The Purpose of Education?


Here are my 500 Words for the Purpose of Education debate. It turned into a bit of a personal ramble and so I apologise if it is not up to the standard of many of the other posts.

What is the purpose of education?

 As a teacher I always hope to develop a sense of ambition amongst the children in my class. I want them to achieve and to feel pride when they do so. What counts as an achievement will be different for each child but I think as educators it is important for us to recognise them in whatever form they take. So I could say that education is about fostering ambition and inspiring children to want to learn and to have pride in their own achievements.

One problem with this is with the ambitions that children may have. Much has been written about the cult of the celebrity. Shows like the X-Factor and Big Brother have been accused of turning all children into wannabe pop stars and TV personalities. There are so many television programmes which rely on “Celebrities” – for example why did the producers of Family Fortunes decide that real families weren’t enough and they had to have “celebrities” instead. So who are the role models for our children? I always try to show the children that I am interested in what they are learning as well. Whenever I plan a lesson I try and make sure it is something that interests me otherwise how can I convincingly convey an enthusiasm for the subject – an enthusiasm that I hope will rub off onto at least some of the children. So is the purpose of education about giving children positive role models and people to look up to? In my ICT room I have a display about Computing pioneers, people such as Charles Babbage, Alan Turing and Ada Lovelace. If children ask about them then I tell them about how and why they are pioneers.

 I am writing this as I await the imminent birth of my first child and so some of my thoughts are turning towards what I hope for my son. I want him to be able to be creative, imaginative and to have a love for learning. I want him to enjoy discovering the world around him, to be curious and to ask questions. I think the purpose of education is to achieve all of these things for every child.

 When I think back to my childhood and how education affected me I am actually struggling to remember many truly inspirational teachers. Two stand out for me; my GCSE History teacher who had such an enthusiasm for the subject it was contagious and my GCSE Maths teacher who made me realise that maths was more than just numbers – that it could be mysterious, intriguing, beautiful. Thinking further back towards my Primary schooling I struggle even more to remember theses sources of inspiration but one person has always stood out to me – my Grandfather. He is a regular pub quizzer and as a result has bookshelves full of old encyclopaedias, atlases and other reference books. I remember as a very small child looking through these books and talking to my Granddad about the people and places in them. He inspired me to want to learn more and all these years later I still have a thirst for knowledge and an enthusiasm for a wide range of subjects. Maybe that is the purpose of education.

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3 thoughts on “The Purpose of Education?

  1. Excellent Chris, this is the first time (I believe) that people have explicitly focused on the importance of role models. My father was the Deputy Head of my school, my football team manager and my Dad. As a result, he was a role model for me, encouraging me to be a lot more outgoing and confident than I think I would otherwise be.

    Other role models? Well for me, they come from university. My lecturers were – as you alluded to above – so enthusiastic about their subject that their enthusiasm rubbed off on me.

    Great stuff – thanks for sharing. 🙂

  2. I really liked this post – it’s interesting how everyone has a different slant on the question, let alone the answer!

    I’m probably often guilty of aiming to raise aspirations with the ideas, rather than people. I’ll have to think about who I could use in a science classroom to inspire student, ideally before they’re able to realise how much science as a process can make a difference. Thanks for making me think!

  3. I agree with Doug that your role model observation is a point well made. It’s unfortunate that many of the greatest endeavours of the modern age – particularly in science and technology – have become huge collaborative efforts, and therefore lack single, all-conquering, role models. We have to work harder to find great role models – people who have actually created / discovered / achieved something genuinely important.

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