Thursday, 7 January 2010

What is education for?

This has been prompted by conversation with my daughter - for whom this is an essay assignment.  You will be pleased to hear that I don't intend to match her 5,000 words, but chatting about it made me question what I thought.

At one level I want to say that it isn't "for" anything, or perhaps that it is for its own sake.  Having been a pure mathematician, one of those who delight that there is no practical use for their study, I would certainly reject the idea that it is for the development of knowledge of facts.  This of course seems to go against government policy - but I would want to argue that that is not education but training!

Perhaps a better way into this is to ask what an educated person looks like - and here I surprise myself - I would have thought that I would be defining this in terms of knowledge, but find myself doing so in terms of skills and abilities.  An educated person is someone who knows what they think and why, is capable of expressing it, is prepared to change their mind in response to a challenge, but doesn't change their mind in response to emotional blackmail.  I have probably left something out, but you get the drift.  The actual facts of any subject seem to be less and less important as reference material is more and more available.

Of course this looks nothing like our current education system, with its teaching to the tests (which don't prove that people are getting more intelligent, just that we are better at taking the tests).

Interestingly these are also the qualities that I think are required for employment, although I don't think that delivering good employees should be the aim of education.  The current policies deliver people with knowledge of stuff, rather than themselves, and businesses then have to train people in the skills that they require.

1 comment:

  1. Mmm.. you said that I would have strong opinions about this :) Whilst I don't want to disagree with the above, I first of all want to disagree with the suggestion that there has to be a singular answer, I think there are many purposes of education. Personal development, self knowledge, the ability to debate and the humility to respect and learn from others are what you feel are important here, and I would agree. But there are other things that are important - there is education to stay safe, and education to solve problems such as the climate change issue. I like the quote that education is concentrated experience. It probably took Boyle years to come up with his law and it takes 10 minutes to teach it....



Related Posts with Thumbnails