Emile Durkheim (1858-1917) is one of the founders of French sociology, and usually considered one of the first theorists of sociology of education.
In his works, he considered that one of the objectives of schools and schooling processes is to create social individuals, through the formation of values and the creation of social actors adapted to the conditions of the society in which they live. To assume that there is a way for citizens to “ascend” to a democratic culture that enables them to use the right tools for socially useful work.
The sociology of education advocates the creation of a “republican school” with a strong national identity (language, history) grounded in the values of democracy and ethics. The republican school would allow the integration of young people into society. For this reason the school is considered a central institution of the state, an instrument of public policies for equality, for freedom. Generally speaking, the republican school embodies a part of the nineteenth-century republican revolutionary program.
From the sixties of the twentieth century, the sociology of education in France came to explain the persistence despite the universalization of access to the normal basic school. In a way, the sociology of education has realized that despite universal access, schooling does not solve all of the contradictions that develop in society, namely in its relationship with access to work. In a way, the sociology of education realizes that the transformations of the economic and labor model are faster than the responses of the long-term model of education (18/23 years).
Education alone did not solve the problems of social inequalities, but on the contrary was contributing to the continuity of these inequalities. The most disadvantaged social groups cannot break the cycle of poverty because they receive less attention and have less adapted social resources within the family group.