The number of students studying A-level sociology has increased significantly over the past few years. In summer 2022 there were 43 590 A-level sociology exam entries, compared to only 33, 420 in summer 2018. This represents a 23% increase over four years.
Sociology is now the fifth most popular A-level sociology subject, more popular than history!
Why is sociology growing in popularity?
This isn’t just because there are more people studying A-levels in general. Some other subjects have also been growing in popularity, most notably psychology, but OFQUAL notes that most other high demand subjects have seen stable numbers over the past four years.
So my working theory is that young people are increasingly looking at contemporary society, seeing the many and increasingly urgent amount social problems facing us and they want answers, and these are maybe answers that the regular school curriculum cannot provide.
Over the past four years while in secondary school students have lived through several unforeseen and tumultuous events such as Brexit, the mega-corruption within the Tory part, the covid-19 pandemic and all of this in the context of global warming and climate change and the continued failure of governments around the world to do anything significant about this global crisis.
Also, increasing amounts of teenagers would have lived through declining living standards as their parents’ real term wages have been eaten into because of inflation, which has a much longer history than just the previous year when inflation went into overdrive.
All of this means young people are probably increasingly looking at the world and their future prospects and are worried, and want answers, and sociology really can help with his.
Of course it is also understandable that A-level psychology numbers are increasing more rapidly. Young people today have been socialised into an individualistic world view and they probably think psychology can help them understand their heightened sense of anxiety, which is a totally understandable response to our crisis ridden world and the inaction of practically every adult in power.
The problem is psychology can only go so far in its ability to explain social problems and the mental health ‘pandemic’ among young people. They need good old sociology to understand the material conditions which are the root cause of their declining prospects!
OFQUAL Official Statistics (26 May 2022) Provisional entries for GCSE, AS and A level: summer 2022 exam series.
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