Thursday, 7 January 2010
What is education for?
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.