclination towards male domination can be explained by the Australian history. The continent had more male convicts, as compared to females. The British government even offered to pay females to immigrate to Australia in the 1800s.
Feminists state that most educational institutions were created by men. This explains the male mentality and attitude. Men have also dominated in all aspects of life from the family to major public institutions, such as education and work. The differences in the way males and females interact, make decisions, and behave according to the accepted code of conduct are responsible for the differences that occur between the genders in mass education. The differences can also be explained by other factors, such as ethnicity, race, class status, or religion. Different social group have different gender perspectives, which explains why some females face more challenges than others (Vick, 2004).
Racial identity refers to association of an individual with a particular race. Sociologists use the word “race” in order to refer to the distinctions arising from physical appearance, such as eye shape, skin color, and physiognomy. There are four distinguishable races identified in Australia. These are Asians, black, white, and the natives. The Australian Aborigines and Torres Strait Islanders are among the native inhabitants. They belong to the different race than the black people of African origin. However, there are certain similarities, since both are victims of white colonization living in a white-dominated society. They have similar experiences both in neo-colonial and colonial education. They both lie at the bottom of the racial and socio-economic hierarchies in the white-dominated country (Connell, 2007). The focus on racism in educational institutions assists in determining the shape of education for the children of color. Recent studies show that the education system has influenced children from races other than the white to develop identities distorted by the colonizing Eurocentric identity. Mass education has been slow to incorporate the ideals, which teach about diverse sciences, arts, and histories of other races in the world, but has rather been focused on the assimilationist curricula (Nussbaum, 2010).
Mass education has seen many changes to accommodate gender as social group identity in the educational institutions. The history of female involvement in education dated back to the 1890s. The system had not fully embraced female education at this time. An article in the Adelide newspaper by a stakeholder in education pointed out that education for women especially for career objectives would make them not desirable as wives. It stated that women should be taught on the ways to make a home (Marginson, James, 2008). However, the education system ignored this stereotypic perspective and institutionalization of differentiating the society according to gender. Mass education became an institution that was not guided by emulation of gender roles in the society. For example, the number of women has equaled or even exceeded that of men in law schools for the past two decades. Creation of expectations and standards for different genders is still a reality in mass education. Mass education also retains more women (77 percent) than men (66 percent) (Marginson, James, 2008).
More women are also involved in tertiary education, as compared to the situation two decades ago. Gender as a social group identity is no longer a hindrance to education at any level or field. The difference in power and conflict that women experience in the workplace is no longer a discouragement to pursue academic excellence. Mass education has seen improvement based on gender differences with both male and female members of the society having equal opportunities to access education (Kumashiro 2002). Education has also incorporated learning methods that are efficient for both genders. Studies show that girls have clearly outperformed their male counterparts in education for the last decade not only in languages, but also in sciences. Education does not differentiate students in terms of gender with involvement in similar courses for all genders (Imber, 2013).
Racial identity has continued to present challenges in mass education. The fact that the society is divided into the races, such as Negroid, Mongoloid, or Caucasian, still remains a challenge in mass education. Despite the numerous efforts by science to prove that racial ideologies are invalid in determining academic capabilities, the society remains with a stereotype that the dominant white people are superior in education. The era of racial division in education has simply evolved, rather than came to an end. Previously, education was only for the white in the country with other races only undertaking technical studies. The population of the white people in the professional courses, such as medicine and law, was overwhelming with a view of other races as uncivilized. However, there have been changes with competitive entry into all aspects of education. The only challenge now lies in erasing the belief that some races are culturally incompatible with some being placed at the bottom in terms of intelligence. This presents a strong case in mass education, as it spreads even to some educators (Jean, 1981). A recent study shows that a significant number of educators and stakeholders in mass education still view some races as superior. They see no need to focus seriously on non-Western histories and cultures in education and knowledge systems in their teaching or study. This shows that mass education still has a strong belief in the hierarchy of races. However, racial discrimination is no longer an issue in terms of educational opportunities. There is an opportunity to explore multicultural studies with focus on diverse cultures, languages, and ethnicities. The education system, however, does not recognize the role of indigenous and black cultures. Race as a social group identity is still an contentious issue in mass education in Australia with the dominant white race (90 percent of the population) having great influence in this field (Polesel, 2010).
Gender pedagogy in mass education is no longer a challenge. The formulation and implementation of educational policies in the country has seen the introduction of an educational system that incorporates male and female students in an effective manner. Sexual harassment cases in the last decade have reduced significantly due to collective social acceptance of gender equality. The contention in mass education arises in setting of school curricula to incorporate study methods that are efficient for both male and female students. There have been debates about the relative position of males in the educational system, as well as education for boys (Western, 2007). These debates have questioned the focus on girl education with ignorance on the issues affecting male education. One of the main issues include the decline in the number of male teachers, especially in primary education. It questions the reasons in the curriculum and organization of schools, which influence male students against taking up careers in teaching. The organization of the educational system lacks positive male role models in the field of education (Bowden, 2010).
Literature in school curricula focuses on the “strength of the woman” with many role models for female students on women, who have had great educational achievements. Scientific studies show that boys have poor listening skills, as compared to girls. They also have poor hearing, which does not favor them in lectures. The most efficient methods of learning for them are through observation and experiments, which humanity and language classes especially lack. Statistical evidence suggests that boys’ performance in education is declining with time (Teese, 2006). Researchers in male studies stated that the education system has become female-dominated, run by femocrats, who push for female agenda, which, in turn, makes male students uncomfortable. This calls for reorganization of the education system and incorporation of the curricula that favors gender equality in education, since school is the basic socialization institution of the society (Renold, Allan, 2006).
Multicultural pedagogy in mass education has been ignored significantly according to the education researchers. There exists a paradox in the education system, which demonstrates that there are privileges for some races in many schools. This inclines towards the whites in the society, which tries to embrace multicultural ideologies. The supremacist ideology that the white settled society has superior culture, as compared to other races, still exists in mass education assaulting languages and cultures of indigenous populations and other races. However, the system exhibits resistance for this process with self-determination for minority races. Racial equality in the system is gradually becoming a reality. The curriculum in mass education also shows factors to suggest that it is highly Eurocentric. “Teachers are taught an anti-racist pedagogy and embracing a multicultural education system only to find a different curriculum in the classroom”, reports a recent study in Australia. The curriculum focuses on the histories of the dominant white culture, ignoring other races (Vickers, 2007).
The pedagogies and curriculum in mass education should be improved to recognize the place of other races in the white-dominated society. The percentage of races other than the white in Australia is as low as 10 percent. This proves that the number of educators from this percentage will be too low to make any significant impact to mass education. This is where the organization of the education system comes in. Mass education is organized in such a way that the majority, in this case the whites, continues to dictate important policies. This should not be the case. The system should be organized in such a way that it promotes multicultural education. Students from all races should have a chance to explore their history, culture, and language. This should be a provision in the curriculum. In this way, mass education will grow to appreciate racial diversities; therefore, eliminating racial discrimination (Sadovnik, 2007).
Functionalism views the society as being made up of positions or status-roles, which follow a hierarchy of arrangement. These positions ensure the smooth running of the society. They play the same part as social structures, which include the government or the family. For social justice and coherence to exist, each individual must fulfill their status roles or positions effectively to make the society, as well as social institutions, run in a smooth way. The society should also develop and maintain patterns and institutions to ensure that it runs efficiently. This is the best theoretical perspective to explore social justice in the education system (Feinberg, Soltis, 1998). Thus, an education system that is functional is also socially just or fair. A functional system would have activities that are directed towards meeting its needs. The purpose of the education system in the society is to provide holistic education to its members with the aim of promoting social coherence and welfare. The system provides the basic socialization unit of the society providing societal expectations of individuals. It gives the society shared values, as well as giving individuals a common ground to base communication on (Arnove, 2009).
According to functionalism, a socially just education system is the one, which contributes to the general consensus within the society; thus, promoting social equilibrium. Mass education from this system will contribute to smooth social functioning. Education system that does not discriminate on the basis of gender or race is socially just (Arnove, 2009). This is because it will train qualified individuals, who will assume important positions in the society driven by the same ideologies. Functionalists also argue that such an education system will teach people on the skills to maximize their individual potential, as well as to be good citizens and to relate well with others. An education system that promotes or contributes to inequality is socially unjust. The inequality comes through the social group identities, such as racial or gender ones. Such a system enables the society to work as a team. Every student learns to live in harmony with others, despite their social group identity; thus, contributing to broader running of the social system. Rewards should be in terms of merit to those, who perform their roles in the best way, but not due to their identity. Thus, functionalism defines a fair and socially just education system as the one, which promotes positive functioning of the society leading to social order and stability (Feinberg, Soltis, 1998).
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Conflict theory is critical in viewing the education system with the functionalist approach. It would differ significantly from the functionalist theory in giving an ideal system of mass education. Conflict theorists vies education as a tool for those in power to drive the current status quo in the society. Conflict theory is not an effective theoretical perspective to examine whether an education system is socially just or fair. This is because it already affirms that the system is used by the powerful and dominant members of the society to drive their interests. The fact that a system may have gender or racial discrimination is justifiable according to the conflict theorists (Sadovnik, 2007). This is because the elite will educate their children in private schools and use the public schools to control the social structure of the middle and low class in the society.
The public school system is meant to teach students from the two classes to become a subservient workforce according to the conflict theorists. Thus, they should depend on the powerful masses for success, since independence will lead to failure. Students are also taught to accept the hierarchy in the society. This means that racial discrimination will be justified in the system and students will be advised to embrace it as a normal social phenomenon. Students are not taught to be interested in the content, but rather in the results. The main reason for study should be to pass the exams. This shows the great difference between functionalism and conflict theory. The education system, according to the conflict theorists, is not a place to encourage social equality, but rather to train students on their future roles in the capitalist society. It is not an effective perspective to define a socially just system, as it encourages discrimination on the basis of social group identities, such as race and gender (Down, Smyth, 2012).
Interpretivism argues that human beings interpret themselves and their environment from the particular cultures. Interpretivists argue that we can only understand the existence of certain institutions and the ways, which they operate in by focusing on people’s interpretation of the world. This is through the focus on people’s attitudes and beliefs. In order to understand the education system and its characteristics, it requires one to assume different positions. Then, one has to explore the current situation by examining the history, attitudes, and beliefs of a group of individuals involved in education (Chapman, Hobbel, 2010). Interpretivism can give different positions on the situation of the education in relation to the social group identities. It cannot be used to give a fair and socially just system, as each group of individuals, such as from a certain race or gender, has different beliefs and attitudes towards a certain situation. For example, the whites may argue that they are the majority in the country; thus, everyone should study their culture and history, since they influence major decisions. On the other hand, indigenous groups can argue that they were the original inhabitants of the continent; thus, their history supersedes that of the immigrants. Interpretivists argue that all these arguments are justified, as they examine the attitudes and beliefs of each group in the system. Thus, it would be difficult to determine which group has the most effective ideologies and which among them is justified to have its ideology implemented (Hawkins, 2011).
Mass education is the most important part of the society today. This is because education is the basic socialization institution that unites people from all over the country. Education gives the society a common base of communication and competition, which, in turn, ensure social growth and coherence. The objective of mass education in the country is to provide holistic knowledge to the students from all over the country regardless of their identity. Students in the education system come from the diverse social backgrounds with differentiation in culture, race, language, gender, and ethnic identities. Each student has unique characteristics with all falling into common social group identities. This means that mass education should be set in such a way that it brings together all students and stakeholders. At the same time, it should give each of them a chance to explore their diversities ensuring that each of them feels appreciated in the society. Teachers and educators also have to ensure that they conduct the process without discrimination of any kind. They should push for changes in curriculum or the education system where they see fit. This is because they have received training to promote holistic education and are involved directly with the students. They should incorporate student and parent feedback in writing reports about the effectiveness of both the curriculum and the education system. In the classroom, they should ensure that they discourage any kind of discrimination on the basis of social group identities. In this way, they will ensure that they assist in achieving the objectives of mass education.