The Australian Educational Researcher

, Volume 40, Issue 2, pp 155–171 | Cite as

The educational imagination and the sociology of education in Australia



A remarkable feature of the sociology of education is its proliferation under a broad gamut of research themes and topics. Understanding the relationship of education to social reproduction and social change are pivotal to the sociology of education, and have fruitfully informed research in fields such as gender and education, vocational education and lifelong learning, policy sociology in education, cultural sociology of education, literacy, social justice and education, globalisation and education. Tracking the historical trajectory of the sociology of education in Australia, this article underlines the productivity of educational research and methodological advances in the fields of gender, literacy, and policy. It also points to the failure of the sociology of education and educational research to engage with the education system’s complicity in reproducing Indigenous and ethnic disadvantage. I argue for an sociology of education along lines envisaged by Emile Durkheim who recognised the importance of understanding education systems past and present, so that educators might comprehend the relationship of education to social change. New theories, methodologies and fields of education play an important role in informing understandings of contemporary education. However, if education and educational research are to inform social futures, they require an educational imagination able to account for achievements and deficiencies; an educational imagination able to undertake theoretical deliberations about the social and material conditions, struggles and occlusions that have and continue to constitute the purpose and practice of education.


Australian sociology of education Australian educational research Educational futures Research futures Educational imagination 


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© The Australian Association for Research in Education, Inc. 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences, University of the Sunshine CoastMaroochydore DCAustralia

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