What is the purpose of education?

I have written elsewhere about the  website and campaign “Purpose/ed”. They have been trying to get bloggers to state in 500 words just what they think the purpose of education is. I felt that this was a good challenge and have therefore decided to do this post as my contribution.

I think that first and foremost the purpose of education is to give children a survival chance. I do not state this in a dramatic manner but in respect of the world we live in now and what it may look like in the future.

I think, looking back on the past hundred and fifty odd years, it was quite possible to learn algorithms, methods, dates and techniques which, if forgotten in later life would probably not hold you back from being able to cope in a world that seemed to be very similar to the world that your parents and their parents had grown up in.

The world seemed to have a certainty to it and this was reflected in approaches to “schooling” that reflected class roles and divisions within society.

The creation of our new “global village” and the powerful changes brought about by technological change has meant that the certainties have gone. Despite what Mr Gove may say and think, our responsibility in this new world is to give children skills of problem solving, collaboration and flexibility that will allow them to cope in an ever-changing society that does not stay the same minute to minute no mind day-to-day!

The child of the future is growing up surrounded or neglected by technology. He may not fear atomic annihilation as much as he fears a changing climate that throws up extraordinary natural catastrophes and has maybe the greatest threat as a demographic one where many of us may not have enough fresh water to drink.

Therefore the purpose of education, to me, is to enable our children to be able to cope in this strange and difficult world that we and our forebears have bequeathed to them. We need to think about the way that industry and commerce have had to change and adapt or die. The schools need to change and they will change.

There are some who have  already grasped the need to have their students have the chance to explore, create, examine, use and develop research skills. They have taken on board the need for essential skills in mathematics being able to understand and solve or interpret rather than just compute which can be done much more quickly by calculators. They are aware of the need to develop e-portfolios as an ongoing record of development and reflection. They know that modern technology has opened up channels to collaborate across borders and time-zones.

They are helping their charges to become flexible problem-solvers and changing their role from didactic teacher to coach, mentor and facilitator. They are showing us that they understand the purpose of education in the 21st century.

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One thought on “What is the purpose of education?

  1. The purpose of education is to guide human beings to achieve the basic life goals, which is to exist, multiply and act positively in caring for the environment and contributing to the society.

    Education is more than schooling and is the process of dispelling human ignorance of the world as well as developing the inherent potential for perfection. Every human being without exception is seeking for happiness in life and has the inherent potential to live happily. Also, the resources needed to attain happiness in life are in the world. Unfortunately, human beings lack a clear understanding of how to development his/her potential as well as utilize the resources in the world to attain happiness in life. The purpose of education is therefore to develop our potential and to guide us to understand the resources in the world as well as utilize our potentials and the resources to attain happiness in life.

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