The purpose of education

*Originally posted at Learning Exchanges on 9 February 2011

I’m always banging on about the purpose of education. So, I wondered what some of my friends [not in education] would say when asked “what is the purpose of education?

“about empowering people, gaining a sense of responsibility and self-worth, learning social skills and improving confidence which in turn, gives everyone equal opportunities to succeed”. [AR, NHS executive assistant, fab charity trustee]

“opening your mind to ideas and experiences beyond your own small life and surroundings. Learning to challenge, test, implement, innovate.” [HM, home-maker]

“passing accurate information between people, in formal education, vocationally, socially, or even self-teaching. It is about self-enlightenment and our beliefs.” [SS, friend]

“not just about achievement, or the ability to speak eloquently and with knowledge. It should enable us to think for ourselves and hold our own in society. Ergo it becomes a thing of great beauty.” [AG, social care manager]

“to open the minds of those being educated to provide them with the tools to reach their full potential.” [DR, footballist, management accountant]

“society’s way of giving its citizens coping mechanisms to survive within their environment; to learn and adapt that learning to your needs or those of your community.” [CE, anarchist-plummer, drummer]

“learning something new, and can be intentional and unintentional – when we set out to learn something from school, or elders and peers, or research. [Or it’s] from life experience where we absorb knowledge but perhaps don’t realise it until we reflect or act on it.” [CC, dog-walker]

“the apprenticeship of the mind, body and soul in preparation of everything life throws at you… a lifelong process of self-discovery.” [DY, car driver, festival-goer]

“a huge force for good; inspired education supports the self development of the human race. Ignorant education or the education of ignorance is the planet’s greatest enemy.” [DF, spent the first 20 years of life avoiding education; spent the following 20 years wishing it was otherwise]

“about offering possibilities – understanding what is, what might be, what you want to be, what you don’t want to be. It is a right and a privilege.” [PD, Mom, Office Manager]

“to inspire dreams and provide the means to follow them.” [MH, Dad]

“to empower the individual by learning from others’ experiences, and to encourage a sense of society and one’s place in it.” [RD, engineer]

“to help people realise their potential and have a greater understanding and appreciation of the world and all its inhabitants.” [JD, electrician]

“the opportunity to open doors. The chance to explore and develop our own beliefs, shape our ideas, and give us the information to challenge what happens in our world.” [DE, Artistic Director]

“to teach you the lines, then to see the lines and draw them for yourself, and finally to read between them, for that is where just about anything that is worth a damn sits.” [NW, child psychologist]

So my friends highlight a purpose that isn’t about accreditation or employability. It is about self-discovery, sociability, dreaming, place and resilience. The purpose of education is us.

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