Most Important Question in Education?

What is education for? This is pretty much the most important and least important question that has to be asked and answered. Society needs to answer it, but usually doesn’t. Teachers need to know what they think the answer is, because this will constitute their philosophical underpinnings and determine how they react to every bit of ‘research’ that makes its way into their school. It will also determine how they will react to the politicians that Society elect to oversee the system. It will determine the direction of their cognitive bias. But, there are many, many daily decisions in the classroom that don’t require an answer to the question, and that is why the answer can remain cryptic (hidden within, influencing without revealing itself).

What is the answer to the question? Here are several possible ones:

1. Making children more intelligent.
2. Narrowing the gap between the haves and have nots.
3. Doing away with elites, oppression and servitude.
4. Lifting contextual scales from the children’s eyes and letting them see the World in all its glory.
5. Preparing the children for adulthood, and their place in Society.
6. Preparing the children for the world of work (in the global market place).
7. Equipping children to be the entrepreneurs of tomorrow.
8. Giving the children the skills they need to be in control of their own lives.

Note that it is not immediately clear what the consequences of each of these might be with respect to the influence on how schools would be, but there are definitely consequences. For what it’s worth, my favourite is number four. Yours (something else)?


14 thoughts on “Most Important Question in Education?

      1. bt0558

        Problem solving in as many of it’s forms as possible, communication and self reflection?

      1. chemistrypoet Post author

        Chris, one thing I’d like to ask that arose several times in your blog: help students to find their individual voice…?

        Also, do you think there is a difference in edu-aim between primary and secondary…some progression in the ‘what is education for?’ Question?

      2. chrishildrew

        Hmmm – possibly. I’m writing from a secondary perspective, and an English teacher at that. For me, secondary is a joy because they arrive as children and leave as adults. I want education to present young people with knowledge and the supportive framework to interpret it, so they can find their identities and where they fit in the world socially, personally, ideologically. I want them to make their minds up. I also want them to be able to express the self that they find fluently, clearly, rationally and confidently – this is the voice I want them to find.

      3. chemistrypoet Post author

        I agree with much of that. Not sure that we need to make our minds up by the time we leave school….I also think that our voice changes over time as we are adults and we continue to grow. But, I agree that expressing ourselves fluently, clearly, rationally and confidently, is a good aspiration for all school leavers.

  1. pterodidactics

    Not my view at all, but ‘maintaining culture and society’ seems to be a popular one.
    I agree with most of your suggestions, and have a feeling that the only answerable question is actually ‘what are the purposes of education’ – the plural is necessary.

    1. chemistrypoet Post author

      I think you make a good point about the possible multiplicity of purposes. I guess that there are consequences for curricula and approach to education depending on which of the purposes we are trying to realise. Are they all compatible with each other, or will we need to make a decision with respect to which purpose(s) we are pursuing?


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