Academic journal article Canadian Social Science

The Implications of Bernstein's Theory of Codes on Contemporary Chinese Education

Academic journal article Canadian Social Science

The Implications of Bernstein's Theory of Codes on Contemporary Chinese Education

Article excerpt

Abstract

The Theory of Codes proposed by the famous English educational sociologist Basil Bernstein is one of the most influential theories both in educational and linguistic academia, especially functional linguistics. It serves as a guideline to explain contemporary Chinese educational issues. This paper aims to make a detailed analysis of some misconceptions about the Theory of Codes from a functional linguistic perspective: (a) the Chinese and Western class bases of code demarcation; (b) the misconception of language as social dialect; (c) the attribution of educational failure to language failure; (d) social value assignment to codes; (e) the misunderstanding of the Theory of Codes due to convergence between urban and rural areas. The theory's appliability in Chinese educational context is further explored and some implications are drawn to help interpret and solve educational issues in China.

Key words: Bernstein; Functional linguistic perspective; The theory of codes; Misconceptions

INTRODUCTION

The Theory of Codes proposed by the famous English educational sociologist Basil Bernstein is one of the most influential theories both in educational and linguistic academia, especially functional linguistics. Halliday nnn., , . . , . f r ... (1995) has ever pointed out that from a linguistic perspective Bernstein seems unique among sociologists in emphasizing the key role of language in social processes, especially in socialization and cultural transmissions. _ . , . , " , , " Bernstein can be viewed as one of the leading figures who have exerted great impact upon our thinking about language outside the linguistics circle. Bernstein's Theory 0f Codes provides a richer view of the processes of meaning, which is of great significance for contemporary Chinese education. In China, there is still scant research on this theory, devoted mainly to a few introductory and empirical ones (Chen, 2011; Cheng & Wei, 2011; Lei, 2007; Lu, 2011; Zhao & Liu, 2011; Zhu, 2011). When the Theory of Codes is applied to the analysis of issues emerging in contemporary Chinese education, some parts 0f it have been misinterpreted. Therefore, this paper aims to examine various misinterpretations of the Theory of Codes from the perspective of functional linguistics, and further explores the appliability of the theory to contemporary Chinese education and some implications may be drawn to enlighten the resolution of issues emerging in the Chinese education.

1- BERNSTEIN'S THEORY OF CODES

The Theory of Codes is derived from the account of crisis in western countries in 1960s Bernstein takes into. That is, considering (a) native wit is not , . ... . , , n l-u * 1 determined by social class; (b) all children receive equal basic schooling, why are low achievers in education all from the lower class.

Bernstein (1971, p.30) argued what differed in use between the middle class and the working dass "wäs not the formal properties of the language, such as extent of vocabulary, but the "mode of language use": The middle class' personal qualifications and differentiation of experience, contrasted with the working class "immediacy of communication, an expressive symbolism with few personal qualifications". Bernstein viewed the two modes as "formal language" and "public language". The formal language concerns the relations of causality, explicit representation of space, time and social relationships, whereas the public language was characterized by "fragmentation and logical simplicity", few causal connections, and immediacy of referencing. Bernstein held that a middle-class child deploys both forms of language, while a working-class child may employ only the public language.

Bernstein (1971, p.78) used the elaborated code and restricted code to replace the formal and public languages, "The restricted code is fluent, well organized and unplanned-that is, not under attention as the speaker goes along; its major function is "to reinforce the form of the social relationship by restricting the verbal signaling of individuated responses. …

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