The Purpose of Education
It always seems to me that this is where everyone gets confused. Everyone talks about education as if they are talking about the same thing. They are not.
Politicians rant about league tables and world standing without any understanding of what they are talking about.
Parents send their children apprehensively into the machine with a modicum of hope but no real understanding of what they are hoping for.
Students are consumed by the process without grasping what is actually happening to them.
The measurable outcomes are easy to assess and so are given greater importance. The aspects that are not measurable are sometimes acknowledged but usually taken for granted and brushed aside. You cannot measure happiness, empathy, responsibility and tolerance.
Industry cries out for more and better grist for the mill. We in education are always falling short. The economy requires more fodder. Students become numbers to be crunched, pegs to be slotted, and material to feed the machine of commerce.
Most importantly students are people; they should be happy, well adjusted, creative and inspiring citizens who care!
There needs to be a national debate.
There needs to be an international debate.
Everything stems from philosophy.
We have to stand back from it so that we can view the edifice of education objectively.
What is the purpose of education?
This is something that needs looking at from all sides. Out of this debate there must be some consensus and the application of intelligence. We can no longer allow education to be the football of political dogma and vested interest. It has to be based on sound philosophy and placed in the hands of educationalists who know what they are doing.
So what needs to be considered? Let us look at education in the widest possible light. By exposing the various philosophies we might explore them better. I do not necessarily agree all these objectives nor do I place them in any order. Indeed I abhor some of them. I merely moot them as considerations in order for us to debate the enormity of this subject. We cannot arrive at consensus without taking into account the full panoply of views. By looking at the monolithic construction that education has become from different angles we might begin to make sense of it.
Here are my views on what various interested parties view as being the fundamental purpose of education:
- For enjoyment
- To prepare students for jobs and careers in the modern world
- To prepare students for life in the 21st century
- To provide the basic needs for participating in a technological society – reading, writing, arithmetic and computer competency
- To assume a place in society as a positive citizen – moral, sexual and political.
- To stimulate imagination and creativity
- To grade students so that future universities and employers can easily judge their competence
- To create a hierarchy of status in society
- To provide the skills, verbal and practical, that are required by employers, society and individuals
- To broaden the mind and open it up to further understanding
- To create wonder and awe.
- To understand science and technological advances
- To understand history and learn from it so that we do not make the same mistakes
- To absorb knowledge so that it can be processed internally and synergistically used to arrive at new understanding
- To explore feelings so that emotions can be understood and mastered
- To explore love, sex and relationships so that adults and children can have better experiences
- To promote the sheer love of a subject
- To stimulate intelligence and an inquisitive mind
- To satisfy the love of learning
- To stimulate the love of reading where-in all human experience, the highest thoughts and aspirations, and our dreams are contained
- To foster an appreciation of the arts as the highest, most civilised expression of humanity
- To investigate morality so that we might build a better, fairer society
- To foster tolerance so that we never experience racism, sexism, religious intolerance, homophobia, war, persecution or slavery again in human history
- To socialise people so that they are able to enjoy the company of others from all strata and types of society
- To teach teamwork and cooperation, so essential to human achievement
- To enable the enjoyment of sport and play in all its varieties
- To teach about health and fitness so that we can lead vital pleasurable lives
- To foster an appreciation of the pleasures of life – literature, food, wine, theatre, opera, music, drama and good company
- To care for the environment so that future generations can enjoy the planet
- To consider all the issues that threaten life on this planet: overpopulation, pollution, war, species annihilation, overcrowding, poverty, terrorism, and so on – so that we might find solutions
- To consider political systems and analyse their effectiveness so that we might produce better systems.
- To objectively look at party politics and understand what different political factions stand for so that we might all be better equipped to function in a true democracy.
- To investigate capitalism and the world of big business to better understand how the world is organised and run
- To promote empathy, responsibility, tolerance, respect and care
- To build self-esteem
- To foster alert, lively minds who are optimistic and ready to step forward to push back the frontiers with imagination, creativity and exuberance
I am sure there are others to add to this list. Perhaps you could tick the ones you agree with?
There are some that I believe have no place in education. I do not believe that religion should be allowed anywhere near young vulnerable minds. There is no room for outmoded, primitive superstition in schools. It should be outlawed.
As for religious schools and the brainwashing of young children I view these as child abuse.
Too many minds are stultified by poor education techniques, their imaginations sacrificed on the altar of rote learning for league tables, and their enjoyment strangled.
The cleverest boy in my childhood secondary school was a genius. He passed every exam with a clear grade A. He was also a joyless, timid, and boring individual without spark or passion and was unemployable except to stoke the icy furnaces of academia or the depths of library archives. Heaven help us if we churn out such vacuous products of stifling education systems. He was an utter failure.
So that list and more make up the purpose of education. People have differing views. I know what I believe is important and I have heard what varying politicians believe.
It’s time we discussed it openly and fully.
Let the debate begin ……………….. please!!
In the UK:
In the USA: