The purpose of education ….

I followed the Purpos/ed #500words campaign last year with interest, and was pleased to see it back for round 2 this year.  For more information see the #500words Take 2 blog post here:  I immediately decided to join in … then wondered what on earth to write!  It was definitely a challenge to formulate my ideas into something which made sense and fitted under the word limit.  Here’s my contribution…

My little boy, Indy, is about to start school in September.  It is an interesting time as he begins to get used to the idea of leaving nursery behind and moving on to the school he has longed to go to for the past two years (ever since his friend Ben started).  This week’s conversations have mainly covered why he can’t do both; why we have to move on; which has had served to make me think about what it is I hope he will get out of school and out of life as a whole.

I would like Indy to be someone he can be proud of; to be a good person, to have meaningful relationships, to have dreams and to do the best he can to achieve them.  I would like him to be part of the community, to learn to live with others, to help them and in turn to be supported by them.

In my career I have always been interested in stimulating children’s (and indeed my current students’) curiosity, to encourage them to ask questions and to think deeper.  I believe passionately in inclusion; that all children should attend their local mainstream school and that this should be a place where all children can thrive.  There are a lot of schools doing good things for children, and it is time that this expertise be shared, and not only exist in pockets in certain mainstream or special schools, but be available for everyone.  I would like Indy to meet people, real people, not just people who seem the same as him.  I don’t believe that all children should be treated in the same way, but I do believe they should all be given access to the same opportunities.  Whilst this is idealistic, I think that unless we are idealistic and seek out ways to achieve those ideals we will have to settle for what we have.  This is where education as a whole fits in.

Learning is a social process, and if we look to Marxist theories, it is societal; nothing can be achieved without the ideas and knowledge from someone else.  In order for Indy to achieve all he wants in life he needs others, and his actions will impact on those around him.  I would like Indy to see this as an important responsibility, that everything he does has a consequence and that a great many of the consequences will have positive effects on those around him.  Whether he becomes a policeman, a teacher, a “muscle man” (three of his current ambitions) or anything else, I would wish him to think about others.  Education will enable Indy to understand how the world works, to see both sides of an argument, to understand his own beliefs and those of others, to be able to make positive choices.

So there we have it… I believe the purpose of education is to make communities, society, and indeed the world, a better place for everyone.

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8 thoughts on “The purpose of education ….

  1. Thanks for your contribution Rachael! Purpos/ed has been an amazing journey for me and it’s certainly giving me lots to think about with regards to my own son (coming up to 6 months) and his future, so I can definitely relate to this.

  2. Thanks for sharing this Rachael. The sentence below really made me think…

    “Whilst this is idealistic, I think that unless we are idealistic and seek out ways to achieve those ideals we will have to settle for what we have.”

    This has made me reflect quite a bit on how my thinking has changed since I wrote my own ‘idealistic’ 500 words over a year ago ( In many ways a lot has changed in the way I think about education, but I hope this same sentiment remains.

    • Thanks Oliver. If I was solely to think of education in terms of school, I think my vision has changed as I have moved from pupil to teacher to ITE, and certainly being a parent has changed this even further. The shift in my thinking has been from “schooling to pass exams to get a good job” to “schooling to teach you how to get along in the world” … hence the idealism of my bigger vision I suppose.

  3. This seems like a good idea when the learner is young. But when your child starts applying to university, won’t the purpose of education suddenly shift to pass exams? It’s all very well to have ideals about education like this, but once your focus shifts to an academic future, the approach would surely be far more pragmatic…

    • Thank you for the comment James – you make an interesting point. As I said in my reply to Oliver, I think if we were to look at education in terms of individual institutions, I would agree to a point. That said, I think my own education at University of course served to get me a degree (by passing exams), but it also taught me how to live with other people, live independently, manage my time and my money (not always succesful), work with other people (masses of group projects with people far lazier than me), develop (and damage and rebuild) relationships, and many other things. The process of going to University is far more than just getting a degree.

      • … although some of those less academic things you would have learned (albeit in a different way) by not going to University and going out into the world….

  4. Very true Oliver … I kind of think that was my point … about education in a wider sense than jut based within a “school” or “university”. The world of work is also education, isn’t it?

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