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What is social capital?

Social capital refers to the measure of a society’s interactions in economics and social aspects such as networks, norms, social trust, and shared values. Social capital is concerned with how person make use of interactions with other members of the society in order to develop mutual economic benefits. It is through social capital that a community develops a means through which it deals with challenges and opportunities presented in life (Krishna & Shrader, 1999).

Social capital is a critical component in the development of a sense of community in the society. Social capital is measured by how much the sense of community is developed in the society. As such social capital aspects such as hared norms, values, and networks serve to bond, bridge and link people to formal structures of governance or informal agencies which are useful for the attainment of educational objectives.

Persons exhibiting a strong sense of community will be characterized by strong bonds among members. Aspects of social capital related to the sense of community such as the coming together of persons in building of relationships between people of varied demographics (Pretty et al, 2006). Social capital such as education for instance brings together learners from different socioeconomic backgrounds. It also acts as a link between persons of different social statuses for instance through political or educational processes which are inclusive of all strata of society.

Importance of Social Capital in Schools

Social capital offers the following benefits in education policy making. Social capital is critical in the promotion of the following;

It is social glue which holds together communities and families.

It offers communities and families a sense of belonging in an increasingly uncertain and fragmented world.

It enhances the development of trust through doing things collaboratively.

Promotes a sense of shared identity through bonding

Bridges communities to the wider networks through linking people to structure of support

It enables policy makers to combat social exclusion by focusing on increasing social programs in areas of concern

It is an important tool for the development of individual and community capacities (Catts and Ozga, 2005).

Measuring social capital in schools

Different models have been developed for measuring how social capital is evident in the school framework in relation to the interaction with the family, the community and the neighborhood. In order to measure social capital in the school it is critical to interrogate it with regard to how these aspects interact in educational outcomes. Social capital may be measured through the following ways;

Community; how does the community interact with the school in aspects of instilling their values and expectations on members? Through parental surveys social capital may be determined through an analysis of the extent of social interactions of staff with the community. Are there strong friendship networks between the staff, parents and the community in which the school is located? Do the parents believe there is cohesion and involvement between the parent teacher organizations and key stakeholders such as the management board? Attendance and participation rates including response to suggestions and opinions are key aspects to be analyzed. A survey of the staff ought to be conducted to determine the views of the staff with regards to their relationship with the other aspects underlying social capital. Relationships between the teachers and the management in terms of development, relations with the community, and response to issues that matter to the community ought to be analyzed in the staff survey (Condon et al, 2010).

How could outside cultural, political, legal and institutional conditions impact on the social capital of your school?

  • what community means to me?

  • References

  • Catts, R., & Ozga, J. (2005). What is Social Capital and how might it
    be used in Scotland’s Schools? The Schools and Social Capital Network.

  • Condon, M., Engle, J., Lavery, L., & Shewakramani, V. (2010). The Measurement of Social Capital in Schools. Denver, Colorado: Annual Meeting of the American Educational Research Association.

  • Krishna, A., & Shrader, E. (1999). Social Capital Assessment Tool. Conference on Social Capital and Poverty Reduction, Washington DC: The World Bank.

  • Pretty, G., Bishop, B., Fisher, A., & Sonn, C. (2006). Psychological sense of community and its relevance to well-being
    and everyday life in Australia. Melbourne: Australian Psychological Association.