Bernstein And Bernstein's Sociolinguistic Code Theory

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The work of two sociologists namely Bernstein and Bourdieu influenced the work of sociologists in education and linguistics. Sociologists of education examine various parts of educational systems such as interaction, school organizations, peer groups and classrooms, and national and international systems of education. Sociologists study education found in every society. Functional and conflict theorists have debated functions of education since Marx’s and Durkheim’s contributions towards education.

Four main functions of schooling were observed. The first function is socialization. In this function society is seen to teach the new generation their rights, roles and responsibilities in order for them to fully understand and accept society’s
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According to Atkinson (1985, p. 136), this term refers to a “regulative principle which underlies various message systems, especially curriculum and pedagogy”. In 1962 Bernstein developed a code theory which he introduced through the concepts of restricted and elaborated codes. His sociolinguistic code theory was developed into a social theory that examined the relationships between social class, family, and the reproduction of meaning systems (Class, Codes, and Control, Volume 1, 1973a). According to Bernstein there were social class differences in the communication codes of working-class and middle-class children. These differences reflected class and power relations in the division of family, social labor, and schools. Based on his research he distinguished between 2 general coding systems. These systems were defined in terms of the kinds of options speakers take up in order to organize what they have to say. These were restricted codes and elaborated codes. Bernstein used the restricted code in conjunction with working-class and the elaborated code with middle-class. According to him the restricted codes of the working-class were context dependent and particularistic whereas the elaborated codes of the middle-class were context independent and universalistic. Schools require an elaborated code for success, thus working-class students are therefore disadvantaged by the dominant school code but not deficient. Working-class students are seen to have restricted learning, things that are concrete. These include visible and explicit pedagogies (teaching methods) such as the CAPS curriculum. Middle-class students on the other hand are seen to have a more elaborated way of learning which allows for more abstract thinking and learning. These include invisible and implicit pedagogies also referred to as the “hidden curriculum”. These pedagogies determine how you learn, not your capacity to learn. The

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