purpose of education in life essay

What’s the point of education? It’s no longer just about getting a job

purpose of education in life essay

Researcher for the University of Queensland Critical Thinking Project; and Online Teacher at Education Queensland's IMPACT Centre, The University of Queensland

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This essay is part of a series of articles on the future of education.

For much of human history, education has served an important purpose, ensuring we have the tools to survive. People need jobs to eat and to have jobs, they need to learn how to work.

Education has been an essential part of every society. But our world is changing and we’re being forced to change with it. So what is the point of education today?

The ancient Greek model

Some of our oldest accounts of education come from Ancient Greece. In many ways the Greeks modelled a form of education that would endure for thousands of years. It was an incredibly focused system designed for developing statesmen, soldiers and well-informed citizens.

Most boys would have gone to a learning environment similar to a school, although this would have been a place to learn basic literacy until adolescence. At this point, a child would embark on one of two career paths: apprentice or “citizen”.

On the apprentice path, the child would be put under the informal wing of an adult who would teach them a craft. This might be farming, potting or smithing – any career that required training or physical labour.

purpose of education in life essay

The path of the full citizen was one of intellectual development. Boys on the path to more academic careers would have private tutors who would foster their knowledge of arts and sciences, as well as develop their thinking skills.

The private tutor-student model of learning would endure for many hundreds of years after this. All male children were expected to go to state-sponsored places called gymnasiums (“school for naked exercise”) with those on a military-citizen career path training in martial arts.

Those on vocational pathways would be strongly encouraged to exercise too, but their training would be simply for good health.

Read more: Guide to the classics: Homer's Iliad

Until this point, there had been little in the way of education for women, the poor and slaves. Women made up half of the population, the poor made up 90% of citizens, and slaves outnumbered citizens 10 or 20 times over .

These marginalised groups would have undergone some education but likely only physical – strong bodies were important for childbearing and manual labour. So, we can safely say education in civilisations like Ancient Greece or Rome was only for rich men.

While we’ve taken a lot from this model, and evolved along the way, we live in a peaceful time compared to the Greeks. So what is it that we want from education today?

We learn to work – the ‘pragmatic purpose’

Today we largely view education as being there to give us knowledge of our place in the world, and the skills to work in it. This view is underpinned by a specific philosophical framework known as pragmatism. Philosopher Charles Peirce – sometimes known as the “father of pragmatism” – developed this theory in the late 1800s.

There has been a long history of philosophies of knowledge and understanding (also known as epistemology). Many early philosophies were based on the idea of an objective, universal truth. For example, the ancient Greeks believed the world was made of only five elements: earth, water, fire, air and aether .

Read more: Where to start reading philosophy?

Peirce, on the other hand, was concerned with understanding the world as a dynamic place. He viewed all knowledge as fallible. He argued we should reject any ideas about an inherent humanity or metaphysical reality.

Pragmatism sees any concept – belief, science, language, people – as mere components in a set of real-world problems.

purpose of education in life essay

In other words, we should believe only what helps us learn about the world and require reasonable justification for our actions. A person might think a ceremony is sacred or has spiritual significance, but the pragmatist would ask: “What effects does this have on the world?”

Education has always served a pragmatic purpose. It is a tool to be used to bring about a specific outcome (or set of outcomes). For the most part, this purpose is economic .

Why go to school? So you can get a job.

Education benefits you personally because you get to have a job, and it benefits society because you contribute to the overall productivity of the country, as well as paying taxes.

But for the economics-based pragmatist, not everyone needs to have the same access to educational opportunities. Societies generally need more farmers than lawyers, or more labourers than politicians, so it’s not important everyone goes to university.

You can, of course, have a pragmatic purpose in solving injustice or creating equality or protecting the environment – but most of these are of secondary importance to making sure we have a strong workforce.

Pragmatism, as a concept, isn’t too difficult to understand, but thinking pragmatically can be tricky. It’s challenging to imagine external perspectives, particularly on problems we deal with ourselves.

How to problem-solve (especially when we are part of the problem) is the purpose of a variant of pragmatism called instrumentalism.

Contemporary society and education

In the early part of the 20th century, John Dewey (a pragmatist philosopher) created a new educational framework. Dewey didn’t believe education was to serve an economic goal. Instead, Dewey argued education should serve an intrinsic purpose : education was a good in itself and children became fully developed as people because of it.

Much of the philosophy of the preceding century – as in the works of Kant, Hegel and Mill – was focused on the duties a person had to themselves and their society. The onus of learning, and fulfilling a citizen’s moral and legal obligations, was on the citizens themselves.

Read more: Explainer: what is inquiry-based learning and how does it help prepare children for the real world?

But in his most famous work, Democracy and Education , Dewey argued our development and citizenship depended on our social environment. This meant a society was responsible for fostering the mental attitudes it wished to see in its citizens.

Dewey’s view was that learning doesn’t just occur with textbooks and timetables. He believed learning happens through interactions with parents, teachers and peers. Learning happens when we talk about movies and discuss our ideas, or when we feel bad for succumbing to peer pressure and reflect on our moral failure.

purpose of education in life essay

Learning would still help people get jobs, but this was an incidental outcome in the development of a child’s personhood. So the pragmatic outcome of schools would be to fully develop citizens.

Today’s educational environment is somewhat mixed. One of the two goals of the 2008 Melbourne Declaration on Educational Goals for Young Australians is that:

All young Australians become successful learners, confident and creative individuals, and active and informed citizens.

But the Australian Department of Education believes:

By lifting outcomes, the government helps to secure Australia’s economic and social prosperity.

A charitable reading of this is that we still have the economic goal as the pragmatic outcome, but we also want our children to have engaging and meaningful careers. We don’t just want them to work for money but to enjoy what they do. We want them to be fulfilled.

Read more: The Melbourne Declaration on Educational Goals for Young Australians: what it is and why it needs updating

And this means the educational philosophy of Dewey is becoming more important for contemporary society.

Part of being pragmatic is recognising facts and changes in circumstance. Generally, these facts indicate we should change the way we do things.

On a personal scale, that might be recognising we have poor nutrition and may have to change our diet. On a wider scale, it might require us to recognise our conception of the world is incorrect, that the Earth is round instead of flat.

When this change occurs on a huge scale, it’s called a paradigm shift.

The paradigm shift

Our world may not be as clean-cut as we previously thought. We may choose to be vegetarian to lessen our impact on the environment. But this means we buy quinoa sourced from countries where people can no longer afford to buy a staple, because it’s become a “superfood” in Western kitchens.

If you’re a fan of the show The Good Place, you may remember how this is the exact reason the points system in the afterlife is broken – because life is too complicated for any person to have the perfect score of being good.

All of this is not only confronting to us in a moral sense but also seems to demand we fundamentally alter the way we consume goods.

And climate change is forcing us to reassess how we have lived on this planet for the last hundred years, because it’s clear that way of life isn’t sustainable.

Contemporary ethicist Peter Singer has argued that, given the current political climate, we would only be capable of radically altering our collective behaviour when there has been a massive disruption to our way of life.

If a supply chain is broken by a climate-change-induced disaster, there is no choice but to deal with the new reality. But we shouldn’t be waiting for a disaster to kick us into gear.

Making changes includes seeing ourselves as citizens not only of a community or a country, but also of the world.

Read more: Students striking for climate action are showing the exact skills employers look for

As US philosopher Martha Nussbaum argues, many issues need international cooperation to address . Trade, environment, law and conflict require creative thinking and pragmatism, and we need a different focus in our education systems to bring these about.

Education needs to focus on developing the personhood of children, as well as their capability to engage as citizens (even if current political leaders disagree) .

If you’re taking a certain subject at school or university, have you ever been asked: “But how will that get you a job?” If so, the questioner sees economic goals as the most important outcomes for education.

They’re not necessarily wrong, but it’s also clear that jobs are no longer the only (or most important) reason we learn.

Read the essay on what universities must do to survive disruption and remain relevant.

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purpose of education in life essay

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purpose of education in life essay

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Marilyn Price-Mitchell Ph.D.

What Is Education? Insights from the World's Greatest Minds

Forty thought-provoking quotes about education..

Posted May 12, 2014 | Reviewed by Ekua Hagan

As we seek to refine and reform today’s system of education , we would do well to ask, “What is education?” Our answers may provide insights that get to the heart of what matters for 21st century children and adults alike.

It is important to step back from divisive debates on grades, standardized testing, and teacher evaluation—and really look at the meaning of education. So I decided to do just that—to research the answer to this straightforward, yet complex question.

Looking for wisdom from some of the greatest philosophers, poets, educators, historians, theologians, politicians, and world leaders, I found answers that should not only exist in our history books, but also remain at the core of current education dialogue.

In my work as a developmental psychologist, I constantly struggle to balance the goals of formal education with the goals of raising healthy, happy children who grow to become contributing members of families and society. Along with academic skills, the educational journey from kindergarten through college is a time when young people develop many interconnected abilities.

As you read through the following quotes, you’ll discover common threads that unite the intellectual, social, emotional, and physical aspects of education. For me, good education facilitates the development of an internal compass that guides us through life.

Which quotes resonate most with you? What images of education come to your mind? How can we best integrate the wisdom of the ages to address today’s most pressing education challenges?

If you are a middle or high school teacher, I invite you to have your students write an essay entitled, “What is Education?” After reviewing the famous quotes below and the images they evoke, ask students to develop their very own quote that answers this question. With their unique quote highlighted at the top of their essay, ask them to write about what helps or hinders them from getting the kind of education they seek. I’d love to publish some student quotes, essays, and images in future articles, so please contact me if students are willing to share!

What Is Education? Answers from 5th Century BC to the 21 st Century

  • The principle goal of education in the schools should be creating men and women who are capable of doing new things, not simply repeating what other generations have done. — Jean Piaget, 1896-1980, Swiss developmental psychologist, philosopher
  • An education isn't how much you have committed to memory , or even how much you know. It's being able to differentiate between what you know and what you don't. — Anatole France, 1844-1924, French poet, novelist
  • Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world. — Nelson Mandela, 1918-2013, South African President, philanthropist
  • The object of education is to teach us to love beauty. — Plato, 424-348 BC, philosopher mathematician
  • The function of education is to teach one to think intensively and to think critically. Intelligence plus character - that is the goal of true education — Martin Luther King, Jr., 1929-1968, pastor, activist, humanitarian
  • Education is what remains after one has forgotten what one has learned in school. Albert Einstein, 1879-1955, physicist
  • It is the mark of an educated mind to be able to entertain a thought without accepting it. — Aristotle, 384-322 BC, Greek philosopher, scientist
  • Education is the power to think clearly, the power to act well in the world’s work, and the power to appreciate life. — Brigham Young, 1801-1877, religious leader
  • Real education should educate us out of self into something far finer – into a selflessness which links us with all humanity. — Nancy Astor, 1879-1964, American-born English politician and socialite
  • Education is not the filling of a pail, but the lighting of a fire. — William Butler Yeats, 1865-1939, Irish poet
  • Education is freedom . — Paulo Freire, 1921-1997, Brazilian educator, philosopher
  • Education is not preparation for life; education is life itself. — John Dewey, 1859-1952, philosopher, psychologist, education reformer
  • Education is the key to unlock the golden door of freedom. — George Washington Carver, 1864-1943, scientist, botanist, educator
  • Education is an admirable thing, but it is well to remember from time to time that nothing that is worth knowing can be taught. — Oscar Wilde, 1854-1900, Irish writer, poet
  • The whole purpose of education is to turn mirrors into windows. — Sydney J. Harris, 1917-1986, journalist
  • Education's purpose is to replace an empty mind with an open one. — Malcolm Forbes, 1919-1990, publisher, politician
  • No one has yet realized the wealth of sympathy, the kindness and generosity hidden in the soul of a child. The effort of every true education should be to unlock that treasure. — Emma Goldman, 1869 – 1940, political activist, writer
  • Much education today is monumentally ineffective. All too often we are giving young people cut flowers when we should be teaching them to grow their own plants. — John W. Gardner, 1912-2002, Secretary of Health, Education, and Welfare under President Lyndon Johnson
  • Education is simply the soul of a society as it passes from one generation to another. — Gilbert K. Chesterton, 1874-1936, English writer, theologian, poet, philosopher
  • Education is the movement from darkness to light. — Allan Bloom, 1930-1992, philosopher, classicist, and academician
  • Education is learning what you didn't even know you didn't know. -- Daniel J. Boorstin, 1914-2004, historian, professor, attorney
  • The aim of education is the knowledge, not of facts, but of values. — William S. Burroughs, 1914-1997, novelist, essayist, painter
  • The object of education is to prepare the young to educate themselves throughout their lives. -- Robert M. Hutchins, 1899-1977, educational philosopher
  • Education is all a matter of building bridges. — Ralph Ellison, 1914-1994, novelist, literary critic, scholar
  • What sculpture is to a block of marble, education is to the soul. — Joseph Addison, 1672-1719, English essayist, poet, playwright, politician
  • Education is the passport to the future, for tomorrow belongs to those who prepare for it today. — Malcolm X, 1925-1965, minister and human rights activist
  • Education is the key to success in life, and teachers make a lasting impact in the lives of their students. — Solomon Ortiz, 1937-, former U.S. Representative-TX
  • The very spring and root of honesty and virtue lie in good education. — Plutarch, 46-120AD, Greek historian, biographer, essayist
  • Education is a shared commitment between dedicated teachers, motivated students and enthusiastic parents with high expectations. — Bob Beauprez, 1948-, former member of U.S. House of Representatives-CO
  • The most influential of all educational factors is the conversation in a child’s home. — William Temple, 1881-1944, English bishop, teacher
  • Education is the leading of human souls to what is best, and making what is best out of them. — John Ruskin, 1819-1900, English writer, art critic, philanthropist
  • Education levels the playing field, allowing everyone to compete. — Joyce Meyer, 1943-, Christian author and speaker
  • Education is what survives when what has been learned has been forgotten. — B.F. Skinner , 1904-1990, psychologist, behaviorist, social philosopher
  • The great end of education is to discipline rather than to furnish the mind; to train it to the use of its own powers rather than to fill it with the accumulation of others. — Tyron Edwards, 1809-1894, theologian
  • Let us think of education as the means of developing our greatest abilities, because in each of us there is a private hope and dream which, fulfilled, can be translated into benefit for everyone and greater strength of the nation. — John F. Kennedy, 1917-1963, 35 th President of the United States
  • Education is like a lantern which lights your way in a dark alley. — Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan, 1918-2004, President of the United Arab Emirates for 33 years
  • When educating the minds of our youth, we must not forget to educate their hearts. — Dalai Lama, spiritual head of Tibetan Buddhism
  • Education is the ability to listen to almost anything without losing your temper or self-confidence . — Robert Frost, 1874-1963, poet
  • The secret in education lies in respecting the student. — Ralph Waldo Emerson, 1803-1882, essayist, lecturer, and poet
  • My mother said I must always be intolerant of ignorance, but understanding of illiteracy. That some people, unable to go to school, were more educated and more intelligent than college professors. — Maya Angelou, 1928-, author, poet

©2014 Marilyn Price-Mitchell. All rights reserved. Please contact for permission to reprint.

Marilyn Price-Mitchell Ph.D.

Marilyn Price-Mitchell, Ph.D., is an Institute for Social Innovation Fellow at Fielding Graduate University and author of Tomorrow’s Change Makers.

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What Is the Purpose of Education? Essay

Introduction, understanding the notion of education, the purpose of education, reasons to have education, features of an educated person, works cited.

Education has always been regarded as a significant part of the life of every individual. People had developed a particular understanding of education since the first civilizations appeared. Nowadays, primary education is mandatory for children in most of the countries. This necessity is predetermined by the fact that the individual should have the education to become a full value member of society. Also, education is vital for both personal and professional growth. The importance of education cannot be overestimated because it improves one’s potential and knowledge, promotes the development of society, and enhances the understanding of the surrounding world.

As it has been already mentioned, education became an important part of life since the beginning of humanity. Every epoch and civilization, starting from the Antiquity, shared the particular understanding of the notion of education and relationship between teachers and students. For example, the Ancient Greek understanding of the relationships between educators and learners may be described as follows: “The instructor is not noticeably older than the boys, but they appear to give him the respect and deference that would be due an honored teacher” (Austin 7). Such view of the learning process demonstrates the belief that the relationships between teachers and students should be based on the mutual respect. However, other ancient civilizations shared different views.

Hsun Tsu, a disciple of Confucius, saw education as a strict process of alternation. “He compared the process of educating a child to the process of straightening a piece of wood against a board or sharpening a piece of metal with a stone” (Austin 8). Such an approach is more teacher-centered in comparison to the other. Understanding of the notion of education is connected with its definition as well.

In Wikipedia, education is defined as “the process of facilitating learning, or the acquisition of knowledge, skills, values, beliefs, and habits” (“Education” par. 1). Such understanding of education usually presupposes that the individual studies at school or any other educational establishment to receive particular knowledge. Austin writes about Okakok’s argument that the word “education” should not be used interchangeably with the word “schooling” (79). The author writes that people are tended to speak about an educated person when they mean somebody who has received an official education. “Since all of our traditional knowledge and expertise is of this latter type, the concept of an ‘educated person’ has worked against us as a people, creating conflicting attitudes, and weakening older and proven instructional methods and objects of knowledge” (Austin 79). However, the controversial nature of education is described not only in the meaning of the word.

An interesting view on the nature of education was expressed by Paulo Freire in 1970. According to Freire, education reflects the political situation in the country. In authoritative countries, teachers have the absolute authority over learners who have to follow their orders. Freire considers that the interaction between the teacher and learner has a narrative character. Thus, the teacher is a person who narrates while the student listens. “Education is suffering from narration sickness” (Austin 63). Freire believes that the teacher should let students express their opinions and participate in the process. Ideas of Freire vividly describe one of the purposes of education.

It is difficult to understand and appreciate the significance of education without knowing its purposes. Many students are reluctant to study because they see no point in studying formulas and learning poems by heart. The problem is that not only students but many people are confused when they try to define the purpose of education. Philip Guo writes that many individuals use clichés (e.g. education teaches us how to learn) to explain the purpose of education. “The main purpose of education is to strengthen your mind” (Guo par. 1). Guo considers that permanent learning makes one’s mind strong. Thus, education lets people be prepared to challenging situations in life. Guo provides analog from sport to demonstrate his point of view. He writes that a good player has to work on his or her body all the time. The same is with mental conditioning. Mary Wollstonecraft, one of the first advocates of the rights of women, realizes that all people need to develop the strength of mind. Wollstonecraft writes that people always react to something new or unusual “because they want the activity of mind, because they have not cherished the virtues of the heart” (Austin 37). By asserting the rights of women, Wollstonecraft recognizes the importance of education to become an active member of society.

Education comprises a significant part of the social life. The purpose of education was explained by Nick Gibb, the Minister of Education in the United Kingdom in 2015. Gibb dwelled on that education formed a cornerstone of the economy and social life (Gibb par. 10). This statement describes the second significant purpose of education. Proper education is necessary for being able to live in society. When people study at schools, universities, or other institutions, they happen to be involved in various social situations. Also, educators provide students with knowledge concerning the proper behavior in society often. Seneca wrote, “they [liberal arts] are raw materials out of which a virtuous life can be built — such as they are indispensable to the functioning of a free society” (Austin 16). Thus, education is what makes people prepared to the life with others. It makes everybody familiar with the concepts of justice, equity, and freedom. Such identification of the purpose of education is rather limited at the same time if take into account that education is a much broader concept.

Kim Jones writes that when it comes to finding the solution to the particular problem, education becomes inevitable aspect of the proper decision. Education is crucial for addressing poverty issues or environmental problems. For example, Douglas contemplates that education is directly connected with freedom. The author takes slavery as an example. He writes, “Education goes hand in hand with freedom, and the only way to keep people enslaved is to prevent them from learning and acquiring knowledge” (Austin 46). Jones considers that there is no universal purpose of education because it is a too diverse phenomenon (par. 8). The aim of education is connected with the reasons to have it.

The importance of education cannot be overestimated. It is necessary to evaluate the reasons to have education in various spheres of life. First, education is vital for individual development. When the individual receives knowledge, it alters his or her vision of the world. Also, education promotes the development of critical skills. Thus, educated people know how to analyze different situations (“Why is Education So Important” par. 3). In addition, education is useful for the improvement of character. Education teaches individuals how to become civilized citizens and behave properly. Hsun Tzu uses the word “gentleman” to describe an educated man. Confucius’ follower believes that a proper education is necessary for staying human and making right choices in life. “Therefore, a gentleman will take care in selecting the community he intends to live in, and will choose men of breeding for his companions. In this way he wards off evil and meanness, and draws close to fairness and right” (Austin 10). Education makes the individual aware of the way the world works. An educated person does not believe in illusions.

The second reason to have the education is connected with the professional development. College graduates are more likely to find an interesting job in comparison to those who neglect education. People with education have the possibility to build careers and improve their financial situation (“Importance of Education in Society” par. 4). One may argue that education brings purely material rewards. Still, the feeling of personal growth from career achievements should not be overlooked as well. As Tzu states, “If you make use of the erudition of others and the explanations of gentlemen, then you will become honored and may make your way anywhere in the world” (Austin 12).

The third reason to have education refers to its significance to societies and nations. Kurniawan dwells on the connection of the lack of education with large scale problems such as poverty (1). The writer provides insights from the macroeconomic theory arguing that government’s investment in education results in a better productivity of the labor force. Consequently, people can perform better activities and receive high wages. Also, education makes the whole society aware of the challenges and ways of their overcoming. Even more, education leads to the achievement of the higher level of awareness. “It epitomizes the special characteristics of consciousness: being conscious of , not only as intent on objects but as turned in upon itself in Jasperian “split” — consciousness as consciousness of consciousness” (Austin 65).

The importance of education may be understood after the evaluation of the features of an educated person. Many people consider that an educated person knows a lot of facts and can remember information easily. Knowing facts does not make somebody an educated person. For example, one may memorize numerous things but fail to use them in practice. An educated person should have imagination and the ability to think and use acquired knowledge. Otherwise, no efficient result will be achieved. Al-Ghazali thinks that “effort to acquire knowledge is the worship of mind” (Austin 25). Thus, an educated person enjoys the process of learning something new and knows rationales for all efforts. An educated individual comprehends that education is not about having a diploma or certificate (Burdick par. 5). It is about learning how to live and become a better person.

McKay provides an interesting description of three features of educated people. The author believes that educated people do not wait for someone to entertain them. They always know what to do. Second, any educated person may entertain his or her friend. As far as such individuals know a variety of information, they face no difficulty in amusing others (McKay par. 8). The last distinctive feature of an educated person is open-mindedness. Such an individual is open to new suggestions and ideas. Educated people are not prejudiced or biased against something. They always enjoy learning something new even from the extremely different perspective because it broadens their scope of knowledge.

The role of education has always been important for people. Philosophers and educators of ancient civilizations realized the significance of knowledge acquisition. Nowadays, education has become an integral part of modern life. Education is often defined as the process of acquisition of new knowledge, skills, and habits. However, some scholars argue that such a definition does not reveal the true nature of education because it is more than having certificates or diplomas. Numerous views exist about the purpose of education, but most of them recognize the fact that education aims to improve lives of people. Reasons to have education also predetermine its significance. Thus, educated people are aware of many things in the surrounding world. They cannot be easily tricked. Also, they know the true value of knowledge. Besides, educated people have better opportunities for the professional development in comparison to those who do not have the education. Finally, education brings benefits to the nations. An educated society is a substantial advantage of every country. It is also important to be aware of what makes educated people better and different. Educated people are not only those who know a lot of facts. An educated individual realizes that being able to use knowledge is as important as having knowledge. All these factors demonstrate the significance of education in the modern society.

Austin, Michael. Reading the World: Ideas That Matter. New York City, New York: W. W. Norton & Company, 2010. Print.

Burdick, Eamon. An Educated Person . 2014. Web.

Education n.d. Web.

Importance of Education in Society n.d. Web.

Gibb, Nick. The purpose of education . 2015. Web.

Guo, Philip. The Main Purpose of Education . 2010. Web.

Jones, Kim. What is the purpose of education . 2012. Web.

Kurniawan, Budi. The Important of Education for Economic Growth . n.d. PDF file. 2016.

McKay, Brett. The 3 Characteristics of an Educated Man . 2011. Web.

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The Importance of Purpose in Education

Students can discover a sense of purpose in their learning through questions that lead them to think about their interests.

Teacher and students talking in the classroom.

I recently met with an eighth-grade student who had been accepted to a specialized high school focused on science. I wanted to compliment her on her achievement and learn more about the academic experiences that led to her choice of high school. I already knew her to be a young lady who was determined, hardworking, and intelligent—but I didn’t know what made her tick.

During our discussion, I asked about her experiences in our school. She shared her arc of learning as a student, and gushed about the joy she had as a member of both our after-school band program and our extracurricular drama program.

I asked what had made her choose the high school she had, given that she had strengths in a variety of other areas. She smiled and said, “I’m really fascinated by science and medicine—it makes me curious.”

She planned to continue her pursuits in the arts, but she was clear that her love for science was going to drive her efforts.

I left the conversation inspired as an educational leader. Certainly we have to fulfill mandates and meet educational standards, but so often our students leave our schools uncertain about who they are in the world and without a fully formed sense of purpose. Academics without purpose can be an exercise void of substance.

We can powerfully influence the level of learner actualization in our classrooms if we ask the right questions to help students develop that sense of purpose.

Facilitating Self-Reflection

Asking the right questions develops a deeper understanding of self. How many professionals do you know who would have chosen an alternate career path if they had asked different questions at the start? The same can be said for students in the classroom.

Take a learner who is reluctantly engaged in a project. Maybe they enter into the work with a series of starts and stops, or they ask the teacher for a topic change several times before getting into the meat of the work, only to come up with nothing in the end. What if the student was given an opportunity to reflect on what they’re worried about in an effort to understand what stops them from fully following through?

I’ve seen many students decide early on in their learning life that they were good at one subject and bad at another. These beliefs are often difficult to dismiss. Asking students to identify topics they’re interested in but haven’t tried offers amazing benefits. A deeper dive into this line of questioning may result in an understanding of what stops them in their exploration.

Students need to develop a consistent, self-regulated feedback loop. Effective questions can facilitate this. What is your proudest achievement? What is your biggest failure? What would you do if you knew that failure was not an option? These are the types of questions students need to consider on a regular basis.

The Influence on the Work

The impact on work products in and out of the classroom can be substantial if robust reflective questions are leveraged properly and educators more fully understand students’ interests. Learners can begin to take ownership of their goals and develop authentic growth points.

A standards-driven education can be both highly productive and personally rewarding. There’s no reason to think that these things cannot exist in the same space—but in order for this to happen effectively, students must develop their own path to outcomes of their choosing.

Much the same as a hiker entering the woods, when students begin a project or unit of learning there should be trail markers along the way. In education we’re very good at devising benchmark assessments to collect formative data, but what of the innate and essential learners who are before us?

Teachers should mindfully craft authentic learning reflections along the way for their students. The form need not matter. Pen and paper suffice, as does a rubric, or a Google form. I’ve seen teachers seamlessly incorporate these reflections into student conferences. The point is for students to have a process and a space to consider their life as learners.

Helping Students Find Their Truth

In Hamlet , Polonius famously advises his son, Laertes, “To thine own self be true / And it must follow, as the night the day, / Thou canst not then be false to any man.” But what if our students do not know themselves?

Learners who are authentically true to themselves will explore with abandon. The insights gained from reflective questions can be used by students and teachers to develop links between various subjects and spark interests in multiple curricular areas.

As students tend the garden of self-discovery, new curiosities will naturally arise. The transfer of key understandings and the information that applies to multiple concepts can provide inspiration and clarity to the confused and disaffected learner. For those who are already on a path to their most authentic self, these questions will support a deeper and more rewarding journey.

"The Purpose of Education"

Author:  King, Martin Luther, Jr.

Date:  September 1, 1946 to January 31, 1947 ?

Location:  Atlanta, Ga. ?

Genre:  Published Article

Topic:  Martin Luther King, Jr. - Political and Social Views

This essay, written sometime during King’s junior year at Morehouse, may be an early draft of the article of the same name published in the  Maroon Tiger . He suggests that education should not only “teach man to think intensively” but also provide “worthy objectives upon which to concentrate.”

Last week we attempted to discuss the purpose of religion. This week our attention moves toward education. I will attempt to answer the question, what is the purpose of education?

To my mind, education has a two-fold function in society. On the one hand it should discipline the mind for sustained and persistent speculation. On the other hand it should integrate human life around central, focusing ideals. It is a tragedy that the latter is often neglected in our educational system.

Education should equip us with the power to think effectively and objectively. To think is one of the hardest things in the world, and to think objectively is still harder. Yet this is the job of education. Education should cause us to rise beyond the horizon of legions of half truth, prejudices and propaganda. Education should enable us to “weigh and consider,” to discern the true from the false, the relevant from the irrelevant, and the real from the unreal. 1  The first function of education, therefore, is to teach man to think intensively. But this is not the whole of education. If education stops here it can be the most dangerous force in society. Some of the greatest criminals in society have been men {who) possessed the power of concentration and reason, but they had no morals. Perhaps the most dangerous periods in civilization have been those periods when there was no moral foundation in society.

Education without morals is like a ship without a compass, merely wandering nowhere. It is not enough to have the power of concentration, but we must have worthy objectives upon which to concentrate. It is not enough to know truth, but we must love truth and sacrifice for it.

1.  “Read not to contradict and confute; nor yet to believe and take for granted; nor to find talk and discourse; but to weigh and consider” (Francis Bacon, “Of Studies,” in  The Works of Francis Bacon , ed. James Spedding, R. L. Ellis, and D. D. Heath [New York: Hurd and Houghton, 1877], p. 252). King used the phrase “weigh and consider” in three papers written at Crozer Theological Seminary (“Light on the Old Testament from the Ancient Near East,” 14 September–24 November 1948, p. 180 in this volume; “The Sources of Fundamentalism and Liberalism Considered Historically and Psychologically,” 13 September–23 November 1949, p. 237; and Book review of  A Functional Approach to Religious Education  by Ernest J. Chave, 12 September–22 November 1950, p. 355).

Source:  MLKP-MBU, Martin Luther King, Jr., Papers, 1954-1968, Howard Gotlieb Archival Research Center, Boston University, Boston, Mass.

©  Copyright Information

The Purpose of Education—According to Students

Teens respond to questions about the role of schools and teachers in their lives.

A photo of a student

Radio Atlantic recently examined a question that underpins many, if not most, debates about education in the U.S.: What are public schools for? Increasingly, it seems many American parents expect schools to first and foremost serve as pipelines into the workforce—places where kids develop the skills they need to get into a good college, land a good job, and ultimately have a leg up in society. For those parents, consistently low test scores are evidence that the country’s education system is failing. Conversely, other parents argue that public schools’ primary responsibility is to create an educated citizenry, to instill kids with the kinds of values integral to a democratic society—curiosity, empathy,  an appreciation for diversity, and so on.

Nuanced answers to that core question abound, shaping public policy and inciting PTA debates. But rarely do students get asked what they expect out of school. What does the promise of education mean to public-school students? Magdalena Slapik, a photojournalist working on an oral-history book project, has been interviewing public-school K-12 students across the country over the past several years to see what they have to say.

The Hechinger Report , which produced this project in partnership with The Atlantic , is running longer excerpts for 10 students, exploring questions such as: What do kids really think about school? How would they change it? Do they agree with Education Secretary Betsy DeVos’s conclusion that the U.S. school system is a “mess”? The Atlantic has published an abridged version of those excerpts to zero in on what students think their schools, teachers, and educations are for.

A photo of a student

What role should school and teachers play in students’ lives?

I feel like the teacher and the school share a similar role. When a student goes to a certain school, they all come from different backgrounds, different upbringings: who was home, who took care of them, how much they saw them, what their occupation was. All these factors make them all different. I feel like school should be a place where I can learn about their culture and where they came from and them learn about mine. And, of course, you know, have your science and math, and learn how to write. But also be, not necessarily a culture shock, but a place to broaden your mind.

If you don’t do it young, then you’ll never do it, in my opinion. If we don’t start appreciating the kid next to you who has a completely different family style or family structure and life experience, then you won’t do it when you’re older. You’ll look at it in a single-track way. I feel like that’s the role of a teacher and school as an institution. Just to create a space where students can fail, and still be like, “OK, I’m gonna try again, but in a different way.” Instead of saying, “Ok, I failed. I’m not going to be anything. Let me just quit.”

A photo of a student

What do you think is the purpose of education, and what role should school play in a student’s life?

The role of school is to educate me, so that when I go out into society I can become productive. I can be a functioning member of society who can work, who can educate someone else, who can be a role model. That’s what I always thought it was. Now, I’m seeing the role of school—of education—[as] basically a pastime, like a public babysitter for whoever feels their children should be here.

A photo of a student

What is the role school and teachers should play in students’ lives?

The role of education and the role of teachers is to empower students not just to do what they want, but to make mistakes. The more often you make mistakes, the more likely you will be to do something important. Messing up is something that we have to foster. Because, that’s how expressing yourself works—it’s when you get the chance to be wrong and to, you know, just sort of have a go at random things.

That’s the problem with our education system now … mistakes are the worst things you can make. The reason that that’s bad is because it encourages students —when they take a test or when they study for something or when they do projects—to be dead inside. To sort of be sterilized. And music and the arts are about being fully alive, and about just being completely in the moment, where all your senses are enlivened and working. That’s the kind of experience that school should foster and harness and be focused on. Not in trying to get everyone to line up and just sort of follow the rules and take orders. That kind of environment is really destructive.

A photo of a student

What do you think the teacher’s role should be in students’ lives?

I think the teacher’s role is to engage the student and find what makes the student interested in the subject. It’s about finding passion, and I think this school does a really good job of that—allowing you to really search out what you want to do and find your passion. They don’t care if that’s in academics or art or sports. If you can’t find something that you’re actually interested in, you’re going to be living a life of lack, just going by. It’s the same with how I think the public-school system really fails with standardized testing. You’re just learning to take a test. You’re not learning to actually be happy.

A photo of a student

What do you feel is the purpose of education?

I think education is important, but it also depends. I don’t feel like you need to have an A+ in whatever, calculus, to just be able to work a normal job and make above minimum wage or anything. They teach you about all this stuff that happened hundreds of years ago, which, I like history, but they don’t really teach you about how to go and get a job, how to live on your own, pay this, pay that, when you actually have to do it. Or [they don’t] actually [prepare] you for college and dealing with that.

A photo of a student

What role do you think school and teachers should play in students’ lives?

I think the role of teachers and education in general is to help us progress as a society. Not only in our smarts or technology, but to help us progress as a human race: preparing us to tackle the issues that [our predecessors] couldn’t defeat.

This post appears courtesy of The Hechinger Report .

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Social Sci LibreTexts

2.2: What is the purpose of education?

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  • Page ID 86257

  • Jennfer Kidd, Jamie Kaufman, Peter Baker, Patrick O'Shea, Dwight Allen, & Old Dominion U students
  • Old Dominion University

By: Karen Herndon


Have you ever asked yourself what the purpose of education is? It is believed to be a question that is highly thought about but in reality it is not. We tend to focus on the tasks at hand rather than the overall goal. Many will find that when asked specifically what education’s purpose is, the answer in return is nothing outside of the course curriculum (Bass, 1997). Well you may be questioning why this is. In order to provide an answer we need to consider both sides of the topic. On one hand the government controls the educational system which enforces the use of mandatory testing to evaluate each student as well as the educational institution. In other words, emphasis is placed on providing students with the skill that they will need to succeed. On the other hand, there is the belief that children should not only be presented with the abilities to learn but they should be able to expand what is given through individual growth and development beyond materials obtained from the classroom. Their inner talents need to be brought out and polished (Minor, 2007).

“Do not then train youth to learn by force and harshness; but direct them to it by what amuses their minds so that you may be better able to discover with accuracy the peculiar bent of the genius of each." ~Plato (Minor, 2007)

Government Effects on Education’s Purpose

If one looks closely at the government’s heavy involvement in what to teach and what not to teach children it’s the administering of assessment tests. These tests do not allow a child to form opinions on subjects which in turn impedes social growth and development. The government forces school districts to meet certain minimal requirements so unfortunately the focal point has become mainly to teach material that students will need to know in order to obtain passing scores on standardized tests (Bass, 1997). This is attributed to the government’s implementation of laws such as the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB) (A Firsthand Look at NCLB, 2006). Students are expected to follow certain guidelines and curriculum; however teachers are pressed for time. In order to ensure they achieve all of the mandated guidelines and curriculum they teach only what they are required to. This leaves little time to introduce material to students that may be beneficial to them in the long run (Bass, 1997). For example the NCLB has received strict criticism for focusing too much on testing and not enough on actually teaching and allowing the student to further their knowledge. It has been brought up that the NCLB’s ignorance towards equity has caused problems. For instance one school system may possess funding which would make it easier to obtain the minimum passing score versus a school system that lacked funding. (A Firsthand Look at NCLB, 2006).

Social Development’s Role in Education

Education is not only being presented with material to learn but to also expand one’s knowledge of themselves and their surroundings. It appears that the growing trend today in school systems is to teach students particular course work with little to no regard to instruction on how this material could relate to life. Since most subjects utilize textbooks they are heavily relied upon and do not allow the student much freedom to think outside the box (Lim, 2005). Children will naturally form opinions from the material that is presented and being able to express these opinions will only help them to grow socially and eventually fit in with the rest of the world. Social growth is very important because when it is time for the child to become independent if they have not developed that part of their life then interaction with other people and situations could be quite daunting. Most parents and parental guardians do want their child to follow a structured curriculum; however, they still want their child to have time for recreation and family. Childhood is an important part of everyone’s life. It encourages social interaction and development as well as teaching them to be independent. People that are deprived of their childhood regret it when they grow up which could negatively impact their lives and the lives of others (Lim, 2005).

“The only purpose of education is to teach a student how to live his life-by developing his mind and equipping him to deal with reality. The training he needs is theoretical, i.e., conceptual. He has to be taught to think, to understand, to integrate, to prove. He has to be taught the essentials of the knowledge discovered in the past-and he has to be equipped to acquire further knowledge by his own effort. ~Ayn Rand

(Yero, 2001-2002. p. 1)

Thomas Jefferson’s View

With regard to the purpose of education Thomas Jefferson was one of the biggest advocates of the principle that ignorance and political liberty could not co-exist. Jefferson believed the purpose of education was to properly prepare young minds so they would be able to make educated decisions and uphold the integrity of the country. He insisted on providing four main subjects to elementary school students. Geography, arithmetic along with reading and writing made up these subjects. These subjects were deemed crucial for the proper development of children in order to function later in life. One example of this is that Jefferson believed that children needed to be given proper education in order to become informed voters. He supported free education through taxation as well as equal opportunity education. Jefferson believed the purpose of education was not to segregate but to educate (Jewett, 1997).

Evaluating Student Assessment

Getting back to assessment and student evaluation drives one to consider if whether we are going about education wrong as a country by placing so much importance upon standardized tests. As previously stated, it has been debated whether The No Child Left Behind Act does little to expand the constantly developing minds of our youth (A Firsthand Look at NCLB, 2006). A child’s mind can be compared to a sponge, in that they need to soak up information and substance in order for it to expand, otherwise, it dries out. If you observe the examinations and how students are generally evaluated in today’s school systems, you will see that the vast majority of them are made up of multiple choice questions. Since there is typically only one correct answer, it is almost impossible for the child to reflect upon the question and develop a view that they can grow from or share with others if they so choose (Yero, 2001-2002).

In Summation

When considering both sides of the purpose of education you may want to reflect on the words of Plato when he said: “Do not then train youth to learn by force and harshness; but direct them to it by what amuses their minds so that you may be better able to discover with accuracy the peculiar bent of the genius of each (Minor, 2007).” However, the government’s involvement in education has had positive impacts on students since the NCLB has forced teachers and other school officials to focus on all children including those with special needs (A Firsthand Look at NCLB, 2006). No matter what side of the river you are on with regard to your opinion on this topic, it is hard to discredit the fact that one purpose (if not the main purpose) of education is to prepare the youth for their future and ours.

Exercise \(\PageIndex{1}\)

1. Thomas Jefferson believed that

A. Awareness and political liberty could not co-exist.

B. Awareness and tyranny could not co-exist.

C. Ignorance and political liberty could not co-exist.

D. Ignorance and tyranny could not co-exist.

2. What does NCLB stand for?

A. No Child Left Backward

B. No Child Left Behind

C. No Children Left Backward

D. No Children Left Behind

3. Thomas Jefferson affirmed that the purpose of education was not to segregate but to?

B. Estimate

C. Intimidate

D. Procrastinate

4. What plays an integral part in everyone's life?

A. Childhood

B. Hapiness

C. Upbringing

5. Generally student evaluations in today's school systems are primarily made up of what?

A. Essay questions or topics

B. Multiple choice questions

C. Short answer questions

D. True and false questions

A First Hand Look at NCLB. (2006). Educational Leadership , (ERIC Document Reproduction Service No. EJ766269) Retrieved February 2, 2008, from ERIC database.

Bass, Randall V. (1997). The Purpose of Education. The Educational Forum 61. 128-32. Retrieved February 1, 2008 from http://vnweb.hwwilsonweb.com.proxy.lib.odu.edu/hww/jumpstart.jhtml?recid=0bc05f7a67b1790e1e9c442f93fe94fd41479b00e75d7c18b3344ea852044009af47f7afa8bcd3df&fmt=H

Jewett, Thomas O. (1997). Thomas Jefferson and the Purposes of Education. The Educational Forum 61. 110-113. Retrieved February 1, 2008 from http://vnweb.hwwilsonweb.com.proxy.lib.odu.edu/hww/jumpstart.jhtml?recid=0bc05f7a67b1790e1e9c442f93fe94fd41479b00e75d7c18b3344ea852044009ceb909ea41cb5644&fmt=H

Lim, Mike. (2005). What is Education? The All I Need . Retrieved February 2, 2008 from http://www.theallineed.com/family/05032602.htm

Minor, Summer. (2007). The Purpose of Education is… Mom is Teaching Blog . Retrieved February 2, 2008 from http://www.momisteaching.com/the-purpose-of-education-is/+purpose+of+education+summer+minor&hl=en&ct=clnk&cd=1&gl=us

Yero, Judith Lloyd. (2001-2002). The Meaning of Education. Teacher’s Mind Resources . 1-3. Retrieved February 2, 2008 from www.teachersmind.com/pdfdirectory/Education.PDF

  • Essay on Importance of Education

Importance of Education Essay

Education is one of the key components for an individual’s success. It has the ability to shape one’s life in the right direction. Education is a process of imparting or acquiring knowledge, and developing the powers of reasoning and judgement. It prepares growing children intellectually for a life with more mature understanding and sensitivity to issues surrounding them. It improves not only the personal life of the people but also their community. Thus, one cannot neglect the significance of Education in life and society. Here, we have provided an essay on the Importance of Education. Students can use this essay to prepare for their English exam or as a speech to participate in the school competition.

Importance of Education

The importance of education in life is immense. It facilitates quality learning for people throughout their life. It inculcates knowledge, belief, skill, values and moral habits. It improves the way of living and raises the social and economic status of individuals. Education makes life better and more peaceful. It transforms the personality of individuals and makes them feel confident.

Well said by Nelson Mandela, “Education is the most powerful weapon to change the world”. To elaborate, it is the foundation of the society which brings economic wealth, social prosperity and political stability. It gives power to people to put their views and showcase their real potential. It strengthens democracy by providing citizens with the tools to participate in the governance process. It acts as an integrative force to foster social cohesion and national identity.

In India, education is a constitutional right of every citizen. So, people of any age group, religion, caste, creed and region are free to receive education. An educated person is respected everywhere and well-treated in society. As a kid, every child dreams of being a doctor, lawyer, engineer, actor, sportsperson, etc. These dreams can come true through education. So, investment in education gives the best return. Well-educated people have more opportunities to get a better job which makes them feel satisfied.

In schools, education is divided into different levels, i.e., preschool, primary, secondary and senior secondary. School education comprises traditional learning which provides students with theoretical knowledge. However, now various efforts are being made to establish inbuilt application-based learning by adding numerous experiments, practicals and extracurricular activities to the school curriculum. Students learn to read, write and represent their viewpoints in front of others. Also, in this era of digital Education, anyone can easily access information online at their fingertips. They can learn new skills and enhance their knowledge.

Steps Taken By Government To Promote Education

Education is evidently an important aspect that no government can ignore in order to ensure the equitable development of a nation. Unfortunately, some children still do not have access to education. The Government has thereby taken initiatives to improve education quality and made it accessible to everyone, especially the poor people.

The Government passed the Right to Education Act 2009 (RTE Act 2009) on 4 August 2009. This Act came into effect on 1 April 2010, following which education has become the fundamental right of every child in India. It provides free and compulsory elementary education to children of the age group of 6-14 years in a neighbourhood school within 1 km, up to Class 8 in India. On similar lines, there are other schemes launched by the government, such as Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan , Mid-Day Meal , Adult Education and Skill Development Scheme, National Means cum Merit Scholarship Scheme, National Program for Education of Girls at Elementary Education, Kasturba Gandhi Balika Vidyalaya, Scheme for Infrastructure Development in Minority Institutions, Beti Bachao , Beti Padhao, etc.

For our country’s growth, we require a well-educated population equipped with the relevant knowledge, attitude and skills. This can be achieved by spreading awareness about the importance of Education in rural areas. There is a famous saying that “If we feed one person, we will eliminate his hunger for only one time. But, if we educate a person, we will change his entire life”. Henceforth he will become capable of earning a livelihood by himself.

This essay on the Importance of Education must have helped students to improve their writing section for the English exam. They can also practice essays on other topics by visiting the CBSE Essay page. Keep learning and stay tuned with BYJU’S for the latest updates on CBSE/ICSE/State Board/Competitive Exams. Also, download the BYJU’S App for interactive study videos.

Frequently Asked Questions on Education Essay

How can the literacy rate in india be increased.

People in rural areas must be informed about the importance of providing education to their children. Also, with the COVID-19 situation, the government should take steps by providing laptops/phones for children to follow online classes.

Are girl children still denied their right to get educated?

Although awareness has now improved, there are still many villages in India where girl children are not provided with proper education or allowed to enrol themselves in schools. This mentality has to change for the betterment of the society.

Teaching subjects/academics alone is enough, or should students be introduced to other forms of educational activities too?

Extracurricular activities, moral value education, etc., are also as important as regular academic teachings.

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purpose of education in life essay

The Purpose of Education

Morehouse College, 1948

As I engage in the so-called “bull sessions” around and about the school, I too often find that most college men have a misconception of the purpose of education. Most of the “brethren” think that education should equip them with the proper instruments of exploitation so that they can forever trample over the masses. Still others think that education should furnish them with noble ends rather than means to an end.

It seems to me that education has a two-fold function to perform in the life of man and in society: the one is utility and the other is culture. Education must enable a man to become more efficient, to achieve with increasing facility the ligitimate goals of his life.

Education must also train one for quick, resolute and effective thinking. To think incisively and to think for one’s self is very difficult. We are prone to let our mental life become invaded by legions of half truths, prejudices, and propaganda. At this point, I often wonder whether or not education is fulfilling its purpose. A great majority of the so-called educated people do not think logically and scientifically. Even the press, the classroom, the platform, and the pulpit in many instances do not give us objective and unbiased truths. To save man from the morass of propaganda, in my opinion, is one of the chief aims of education. Education must enable one to sift and weigh evidence, to discern the true from the false, the real from the unreal, and the facts from the fiction.

The function of education, therefore, is to teach one to think intensively and to think critically. But education which stops with efficiency may prove the greatest menace to society. The most dangerous criminal may be the man gifted with reason, but with no morals.

The late Eugene Talmadge, in my opinion, possessed one of the better minds of Georgia, or even America. Moreover, he wore the Phi Beta Kappa key. By all measuring rods, Mr. Talmadge could think critically and intensively; yet he contends that I am an inferior being. Are those the types of men we call educated?

We must remember that intelligence is not enough. Intelligence plus character–that is the goal of true education. The complete education gives one not only power of concentration, but worthy objectives upon which to concentrate. The broad education will, therefore, transmit to one not only the accumulated knowledge of the race but also the accumulated experience of social living.

If we are not careful, our colleges will produce a group of close-minded, unscientific, illogical propagandists, consumed with immoral acts. Be careful, “brethren!” Be careful, teachers!

purpose of education in life essay

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The Importance of Education in Society

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Published: Feb 12, 2019

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purpose of education in life essay

In the quest to transform education, putting purpose at the center is key

Subscribe to the center for universal education bulletin, emily markovich morris and emily markovich morris fellow - global economy and development , center for universal education @emilymarmorris ghulam omar qargha ghulam omar qargha fellow - global economy and development , center for universal education.

February 16, 2023

This commentary is the first of a three-part series on (1) why it is important to define the purpose of education, (2) how historical forces have interacted to shape the purposes of today’s modern schooling systems , and (3) the role of power in reshaping how the purpose of school is taken up by global education actors in policy and practice .

Education systems transformation is creating buzz among educators, policymakers, researchers, and families. For the first time, the U.N. secretary general convened the Transforming Education Summit around the subject in 2022. In tandem, UNESCO, UNESCO Institute for Statistics, UNICEF, the World Bank, and the Organization of Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) co-authored “ From Learning Recovery to Education Transformation ” to lay a roadmap for how to move from COVID-19 school closures to systems change. Donor institutions like the Global Partnership for Education’s most recent strategy centers on systems transformation, and groups like the Global Campaign for Education are advocating for broader public engagement on transformative education. 

Unless we anchor ourselves and define where we are coming from and where we want to go as societies and institutions, discussions on systems transformation will continue to be circuitous and contentious.  

What is missing from the larger discussion on systems transformation is an intentional and candid dialogue on how societies and institutions are defining the purpose of education. When the topic is discussed, it often misses the mark or proposes an intervention that takes for granted that there is a shared purpose among policymakers, educators, families, students, and other actors. For example, the current global focus on foundational learning is not a purpose unto itself but rather a mechanism for serving a greater purpose — whether for economic development, national identity formation, and/or supporting improved well-being.   

The Role of Purpose in Systems Transformation   

The purpose of education has sparked many conversations over the centuries. In 1930, Eleanor Roosevelt wrote in her essay in Pictorial Review , “What is the purpose of education? This question agitates scholars, teachers, statesmen, every group, in fact, of thoughtful men and women.”  She argues that education is critical for building “good citizenship.” As Martin Luther King, Jr. urged in his 1947 essay, “ The Purpose of Education ,” education transmits “not only the accumulated knowledge of the race but also the accumulated experience of social living.” King urged us to see the purpose of education as a social and political struggle as much as a philosophical one.   

In contemporary conversations, the purpose of education is often classified in terms of the individual and social benefits—such personal, cultural, economic, and social purposes or individual/social possibility and individual/social efficiency . However, when countries and communities define the purpose, it needs to be an intentional part of the transformation process. As laid out in the Center for Universal Education’s (CUE’s) policy brief “ Transforming Education Systems: Why, What, and How ,” defining and deconstructing assumptions is critical to building a “broadly shared vision and purpose” of education.   

Education and the Sustainable Development Goals  

Underlying all the different purposes of education lies the foundational framing of education as a human right in the Sustainable Development Goals. People of all races, ethnicities, gender identities, abilities, languages, religions, socio-economic status, and national or social origins have the right to an education as affirmed in Article 26 of the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights . This legal framework has fueled the education for all movement and civil rights movements around the world, alongside the Convention of the Rights of the Child of 1989 , which further protects children’s rights to a quality, safe, and equitable education. Defending people’s right to education regardless of how they will use their education helps keep us from losing sight of why we are having these conversations.   

Themes in education from the Sustainable Development Goals cross multiple purposes. For example, lifelong learning and environmental education are two key areas that extend across purposes. Lifelong learning emphasizes that education extends across age groups, education levels, modalities, and geographies. In some contexts, lifelong learning can be professional growth for economic development, but it can also be practice for spiritual growth. Similarly, environmental education may be taught as sustainable development or the balance among economic, social, and environmental protections through well-being and flourishing — or taught through a perspective of culturally sustaining practices influenced by Indigenous philosophies in education.   

Five Key Purposes of Education  

The purposes of education overlap and intersect, but pulling them apart helps us interrogate the dominant ways of framing education in the larger ecosystem and to draw attention to those that receive less attention. Categories also help us move from very philosophical and academic conversations into practical discussions that educators, learners, and families can join. Although these five categories do not do justice to the complexity of the conversation, they are a start.   

  • Education for economic development is the idea that learners pursue an education to eventually obtain work or to improve the quality, safety, or earnings of their current work. This purpose is the most dominant framing used by education systems around the world and part of the agenda to modernize and develop societies according to different stages of economic growth . This economic purpose is rooted in the human capital theory, which poses that the more schooling a person completes, the higher their income, wages, or productivity ( Aslam & Rawal, 2015; Berman, 2022 ). Higher individual earnings lead to greater household income and eventually higher national economic growth. In addition to the World Bank , global institutions like the United States Agency for International Development and the Organization of Economic Cooperation and Development often position education primarily in relation to economic development. The promise of education as a key to social mobility and helping individuals and communities improve their economic circumstances also falls under this purpose ( World Economic Forum ).   
  • Education for building national identities and civic engagement positions education as an important conduit for promoting national, community, or other identities. With the emergence of modern states, education became a key tool for building national identity — and in some contexts , also democratic citizenship as demonstrated in Eleanor Roosevelt’s essay; this motivation continues to be a primary purpose in many localities ( Verger, Lubienski, & Steiner-Khamsi, 2016 ). Today this purpose is heavily influenced by human right s education — or the teaching and learning of — as well as peace education, to “sustain a just and equitable peace and world” ( Bajaj & Hantzopoulus, 2016, p. 1 ). This purpose is foundational to civics and citizenship education and international exchange programming focused on building global citizenship to name a few.  
  • Education as liberation and critical conscientization looks at the centrality of education in confronting and redressing different forms of structural oppression. Martin Luther King wrote about the purpose of education “to teach one to think intensively and to think critically.” Educator and philosopher Paolo Freire wrote extensively about the importance of education in developing a critical consciousness and awareness of the roots of oppression, and in identifying opportunities to challenge and transform this oppression through action. Critical race, gender , disabilities, and other theories in education further examine the ways education reproduces multiple and intersectional subordinations , but also how teaching and learning has the power to redress oppression through cultural and social transformation. As liberatory and critical educator, bell hooks wrote, “To educate as a practice of freedom is a way of teaching that anyone can learn” ( hooks, 1994, p. 13 ). Efforts to teach social justice and equity—from racial literacy to gender equity—often draw on this purpose.   
  • Education for well-being and flourishing emphasizes how learning is fundamental to building thriving people and communities. Although economic well-being is a component of this purpose, it is not the only purpose—rather social, emotional, physical and mental, spiritual and other forms of well-being are also privileged. Amartya Sen’s  and Martha Nussbaum’s work on well-being and capabilities have greatly informed this purpose. They argue that individuals and communities must define education in ways that they have reason to value beyond just an economic end. The Flourish Project has been developing and advocating an ecological model for helping understand and map these different types of well-being. Vital to this purpose are also social and emotional learning efforts that support children and youth in acquiring knowledge, attitudes, and skills critical to positive mental and emotional health, relationships with others, among other areas ( CASEL, 2018 ; EASEL Lab, 2023 ).  
  • Education as culturally and spiritually sustaining is one of the purposes that receives insufficient attention in global education conversations. This purpose is critical to the past, present, and future field of education and emphasizes building relationships to oneself and one’s land and environment, culture, community, and faith. Centered in Indigenous philosophies in education , this purpose encompasses sustaining cultural knowledges often disregarded and displaced by modern schooling efforts. Borrowing from Django Paris’s concept of “culturally sustaining pedagogy , ” the purpose of teaching and learning goes beyond “building bridges” among the home, community, and school and instead brings together the learning practices that happen in these different domains.  Similarly neglected in the discourse is the purpose of education for spiritual and religious development, which can be intertwined with Indigenous pedagogies , as well as education for liberation, and education for well-being and flourishing. Examples include the Hibbert Lectures of 1965 , which argue that Christian values should guide the purposes of education, and scholars of Islamic education who delve into the purposes of education in the Muslim world. Indigenous pedagogies, as well as spiritual and religious teaching , predate modern school movements, yet this undercurrent of moral, religious, character, and spiritual purposes of education is still alive in much of the world.  

Beyond the Buzz   

The way we define the purpose of education is heavily influenced by our experiences, as well as those of our families, communities, and societies. The underlying philosophies of education that are presented both influence our education systems and are influenced by our education systems. Unless we anchor ourselves and define where we are coming from and where we want to go as societies and institutions, discussions on systems transformation will continue to be circuitous and contentious. We will continue to focus on upgrading and changing standards, competencies, content, and practices without looking at why education matters. We will continue to fight over the place of climate change education, critical race theory, socio-emotional learning, and religious learning in our schools without understanding the ways each of these fits into the larger education ecosystem.   

The intent of this blog is not to box education into finite purposes, but to remind us in the quest for systems transformation that there are multiple ways to see the purpose of education. Taking time to dig into the philosophies, histories, and complexities behind these purposes will help us ensure that we are headed toward transformation and not just adding to the buzz.   

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Philosophy of Education

Philosophy of education is the branch of applied or practical philosophy concerned with the nature and aims of education and the philosophical problems arising from educational theory and practice. Because that practice is ubiquitous in and across human societies, its social and individual manifestations so varied, and its influence so profound, the subject is wide-ranging, involving issues in ethics and social/political philosophy, epistemology, metaphysics, philosophy of mind and language, and other areas of philosophy. Because it looks both inward to the parent discipline and outward to educational practice and the social, legal, and institutional contexts in which it takes place, philosophy of education concerns itself with both sides of the traditional theory/practice divide. Its subject matter includes both basic philosophical issues (e.g., the nature of the knowledge worth teaching, the character of educational equality and justice, etc.) and problems concerning specific educational policies and practices (e.g., the desirability of standardized curricula and testing, the social, economic, legal and moral dimensions of specific funding arrangements, the justification of curriculum decisions, etc.). In all this the philosopher of education prizes conceptual clarity, argumentative rigor, the fair-minded consideration of the interests of all involved in or affected by educational efforts and arrangements, and informed and well-reasoned valuation of educational aims and interventions.

Philosophy of education has a long and distinguished history in the Western philosophical tradition, from Socrates’ battles with the sophists to the present day. Many of the most distinguished figures in that tradition incorporated educational concerns into their broader philosophical agendas (Curren 2000, 2018; Rorty 1998). While that history is not the focus here, it is worth noting that the ideals of reasoned inquiry championed by Socrates and his descendants have long informed the view that education should foster in all students, to the extent possible, the disposition to seek reasons and the ability to evaluate them cogently, and to be guided by their evaluations in matters of belief, action and judgment. This view, that education centrally involves the fostering of reason or rationality, has with varying articulations and qualifications been embraced by most of those historical figures; it continues to be defended by contemporary philosophers of education as well (Scheffler 1973 [1989]; Siegel 1988, 1997, 2007, 2017). As with any philosophical thesis it is controversial; some dimensions of the controversy are explored below.

This entry is a selective survey of important contemporary work in Anglophone philosophy of education; it does not treat in detail recent scholarship outside that context.

1. Problems in Delineating the Field

2. analytic philosophy of education and its influence, 3.1 the content of the curriculum and the aims and functions of schooling, 3.2 social, political and moral philosophy, 3.3 social epistemology, virtue epistemology, and the epistemology of education, 3.4 philosophical disputes concerning empirical education research, 4. concluding remarks, other internet resources, related entries.

The inward/outward looking nature of the field of philosophy of education alluded to above makes the task of delineating the field, of giving an over-all picture of the intellectual landscape, somewhat complicated (for a detailed account of this topography, see Phillips 1985, 2010). Suffice it to say that some philosophers, as well as focusing inward on the abstract philosophical issues that concern them, are drawn outwards to discuss or comment on issues that are more commonly regarded as falling within the purview of professional educators, educational researchers, policy-makers and the like. (An example is Michael Scriven, who in his early career was a prominent philosopher of science; later he became a central figure in the development of the field of evaluation of educational and social programs. See Scriven 1991a, 1991b.) At the same time, there are professionals in the educational or closely related spheres who are drawn to discuss one or another of the philosophical issues that they encounter in the course of their work. (An example here is the behaviorist psychologist B.F. Skinner, the central figure in the development of operant conditioning and programmed learning, who in works such as Walden Two (1948) and Beyond Freedom and Dignity (1972) grappled—albeit controversially—with major philosophical issues that were related to his work.)

What makes the field even more amorphous is the existence of works on educational topics, written by well-regarded philosophers who have made major contributions to their discipline; these educational reflections have little or no philosophical content, illustrating the truth that philosophers do not always write philosophy. However, despite this, works in this genre have often been treated as contributions to philosophy of education. (Examples include John Locke’s Some Thoughts Concerning Education [1693] and Bertrand Russell’s rollicking pieces written primarily to raise funds to support a progressive school he ran with his wife. (See Park 1965.)

Finally, as indicated earlier, the domain of education is vast, the issues it raises are almost overwhelmingly numerous and are of great complexity, and the social significance of the field is second to none. These features make the phenomena and problems of education of great interest to a wide range of socially-concerned intellectuals, who bring with them their own favored conceptual frameworks—concepts, theories and ideologies, methods of analysis and argumentation, metaphysical and other assumptions, and the like. It is not surprising that scholars who work in this broad genre also find a home in the field of philosophy of education.

As a result of these various factors, the significant intellectual and social trends of the past few centuries, together with the significant developments in philosophy, all have had an impact on the content of arguments and methods of argumentation in philosophy of education—Marxism, psycho-analysis, existentialism, phenomenology, positivism, post-modernism, pragmatism, neo-liberalism, the several waves of feminism, analytic philosophy in both its ordinary language and more formal guises, are merely the tip of the iceberg.

Conceptual analysis, careful assessment of arguments, the rooting out of ambiguity, the drawing of clarifying distinctions—all of which are at least part of the philosophical toolkit—have been respected activities within philosophy from the dawn of the field. No doubt it somewhat over-simplifies the complex path of intellectual history to suggest that what happened in the twentieth century—early on, in the home discipline itself, and with a lag of a decade or more in philosophy of education—is that philosophical analysis came to be viewed by some scholars as being the major philosophical activity (or set of activities), or even as being the only viable or reputable activity. In any case, as they gained prominence and for a time hegemonic influence during the rise of analytic philosophy early in the twentieth century analytic techniques came to dominate philosophy of education in the middle third of that century (Curren, Robertson, & Hager 2003).

The pioneering work in the modern period entirely in an analytic mode was the short monograph by C.D. Hardie, Truth and Fallacy in Educational Theory (1941; reissued in 1962). In his Introduction, Hardie (who had studied with C.D. Broad and I.A. Richards) made it clear that he was putting all his eggs into the ordinary-language-analysis basket:

The Cambridge analytical school, led by Moore, Broad and Wittgenstein, has attempted so to analyse propositions that it will always be apparent whether the disagreement between philosophers is one concerning matters of fact, or is one concerning the use of words, or is, as is frequently the case, a purely emotive one. It is time, I think, that a similar attitude became common in the field of educational theory. (Hardie 1962: xix)

About a decade after the end of the Second World War the floodgates opened and a stream of work in the analytic mode appeared; the following is merely a sample. D. J. O’Connor published An Introduction to Philosophy of Education (1957) in which, among other things, he argued that the word “theory” as it is used in educational contexts is merely a courtesy title, for educational theories are nothing like what bear this title in the natural sciences. Israel Scheffler, who became the paramount philosopher of education in North America, produced a number of important works including The Language of Education (1960), which contained clarifying and influential analyses of definitions (he distinguished reportive, stipulative, and programmatic types) and the logic of slogans (often these are literally meaningless, and, he argued, should be seen as truncated arguments), Conditions of Knowledge (1965), still the best introduction to the epistemological side of philosophy of education, and Reason and Teaching (1973 [1989]), which in a wide-ranging and influential series of essays makes the case for regarding the fostering of rationality/critical thinking as a fundamental educational ideal (cf. Siegel 2016). B. O. Smith and R. H. Ennis edited the volume Language and Concepts in Education (1961); and R.D. Archambault edited Philosophical Analysis and Education (1965), consisting of essays by a number of prominent British writers, most notably R. S. Peters (whose status in Britain paralleled that of Scheffler in the United States), Paul Hirst, and John Wilson. Topics covered in the Archambault volume were typical of those that became the “bread and butter” of analytic philosophy of education (APE) throughout the English-speaking world—education as a process of initiation, liberal education, the nature of knowledge, types of teaching, and instruction versus indoctrination.

Among the most influential products of APE was the analysis developed by Hirst and Peters (1970) and Peters (1973) of the concept of education itself. Using as a touchstone “normal English usage,” it was concluded that a person who has been educated (rather than instructed or indoctrinated) has been (i) changed for the better; (ii) this change has involved the acquisition of knowledge and intellectual skills and the development of understanding; and (iii) the person has come to care for, or be committed to, the domains of knowledge and skill into which he or she has been initiated. The method used by Hirst and Peters comes across clearly in their handling of the analogy with the concept of “reform”, one they sometimes drew upon for expository purposes. A criminal who has been reformed has changed for the better, and has developed a commitment to the new mode of life (if one or other of these conditions does not hold, a speaker of standard English would not say the criminal has been reformed). Clearly the analogy with reform breaks down with respect to the knowledge and understanding conditions. Elsewhere Peters developed the fruitful notion of “education as initiation”.

The concept of indoctrination was also of great interest to analytic philosophers of education, for, it was argued, getting clear about precisely what constitutes indoctrination also would serve to clarify the border that demarcates it from acceptable educational processes. Thus, whether or not an instructional episode was a case of indoctrination was determined by the content taught, the intention of the instructor, the methods of instruction used, the outcomes of the instruction, or by some combination of these. Adherents of the different analyses used the same general type of argument to make their case, namely, appeal to normal and aberrant usage. Unfortunately, ordinary language analysis did not lead to unanimity of opinion about where this border was located, and rival analyses of the concept were put forward (Snook 1972). The danger of restricting analysis to ordinary language (“normal English usage”) was recognized early on by Scheffler, whose preferred view of analysis emphasized

first, its greater sophistication as regards language, and the interpenetration of language and inquiry, second, its attempt to follow the modern example of the sciences in empirical spirit, in rigor, in attention to detail, in respect for alternatives, and in objectivity of method, and third, its use of techniques of symbolic logic brought to full development only in the last fifty years… It is…this union of scientific spirit and logical method applied toward the clarification of basic ideas that characterizes current analytic philosophy [and that ought to characterize analytic philosophy of education]. (Scheffler 1973 [1989: 9–10])

After a period of dominance, for a number of important reasons the influence of APE went into decline. First, there were growing criticisms that the work of analytic philosophers of education had become focused upon minutiae and in the main was bereft of practical import. (It is worth noting that a 1966 article in Time , reprinted in Lucas 1969, had put forward the same criticism of mainstream philosophy.) Second, in the early 1970’s radical students in Britain accused Peters’ brand of linguistic analysis of conservatism, and of tacitly giving support to “traditional values”—they raised the issue of whose English usage was being analyzed?

Third, criticisms of language analysis in mainstream philosophy had been mounting for some time, and finally after a lag of many years were reaching the attention of philosophers of education; there even had been a surprising degree of interest on the part of the general reading public in the United Kingdom as early as 1959, when Gilbert Ryle, editor of the journal Mind , refused to commission a review of Ernest Gellner’s Words and Things (1959)—a detailed and quite acerbic critique of Wittgenstein’s philosophy and its espousal of ordinary language analysis. (Ryle argued that Gellner’s book was too insulting, a view that drew Bertrand Russell into the fray on Gellner’s side—in the daily press, no less; Russell produced a list of insulting remarks drawn from the work of great philosophers of the past. See Mehta 1963.)

Richard Peters had been given warning that all was not well with APE at a conference in Canada in 1966; after delivering a paper on “The aims of education: A conceptual inquiry” that was based on ordinary language analysis, a philosopher in the audience (William Dray) asked Peters “ whose concepts do we analyze?” Dray went on to suggest that different people, and different groups within society, have different concepts of education. Five years before the radical students raised the same issue, Dray pointed to the possibility that what Peters had presented under the guise of a “logical analysis” was nothing but the favored usage of a certain class of persons—a class that Peters happened to identify with (see Peters 1973, where to the editor’s credit the interaction with Dray is reprinted).

Fourth, during the decade of the seventies when these various critiques of analytic philosophy were in the process of eroding its luster, a spate of translations from the Continent stimulated some philosophers of education in Britain and North America to set out in new directions, and to adopt a new style of writing and argumentation. Key works by Gadamer, Foucault and Derrida appeared in English, and these were followed in 1984 by Lyotard’s The Postmodern Condition . The classic works of Heidegger and Husserl also found new admirers; and feminist philosophers of education were finding their voices—Maxine Greene published a number of pieces in the 1970s and 1980s, including The Dialectic of Freedom (1988); the influential book by Nel Noddings, Caring: A Feminine Approach to Ethics and Moral Education , appeared the same year as the work by Lyotard, followed a year later by Jane Roland Martin’s Reclaiming a Conversation . In more recent years all these trends have continued. APE was and is no longer the center of interest, although, as indicated below, it still retains its voice.

3. Areas of Contemporary Activity

As was stressed at the outset, the field of education is huge and contains within it a virtually inexhaustible number of issues that are of philosophical interest. To attempt comprehensive coverage of how philosophers of education have been working within this thicket would be a quixotic task for a large single volume and is out of the question for a solitary encyclopedia entry. Nevertheless, a valiant attempt to give an overview was made in A Companion to the Philosophy of Education (Curren 2003), which contains more than six-hundred pages divided into forty-five chapters each of which surveys a subfield of work. The following random selection of chapter topics gives a sense of the enormous scope of the field: Sex education, special education, science education, aesthetic education, theories of teaching and learning, religious education, knowledge, truth and learning, cultivating reason, the measurement of learning, multicultural education, education and the politics of identity, education and standards of living, motivation and classroom management, feminism, critical theory, postmodernism, romanticism, the purposes of universities, affirmative action in higher education, and professional education. The Oxford Handbook of Philosophy of Education (Siegel 2009) contains a similarly broad range of articles on (among other things) the epistemic and moral aims of education, liberal education and its imminent demise, thinking and reasoning, fallibilism and fallibility, indoctrination, authenticity, the development of rationality, Socratic teaching, educating the imagination, caring and empathy in moral education, the limits of moral education, the cultivation of character, values education, curriculum and the value of knowledge, education and democracy, art and education, science education and religious toleration, constructivism and scientific methods, multicultural education, prejudice, authority and the interests of children, and on pragmatist, feminist, and postmodernist approaches to philosophy of education.

Given this enormous range, there is no non-arbitrary way to select a small number of topics for further discussion, nor can the topics that are chosen be pursued in great depth. The choice of those below has been made with an eye to highlighting contemporary work that makes solid contact with and contributes to important discussions in general philosophy and/or the academic educational and educational research communities.

The issue of what should be taught to students at all levels of education—the issue of curriculum content—obviously is a fundamental one, and it is an extraordinarily difficult one with which to grapple. In tackling it, care needs to be taken to distinguish between education and schooling—for although education can occur in schools, so can mis-education, and many other things can take place there that are educationally orthogonal (such as the provision of free or subsidized lunches and the development of social networks); and it also must be recognized that education can occur in the home, in libraries and museums, in churches and clubs, in solitary interaction with the public media, and the like.

In developing a curriculum (whether in a specific subject area, or more broadly as the whole range of offerings in an educational institution or system), a number of difficult decisions need to be made. Issues such as the proper ordering or sequencing of topics in the chosen subject, the time to be allocated to each topic, the lab work or excursions or projects that are appropriate for particular topics, can all be regarded as technical issues best resolved either by educationists who have a depth of experience with the target age group or by experts in the psychology of learning and the like. But there are deeper issues, ones concerning the validity of the justifications that have been given for including/excluding particular subjects or topics in the offerings of formal educational institutions. (Why should evolution or creation “science” be included, or excluded, as a topic within the standard high school subject Biology? Is the justification that is given for teaching Economics in some schools coherent and convincing? Do the justifications for including/excluding materials on birth control, patriotism, the Holocaust or wartime atrocities in the curriculum in some school districts stand up to critical scrutiny?)

The different justifications for particular items of curriculum content that have been put forward by philosophers and others since Plato’s pioneering efforts all draw, explicitly or implicitly, upon the positions that the respective theorists hold about at least three sets of issues.

First, what are the aims and/or functions of education (aims and functions are not necessarily the same)? Many aims have been proposed; a short list includes the production of knowledge and knowledgeable students, the fostering of curiosity and inquisitiveness, the enhancement of understanding, the enlargement of the imagination, the civilizing of students, the fostering of rationality and/or autonomy, and the development in students of care, concern and associated dispositions and attitudes (see Siegel 2007 for a longer list). The justifications offered for all such aims have been controversial, and alternative justifications of a single proposed aim can provoke philosophical controversy. Consider the aim of autonomy. Aristotle asked, what constitutes the good life and/or human flourishing, such that education should foster these (Curren 2013)? These two formulations are related, for it is arguable that our educational institutions should aim to equip individuals to pursue this good life—although this is not obvious, both because it is not clear that there is one conception of the good or flourishing life that is the good or flourishing life for everyone, and it is not clear that this is a question that should be settled in advance rather than determined by students for themselves. Thus, for example, if our view of human flourishing includes the capacity to think and act autonomously, then the case can be made that educational institutions—and their curricula—should aim to prepare, or help to prepare, autonomous individuals. A rival justification of the aim of autonomy, associated with Kant, champions the educational fostering of autonomy not on the basis of its contribution to human flourishing, but rather the obligation to treat students with respect as persons (Scheffler 1973 [1989]; Siegel 1988). Still others urge the fostering of autonomy on the basis of students’ fundamental interests, in ways that draw upon both Aristotelian and Kantian conceptual resources (Brighouse 2005, 2009). It is also possible to reject the fostering of autonomy as an educational aim (Hand 2006).

Assuming that the aim can be justified, how students should be helped to become autonomous or develop a conception of the good life and pursue it is of course not immediately obvious, and much philosophical ink has been spilled on the general question of how best to determine curriculum content. One influential line of argument was developed by Paul Hirst, who argued that knowledge is essential for developing and then pursuing a conception of the good life, and because logical analysis shows, he argued, that there are seven basic forms of knowledge, the case can be made that the function of the curriculum is to introduce students to each of these forms (Hirst 1965; see Phillips 1987: ch. 11). Another, suggested by Scheffler, is that curriculum content should be selected so as “to help the learner attain maximum self-sufficiency as economically as possible.” The relevant sorts of economy include those of resources, teacher effort, student effort, and the generalizability or transfer value of content, while the self-sufficiency in question includes

self-awareness, imaginative weighing of alternative courses of action, understanding of other people’s choices and ways of life, decisiveness without rigidity, emancipation from stereotyped ways of thinking and perceiving…empathy… intuition, criticism and independent judgment. (Scheffler 1973 [1989: 123–5])

Both impose important constraints on the curricular content to be taught.

Second, is it justifiable to treat the curriculum of an educational institution as a vehicle for furthering the socio-political interests and goals of a dominant group, or any particular group, including one’s own; and relatedly, is it justifiable to design the curriculum so that it serves as an instrument of control or of social engineering? In the closing decades of the twentieth century there were numerous discussions of curriculum theory, particularly from Marxist and postmodern perspectives, that offered the sobering analysis that in many educational systems, including those in Western democracies, the curriculum did indeed reflect and serve the interests of powerful cultural elites. What to do about this situation (if it is indeed the situation of contemporary educational institutions) is far from clear and is the focus of much work at the interface of philosophy of education and social/political philosophy, some of which is discussed in the next section. A closely related question is this: ought educational institutions be designed to further pre-determined social ends, or rather to enable students to competently evaluate all such ends? Scheffler argued that we should opt for the latter: we must

surrender the idea of shaping or molding the mind of the pupil. The function of education…is rather to liberate the mind, strengthen its critical powers, [and] inform it with knowledge and the capacity for independent inquiry. (Scheffler 1973 [1989: 139])

Third, should educational programs at the elementary and secondary levels be made up of a number of disparate offerings, so that individuals with different interests and abilities and affinities for learning can pursue curricula that are suitable? Or should every student pursue the same curriculum as far as each is able?—a curriculum, it should be noted, that in past cases nearly always was based on the needs or interests of those students who were academically inclined or were destined for elite social roles. Mortimer Adler and others in the late twentieth century sometimes used the aphorism “the best education for the best is the best education for all.”

The thinking here can be explicated in terms of the analogy of an out-of-control virulent disease, for which there is only one type of medicine available; taking a large dose of this medicine is extremely beneficial, and the hope is that taking only a little—while less effective—is better than taking none at all. Medically, this is dubious, while the educational version—forcing students to work, until they exit the system, on topics that do not interest them and for which they have no facility or motivation—has even less merit. (For a critique of Adler and his Paideia Proposal , see Noddings 2015.) It is interesting to compare the modern “one curriculum track for all” position with Plato’s system outlined in the Republic , according to which all students—and importantly this included girls—set out on the same course of study. Over time, as they moved up the educational ladder it would become obvious that some had reached the limit imposed upon them by nature, and they would be directed off into appropriate social roles in which they would find fulfillment, for their abilities would match the demands of these roles. Those who continued on with their education would eventually become members of the ruling class of Guardians.

The publication of John Rawls’s A Theory of Justice in 1971 was the most notable event in the history of political philosophy over the last century. The book spurred a period of ferment in political philosophy that included, among other things, new research on educationally fundamental themes. The principles of justice in educational distribution have perhaps been the dominant theme in this literature, and Rawls’s influence on its development has been pervasive.

Rawls’s theory of justice made so-called “fair equality of opportunity” one of its constitutive principles. Fair equality of opportunity entailed that the distribution of education would not put the children of those who currently occupied coveted social positions at any competitive advantage over other, equally talented and motivated children seeking the qualifications for those positions (Rawls 1971: 72–75). Its purpose was to prevent socio-economic differences from hardening into social castes that were perpetuated across generations. One obvious criticism of fair equality of opportunity is that it does not prohibit an educational distribution that lavished resources on the most talented children while offering minimal opportunities to others. So long as untalented students from wealthy families were assigned opportunities no better than those available to their untalented peers among the poor, no breach of the principle would occur. Even the most moderate egalitarians might find such a distributive regime to be intuitively repugnant.

Repugnance might be mitigated somewhat by the ways in which the overall structure of Rawls’s conception of justice protects the interests of those who fare badly in educational competition. All citizens must enjoy the same basic liberties, and equal liberty always has moral priority over equal opportunity: the former can never be compromised to advance the latter. Further, inequality in the distribution of income and wealth are permitted only to the degree that it serves the interests of the least advantaged group in society. But even with these qualifications, fair equality of opportunity is arguably less than really fair to anyone. The fact that their education should secure ends other than access to the most selective social positions—ends such as artistic appreciation, the kind of self-knowledge that humanistic study can furnish, or civic virtue—is deemed irrelevant according to Rawls’s principle. But surely it is relevant, given that a principle of educational justice must be responsive to the full range of educationally important goods.

Suppose we revise our account of the goods included in educational distribution so that aesthetic appreciation, say, and the necessary understanding and virtue for conscientious citizenship count for just as much as job-related skills. An interesting implication of doing so is that the rationale for requiring equality under any just distribution becomes decreasingly clear. That is because job-related skills are positional whereas the other educational goods are not (Hollis 1982). If you and I both aspire to a career in business management for which we are equally qualified, any increase in your job-related skills is a corresponding disadvantage to me unless I can catch up. Positional goods have a competitive structure by definition, though the ends of civic or aesthetic education do not fit that structure. If you and I aspire to be good citizens and are equal in civic understanding and virtue, an advance in your civic education is no disadvantage to me. On the contrary, it is easier to be a good citizen the better other citizens learn to be. At the very least, so far as non-positional goods figure in our conception of what counts as a good education, the moral stakes of inequality are thereby lowered.

In fact, an emerging alternative to fair equality of opportunity is a principle that stipulates some benchmark of adequacy in achievement or opportunity as the relevant standard of distribution. But it is misleading to represent this as a contrast between egalitarian and sufficientarian conceptions. Philosophically serious interpretations of adequacy derive from the ideal of equal citizenship (Satz 2007; Anderson 2007). Then again, fair equality of opportunity in Rawls’s theory is derived from a more fundamental ideal of equality among citizens. This was arguably true in A Theory of Justice but it is certainly true in his later work (Dworkin 1977: 150–183; Rawls 1993). So, both Rawls’s principle and the emerging alternative share an egalitarian foundation. The debate between adherents of equal opportunity and those misnamed as sufficientarians is certainly not over (e.g., Brighouse & Swift 2009; Jacobs 2010; Warnick 2015). Further progress will likely hinge on explicating the most compelling conception of the egalitarian foundation from which distributive principles are to be inferred. Another Rawls-inspired alternative is that a “prioritarian” distribution of achievement or opportunity might turn out to be the best principle we can come up with—i.e., one that favors the interests of the least advantaged students (Schouten 2012).

The publication of Rawls’s Political Liberalism in 1993 signaled a decisive turning point in his thinking about justice. In his earlier book, the theory of justice had been presented as if it were universally valid. But Rawls had come to think that any theory of justice presented as such was open to reasonable rejection. A more circumspect approach to justification would seek grounds for justice as fairness in an overlapping consensus between the many reasonable values and doctrines that thrive in a democratic political culture. Rawls argued that such a culture is informed by a shared ideal of free and equal citizenship that provided a new, distinctively democratic framework for justifying a conception of justice. The shift to political liberalism involved little revision on Rawls’s part to the content of the principles he favored. But the salience it gave to questions about citizenship in the fabric of liberal political theory had important educational implications. How was the ideal of free and equal citizenship to be instantiated in education in a way that accommodated the range of reasonable values and doctrines encompassed in an overlapping consensus? Political Liberalism has inspired a range of answers to that question (cf. Callan 1997; Clayton 2006; Bull 2008).

Other philosophers besides Rawls in the 1990s took up a cluster of questions about civic education, and not always from a liberal perspective. Alasdair Macintyre’s After Virtue (1984) strongly influenced the development of communitarian political theory which, as its very name might suggest, argued that the cultivation of community could preempt many of the problems with conflicting individual rights at the core of liberalism. As a full-standing alternative to liberalism, communitarianism might have little to recommend it. But it was a spur for liberal philosophers to think about how communities could be built and sustained to support the more familiar projects of liberal politics (e.g., Strike 2010). Furthermore, its arguments often converged with those advanced by feminist exponents of the ethic of care (Noddings 1984; Gilligan 1982). Noddings’ work is particularly notable because she inferred a cogent and radical agenda for the reform of schools from her conception of care (Noddings 1992).

One persistent controversy in citizenship theory has been about whether patriotism is correctly deemed a virtue, given our obligations to those who are not our fellow citizens in an increasingly interdependent world and the sordid history of xenophobia with which modern nation states are associated. The controversy is partly about what we should teach in our schools and is commonly discussed by philosophers in that context (Galston 1991; Ben-Porath 2006; Callan 2006; Miller 2007; Curren & Dorn 2018). The controversy is related to a deeper and more pervasive question about how morally or intellectually taxing the best conception of our citizenship should be. The more taxing it is, the more constraining its derivative conception of civic education will be. Contemporary political philosophers offer divergent arguments about these matters. For example, Gutmann and Thompson claim that citizens of diverse democracies need to “understand the diverse ways of life of their fellow citizens” (Gutmann & Thompson 1996: 66). The need arises from the obligation of reciprocity which they (like Rawls) believe to be integral to citizenship. Because I must seek to cooperate with others politically on terms that make sense from their moral perspective as well as my own, I must be ready to enter that perspective imaginatively so as to grasp its distinctive content. Many such perspectives prosper in liberal democracies, and so the task of reciprocal understanding is necessarily onerous. Still, our actions qua deliberative citizen must be grounded in such reciprocity if political cooperation on terms acceptable to us as (diversely) morally motivated citizens is to be possible at all. This is tantamount to an imperative to think autonomously inside the role of citizen because I cannot close-mindedly resist critical consideration of moral views alien to my own without flouting my responsibilities as a deliberative citizen.

Civic education does not exhaust the domain of moral education, even though the more robust conceptions of equal citizenship have far-reaching implications for just relations in civil society and the family. The study of moral education has traditionally taken its bearings from normative ethics rather than political philosophy, and this is largely true of work undertaken in recent decades. The major development here has been the revival of virtue ethics as an alternative to the deontological and consequentialist theories that dominated discussion for much of the twentieth century.

The defining idea of virtue ethics is that our criterion of moral right and wrong must derive from a conception of how the ideally virtuous agent would distinguish between the two. Virtue ethics is thus an alternative to both consequentialism and deontology which locate the relevant criterion in producing good consequences or meeting the requirements of moral duty respectively. The debate about the comparative merits of these theories is not resolved, but from an educational perspective that may be less important than it has sometimes seemed to antagonists in the debate. To be sure, adjudicating between rival theories in normative ethics might shed light on how best to construe the process of moral education, and philosophical reflection on the process might help us to adjudicate between the theories. There has been extensive work on habituation and virtue, largely inspired by Aristotle (Burnyeat 1980; Peters 1981). But whether this does anything to establish the superiority of virtue ethics over its competitors is far from obvious. Other aspects of moral education—in particular, the paired processes of role-modelling and identification—deserve much more scrutiny than they have received (Audi 2017; Kristjánsson 2015, 2017).

Related to the issues concerning the aims and functions of education and schooling rehearsed above are those involving the specifically epistemic aims of education and attendant issues treated by social and virtue epistemologists. (The papers collected in Kotzee 2013 and Baehr 2016 highlight the current and growing interactions among social epistemologists, virtue epistemologists, and philosophers of education.)

There is, first, a lively debate concerning putative epistemic aims. Alvin Goldman argues that truth (or knowledge understood in the “weak” sense of true belief) is the fundamental epistemic aim of education (Goldman 1999). Others, including the majority of historically significant philosophers of education, hold that critical thinking or rationality and rational belief (or knowledge in the “strong” sense that includes justification) is the basic epistemic educational aim (Bailin & Siegel 2003; Scheffler 1965, 1973 [1989]; Siegel 1988, 1997, 2005, 2017). Catherine Z. Elgin (1999a,b) and Duncan Pritchard (2013, 2016; Carter & Pritchard 2017) have independently urged that understanding is the basic aim. Pritchard’s view combines understanding with intellectual virtue ; Jason Baehr (2011) systematically defends the fostering of the intellectual virtues as the fundamental epistemic aim of education. This cluster of views continues to engender ongoing discussion and debate. (Its complex literature is collected in Carter and Kotzee 2015, summarized in Siegel 2018, and helpfully analyzed in Watson 2016.)

A further controversy concerns the places of testimony and trust in the classroom: In what circumstances if any ought students to trust their teachers’ pronouncements, and why? Here the epistemology of education is informed by social epistemology, specifically the epistemology of testimony; the familiar reductionism/anti-reductionism controversy there is applicable to students and teachers. Anti-reductionists, who regard testimony as a basic source of justification, may with equanimity approve of students’ taking their teachers’ word at face value and believing what they say; reductionists may balk. Does teacher testimony itself constitute good reason for student belief?

The correct answer here seems clearly enough to be “it depends”. For very young children who have yet to acquire or develop the ability to subject teacher declarations to critical scrutiny, there seems to be little alternative to accepting what their teachers tell them. For older and more cognitively sophisticated students there seem to be more options: they can assess them for plausibility, compare them with other opinions, assess the teachers’ proffered reasons, subject them to independent evaluation, etc. Regarding “the teacher says that p ” as itself a good reason to believe it appears moreover to contravene the widely shared conviction that an important educational aim is helping students to become able to evaluate candidate beliefs for themselves and believe accordingly. That said, all sides agree that sometimes believers, including students, have good reasons simply to trust what others tell them. There is thus more work to do here by both social epistemologists and philosophers of education (for further discussion see Goldberg 2013; Siegel 2005, 2018).

A further cluster of questions, of long-standing interest to philosophers of education, concerns indoctrination : How if at all does it differ from legitimate teaching? Is it inevitable, and if so is it not always necessarily bad? First, what is it? As we saw earlier, extant analyses focus on the aims or intentions of the indoctrinator, the methods employed, or the content transmitted. If the indoctrination is successful, all have the result that students/victims either don’t, won’t, or can’t subject the indoctrinated material to proper epistemic evaluation. In this way it produces both belief that is evidentially unsupported or contravened and uncritical dispositions to believe. It might seem obvious that indoctrination, so understood, is educationally undesirable. But it equally seems that very young children, at least, have no alternative but to believe sans evidence; they have yet to acquire the dispositions to seek and evaluate evidence, or the abilities to recognize evidence or evaluate it. Thus we seem driven to the views that indoctrination is both unavoidable and yet bad and to be avoided. It is not obvious how this conundrum is best handled. One option is to distinguish between acceptable and unacceptable indoctrination. Another is to distinguish between indoctrination (which is always bad) and non-indoctrinating belief inculcation, the latter being such that students are taught some things without reasons (the alphabet, the numbers, how to read and count, etc.), but in such a way that critical evaluation of all such material (and everything else) is prized and fostered (Siegel 1988: ch. 5). In the end the distinctions required by the two options might be extensionally equivalent (Siegel 2018).

Education, it is generally granted, fosters belief : in the typical propositional case, Smith teaches Jones that p , and if all goes well Jones learns it and comes to believe it. Education also has the task of fostering open-mindedness and an appreciation of our fallibility : All the theorists mentioned thus far, especially those in the critical thinking and intellectual virtue camps, urge their importance. But these two might seem at odds. If Jones (fully) believes that p , can she also be open-minded about it? Can she believe, for example, that earthquakes are caused by the movements of tectonic plates, while also believing that perhaps they aren’t? This cluster of italicized notions requires careful handling; it is helpfully discussed by Jonathan Adler (2002, 2003), who recommends regarding the latter two as meta-attitudes concerning one’s first-order beliefs rather than lessened degrees of belief or commitments to those beliefs.

Other traditional epistemological worries that impinge upon the epistemology of education concern (a) absolutism , pluralism and relativism with respect to knowledge, truth and justification as these relate to what is taught, (b) the character and status of group epistemologies and the prospects for understanding such epistemic goods “universalistically” in the face of “particularist” challenges, (c) the relation between “knowledge-how” and “knowledge-that” and their respective places in the curriculum, (d) concerns raised by multiculturalism and the inclusion/exclusion of marginalized perspectives in curriculum content and the classroom, and (e) further issues concerning teaching and learning. (There is more here than can be briefly summarized; for more references and systematic treatment cf. Bailin & Siegel 2003; Carter & Kotzee 2015; Cleverley & Phillips 1986; Robertson 2009; Siegel 2004, 2017; and Watson 2016.)

The educational research enterprise has been criticized for a century or more by politicians, policymakers, administrators, curriculum developers, teachers, philosophers of education, and by researchers themselves—but the criticisms have been contradictory. Charges of being “too ivory tower and theory-oriented” are found alongside “too focused on practice and too atheoretical”; but in light of the views of John Dewey and William James that the function of theory is to guide intelligent practice and problem-solving, it is becoming more fashionable to hold that the “theory v. practice” dichotomy is a false one. (For an illuminating account of the historical development of educational research and its tribulations, see Lagemann 2000.)

A similar trend can be discerned with respect to the long warfare between two rival groups of research methods—on one hand quantitative/statistical approaches to research, and on the other hand the qualitative/ethnographic family. (The choice of labels here is not entirely risk-free, for they have been contested; furthermore the first approach is quite often associated with “experimental” studies, and the latter with “case studies”, but this is an over-simplification.) For several decades these two rival methodological camps were treated by researchers and a few philosophers of education as being rival paradigms (Kuhn’s ideas, albeit in a very loose form, have been influential in the field of educational research), and the dispute between them was commonly referred to as “the paradigm wars”. In essence the issue at stake was epistemological: members of the quantitative/experimental camp believed that only their methods could lead to well-warranted knowledge claims, especially about the causal factors at play in educational phenomena, and on the whole they regarded qualitative methods as lacking in rigor; on the other hand the adherents of qualitative/ethnographic approaches held that the other camp was too “positivistic” and was operating with an inadequate view of causation in human affairs—one that ignored the role of motives and reasons, possession of relevant background knowledge, awareness of cultural norms, and the like. Few if any commentators in the “paradigm wars” suggested that there was anything prohibiting the use of both approaches in the one research program—provided that if both were used, they were used only sequentially or in parallel, for they were underwritten by different epistemologies and hence could not be blended together. But recently the trend has been towards rapprochement, towards the view that the two methodological families are, in fact, compatible and are not at all like paradigms in the Kuhnian sense(s) of the term; the melding of the two approaches is often called “mixed methods research”, and it is growing in popularity. (For more detailed discussion of these “wars” see Howe 2003 and Phillips 2009.)

The most lively contemporary debates about education research, however, were set in motion around the turn of the millennium when the US Federal Government moved in the direction of funding only rigorously scientific educational research—the kind that could establish causal factors which could then guide the development of practically effective policies. (It was held that such a causal knowledge base was available for medical decision-making.) The definition of “rigorously scientific”, however, was decided by politicians and not by the research community, and it was given in terms of the use of a specific research method—the net effect being that the only research projects to receive Federal funding were those that carried out randomized controlled experiments or field trials (RFTs). It has become common over the last decade to refer to the RFT as the “gold standard” methodology.

The National Research Council (NRC)—an arm of the US National Academies of Science—issued a report, influenced by postpostivistic philosophy of science (NRC 2002), that argued that this criterion was far too narrow. Numerous essays have appeared subsequently that point out how the “gold standard” account of scientific rigor distorts the history of science, how the complex nature of the relation between evidence and policy-making has been distorted and made to appear overly simple (for instance the role of value-judgments in linking empirical findings to policy directives is often overlooked), and qualitative researchers have insisted upon the scientific nature of their work. Nevertheless, and possibly because it tried to be balanced and supported the use of RFTs in some research contexts, the NRC report has been the subject of symposia in four journals, where it has been supported by a few and attacked from a variety of philosophical fronts: Its authors were positivists, they erroneously believed that educational inquiry could be value neutral and that it could ignore the ways in which the exercise of power constrains the research process, they misunderstood the nature of educational phenomena, and so on. This cluster of issues continues to be debated by educational researchers and by philosophers of education and of science, and often involves basic topics in philosophy of science: the constitution of warranting evidence, the nature of theories and of confirmation and explanation, etc. Nancy Cartwright’s important recent work on causation, evidence, and evidence-based policy adds layers of both philosophical sophistication and real world practical analysis to the central issues just discussed (Cartwright & Hardie 2012, Cartwright 2013; cf. Kvernbekk 2015 for an overview of the controversies regarding evidence in the education and philosophy of education literatures).

As stressed earlier, it is impossible to do justice to the whole field of philosophy of education in a single encyclopedia entry. Different countries around the world have their own intellectual traditions and their own ways of institutionalizing philosophy of education in the academic universe, and no discussion of any of this appears in the present essay. But even in the Anglo-American world there is such a diversity of approaches that any author attempting to produce a synoptic account will quickly run into the borders of his or her competence. Clearly this has happened in the present case.

Fortunately, in the last thirty years or so resources have become available that significantly alleviate these problems. There has been a flood of encyclopedia entries, both on the field as a whole and also on many specific topics not well-covered in the present essay (see, as a sample, Burbules 1994; Chambliss 1996b; Curren 1998, 2018; Phillips 1985, 2010; Siegel 2007; Smeyers 1994), two “Encyclopedias” (Chambliss 1996a; Phillips 2014), a “Guide” (Blake, Smeyers, Smith, & Standish 2003), a “Companion” (Curren 2003), two “Handbooks” (Siegel 2009; Bailey, Barrow, Carr, & McCarthy 2010), a comprehensive anthology (Curren 2007), a dictionary of key concepts in the field (Winch & Gingell 1999), and a good textbook or two (Carr 2003; Noddings 2015). In addition there are numerous volumes both of reprinted selections and of specially commissioned essays on specific topics, some of which were given short shrift here (for another sampling see A. Rorty 1998, Stone 1994), and several international journals, including Theory and Research in Education , Journal of Philosophy of Education , Educational Theory , Studies in Philosophy and Education , and Educational Philosophy and Theory . Thus there is more than enough material available to keep the interested reader busy.

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How to cite this entry . Preview the PDF version of this entry at the Friends of the SEP Society . Look up topics and thinkers related to this entry at the Internet Philosophy Ontology Project (InPhO). Enhanced bibliography for this entry at PhilPapers , with links to its database.
  • PES (Philosophy of Education Society, North America)
  • PESA (Philosophy of Education Society of Australasia)
  • PESGB (Philosophy of Education Society of Great Britain)
  • INPE (International Network of Philosophers of Education)

autonomy: personal | Dewey, John | feminist philosophy, interventions: ethics | feminist philosophy, interventions: liberal feminism | feminist philosophy, interventions: political philosophy | feminist philosophy, topics: perspectives on autonomy | feminist philosophy, topics: perspectives on disability | Foucault, Michel | Gadamer, Hans-Georg | liberalism | Locke, John | Lyotard, Jean François | -->ordinary language --> | Plato | postmodernism | Rawls, John | rights: of children | Rousseau, Jean Jacques


The authors and editors would like to thank Randall Curren for sending a number of constructive suggestions for the Summer 2018 update of this entry.

Copyright © 2018 by Harvey Siegel D.C. Phillips Eamonn Callan

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Essay on Purpose of Education

Students are often asked to write an essay on Purpose of Education in their schools and colleges. And if you’re also looking for the same, we have created 100-word, 250-word, and 500-word essays on the topic.

Let’s take a look…

100 Words Essay on Purpose of Education


Education is a vital tool for personal and societal growth. It equips us with knowledge and skills, paving the way for a successful life.

Knowledge Acquisition

Education provides us with a deep understanding of the world around us. It helps us learn about various fields like science, history, and mathematics.

Character Building

Education shapes our character. It instills values like discipline, respect, and responsibility, making us better individuals.

Future Preparation

Education prepares us for the future. It enhances our ability to make informed decisions, solve problems, and contribute to society.

In conclusion, the purpose of education is to empower us, foster critical thinking, and promote social harmony.

250 Words Essay on Purpose of Education

The essence of education.

Education is not just about acquiring knowledge or skills; it’s a multifaceted process that shapes individuals and societies. Its purpose transcends mere literacy, aiming to foster critical thinking, instill values, and stimulate intellectual growth.

Education as a Tool for Personal Development

Education serves as a powerful tool for personal development. It equips individuals with the cognitive skills necessary to understand the world and their place within it. It enhances creativity, critical thinking, and problem-solving abilities, thereby enabling individuals to navigate life’s complexities.

Catalyst for Social Change

Education is a catalyst for social change. It promotes social cohesion by instilling a sense of responsibility and respect for diversity. It empowers individuals to challenge social injustices, thereby fostering a more equitable society.

Driving Force for Economic Growth

Education also acts as a driving force for economic growth. A well-educated populace is more likely to innovate, increasing productivity and economic prosperity. It also contributes to the reduction of poverty, as it enhances employability and income potential.

Education and Sustainability

Lastly, education plays a pivotal role in promoting sustainability. By teaching about the environment and the importance of conservation, it fosters a generation of responsible stewards of the planet.

In conclusion, the purpose of education is manifold. It’s a tool for personal development, a catalyst for social change, a driving force for economic growth, and a means to promote sustainability. It’s about shaping not just knowledgeable individuals, but also responsible global citizens.

500 Words Essay on Purpose of Education

The purpose of education: an overview.

Education is a powerful tool that shapes individuals and societies, fostering the development of knowledge, skills, and values. It is a process of intellectual and moral growth that begins at birth and continues throughout life. Education’s purpose is multi-faceted, and its importance cannot be overstated.

Empowerment and Self-Actualization

Firstly, education serves as a means of empowerment. It equips individuals with the necessary tools to navigate the world, make informed decisions, and contribute meaningfully to society. An educated person is less likely to be manipulated or exploited, as they possess the cognitive abilities to discern truth from falsehood.

Moreover, education facilitates self-actualization, a concept introduced by Abraham Maslow. It allows individuals to reach their full potential, pursue their interests, and achieve personal satisfaction. Education is not merely about acquiring knowledge; it is about understanding oneself and one’s place in the world.

Promotion of Equality and Social Cohesion

Secondly, education promotes equality and social cohesion. It is a great equalizer, offering opportunities to all, regardless of their socio-economic background. By providing equal access to knowledge and skills, education can help bridge the socio-economic gap and foster a more egalitarian society.

Education also fosters social cohesion by teaching individuals to respect diversity and embrace pluralism. It encourages tolerance and understanding, essential for peaceful coexistence in an increasingly multicultural world.

Driving Economic Growth and Innovation

Thirdly, education drives economic growth and innovation. An educated workforce is vital for the economic prosperity of a nation. It leads to increased productivity, which in turn fuels economic growth.

Furthermore, education fosters innovation by encouraging critical thinking and problem-solving skills. It nurtures creativity and curiosity, driving technological advancements and scientific discoveries that propel societies forward.

Creating Responsible Citizens

Lastly, education plays a crucial role in creating responsible citizens. It imparts civic knowledge, instills ethical values, and promotes a sense of social responsibility. Education helps individuals understand their rights and responsibilities, fostering a sense of civic duty and encouraging active participation in democratic processes.

In conclusion, the purpose of education extends beyond imparting knowledge. It is about empowering individuals, promoting equality, driving economic growth, fostering innovation, and creating responsible citizens. Education is not just a means to an end; it is an end in itself, a lifelong journey of personal and societal growth. It is the cornerstone of a progressive, inclusive, and prosperous society. As Nelson Mandela aptly put it, “Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.”

That’s it! I hope the essay helped you.

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Essay on Education for School Students and Children

500+ words essay on education.

Education is an important tool which is very useful in everybody’s life. Education is what differentiates us from other living beings on earth. It makes man the smartest creature on earth. It empowers humans and gets them ready to face challenges of life efficiently. With that being said, education still remains a luxury and not a necessity in our country. Educational awareness needs to be spread through the country to make education accessible. But, this remains incomplete without first analyzing the importance of education. Only when the people realize what significance it holds, can they consider it a necessity for a good life. In this essay on Education, we will see the importance of education and how it is a doorway to success.

essay on education

Importance of Education

Education is the most significant tool in eliminating poverty and unemployment . Moreover, it enhances the commercial scenario and benefits the country overall. So, the higher the level of education in a country, the better the chances of development are.

In addition, this education also benefits an individual in various ways. It helps a person take a better and informed decision with the use of their knowledge. This increases the success rate of a person in life.

Subsequently, education is also responsible for providing with an enhanced lifestyle. It gives you career opportunities that can increase your quality of life.

Similarly, education also helps in making a person independent. When one is educated enough, they won’t have to depend on anyone else for their livelihood. They will be self-sufficient to earn for themselves and lead a good life.

Above all, education also enhances the self-confidence of a person and makes them certain of things in life. When we talk from the countries viewpoint, even then education plays a significant role. Educated people vote for the better candidate of the country. This ensures the development and growth of a nation.

Get the huge list of more than 500 Essay Topics and Ideas

Doorway to Success

To say that education is your doorway to success would be an understatement. It serves as the key which will unlock numerous doors that will lead to success. This will, in turn, help you build a better life for yourself.

An educated person has a lot of job opportunities waiting for them on the other side of the door. They can choose from a variety of options and not be obligated to do something they dislike. Most importantly, education impacts our perception positively. It helps us choose the right path and look at things from various viewpoints rather than just one.

purpose of education in life essay

With education, you can enhance your productivity and complete a task better in comparison to an uneducated person. However, one must always ensure that education solely does not ensure success.

It is a doorway to success which requires hard work, dedication and more after which can you open it successfully. All of these things together will make you successful in life.

In conclusion, education makes you a better person and teaches you various skills. It enhances your intellect and the ability to make rational decisions. It enhances the individual growth of a person.

Education also improves the economic growth of a country . Above all, it aids in building a better society for the citizens of a country. It helps to destroy the darkness of ignorance and bring light to the world.

purpose of education in life essay

FAQs on Education

Q.1 Why is Education Important?

A.1 Education is important because it is responsible for the overall development of a person. It helps you acquire skills which are necessary for becoming successful in life.

Q.2 How does Education serve as a Doorway to Success?

A.2 Education is a doorway to success because it offers you job opportunities. Furthermore, it changes our perception of life and makes it better.

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