The Science of Socialization – The Role of Schools as Drivers of Social & Economic Mobility

“Education teaches languages and allows people communicate with each other according to positions in society.”

Education has often been considered the greatest driver of social and economic mobility as attributed to the opportunities individuals are exposed to by the virtue of being educated. This is a bold argument that stands the test of time. However, as much as basic education has been considered a mobility driver, other factors such as quality of education and the schools attended will play a role in influencing the return on the investment associated with the same. This is the reason parents invest substantial sums of money to take their children to Ivy League universities and schools. The question that this begets is what additional value do these universities or schools have to offer beyond the classes offered? In our context assuming all the schools and universities for the same courses follow the same curriculum for standardization purposes. This has been a subject of interest for me and I recently had heated discussion on the same with a friend which informs my argument in this article. As I have over the time argued for, I am a proponent of education and learning in general. This is one of the reasons I started this blog in the first place, to share life lessons and ease the journey for others that may find the insights shared valuable in their life journeys.

Socialization is the process of social influence through which individuals acquire the culture or subculture of their groups to shape their identity/personality. In socialization, we consider the environmental factors such as the language, topics of discussion, careers of those in your circle among others. It’s argued that children who grow in families where parents are in the corporate sector and carry work home, learn more words than their counterparts from the informal sector. It’s also noted that such families have a tendency to open up their networks to those in their social class hence the kind of opportunities made accessible to their children are within or above that of their parents. This is a key contributor of social & economic mobility. In social circles, you’ve had stories about parents being critical of the people their children are allowed to marry. Often it’s argued that it’s because of the economic status or so but beyond these, there are aspects to consider e.g., the level of ambition, type of conversations they can hold which influences whether they fit or not into the family as well as they ability to relate within the family circles. This isn’t the subject of this article.

Where do schools come in? Schools present an environment where we interact with others ranging from fellow students, faculty, staff, parents and corporate partners for universities e.g., through academic fairs among others. This pool is often diverse and often times has the potential to expose students as well as their parents to new possibilities based on the realities of others in these circles. With these challenging dynamics and new information streams coming in, individuals are challenged to make the move up the ladder. Additionally, by virtue of socialization through the school their is a level of camaraderie that comes to play in the next phase of employment with better prospects among those from schools with alums in leadership positions in the companies. For parents, through participation in Parents Teachers Association (PTA) meetings, they have gain new networks and allies with other parents which opens up their networks for professional, business and career growth where it works out. This is a driver for social and economic mobility by virtue of having children in the same schools.

Why is this article relevant at this time? We recently had a change of our education curriculum in Kenya with CBC coming into place. On January 16, 2023 results for Grade 6 students who did their exams will be coming out and the race to enroll into Junior Secondary schools will begin. Definitely, not all students will be able to go to the schools that are considered premier in one way or the other but in the end they all should and I hope will get admitted into schools. When this happens, every parent will strive to get their students into the best of schools. I have a nephew and I’ll do my best hoping he gets a great school to learn and open up her prospects in life. However, in case it doesn’t work out I will take a personal responsibility to elevate the standards in the other schools in which he will go. Reason? The school is not the infrastructures but the people who make it. These are the teachers, parents, staff and students. If we can meaningfully engage to improve the prospects of our students in the schools by being present, supporting them and showing the students possibilities, they will be able to achieve the successes we hope and wish for them.

For you who is reading this, my ask is simple:

  1. If you have a child or any of your relatives in a school you know and have access to, engage with the teachers to learn about how to support them. Doesn’t have to be financially. You can offer to give talks to the schools when you have a moment to spare. By sharing your life journey and encouraging the students, you help them envision a better future for themselves and their communities. They get something to aspire for and work towards. Through the YouTH Voices Network (YVN) Program where we are partnering with Ryculture Health and Social Innovation, we are working to engage with youth leaders to offer mentorship and support to schools within our vicinity. This is modelled from a project started off by my sister and a teacher at Uhembo Primary School, Touch A Life Initiative, where she works with her students’ to deliver social impact projects in the community. Register to join us here if you’d want to support such a program.
  2. As a parent, get involved in Parents Teachers Associations (PTA) activities and meetings to steer the school development programs. Beyond your contribution in the meetings, your participation in schooling activities helps the students open up prospects of the possibilities they have in life. Plus this is an opportunity for you to network with other parents in the school for your professional and career development.

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