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Published on April 3rd, 2011 | by Mark Anderson

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What is the purpose of education?

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This debate has really got me thinking. What is the purpose of education?

I have been lucky to have become a father twice over in the last two (and a bit) years and that, coupled with some life changing experiences, such as seeing young refugees being taught at the Cowandilla Climate Change school in Adelaide, SA, working alongside inspirational colleagues such as Jim (The Lazy Teacher) Smith have really got me thinking about the purpose of education. I think I should also pay homage to the people I follow on Twitter as part of my PLN – the inspirational people I see on Twitter every single day who challenge the status quo, share their outstanding practice and push the boundaries of education.

It’s made me think back about my own experiences in education. I come from a working class family but was ‘fortunate’ when I was a child to attend a Grammar School where the education was “some of the best in the country”. I attended classes in Latin and Classics alongside a Gove-esque e-bacc education and was encouraged to join the School Choir and embrace the heritage of such a prestigious School steeped in history every year on Founder’s day. The purpose of education in this establishment was very much to get as many students in to Oxbridge as possible, but was that education fit for purpose? Was it purposeful education? Well – if the purpose is to get a certain number of people in to top Universities, then yes it is – but I believe the purpose of education is something quite a bit different to that. Certainly I feel now that this was a type of education that failed me.

Galileo said “All truths are easy to understand once they are discovered; the point is to discover them.” couple that with the Einstein quote, “…the problems that exist in the world today cannot be solved by the level of thinking that created them.” and you arrive at my philosophy that I believe it is our moral duty to ensure that we give our students the opportunity to discover their own truths and to use that learning to solve the problems of tomorrow.

Like @TomBarrett, I want my sons to receive an education where, rather than be failed, they are encouraged to fail; where they have the opportunity to make mistakes and receive the support and space to help them learn from them. Yes, they should be pushed to achieve their potential and gain qualifications, but that is not the sole purpose of education. They should also have the opportunity to gain the skills they need in life to be resilient, physically and mentally fit, to be inquisitive, to be both analogue and digitally savvy and have the opportunity to develop querying and analytical minds so that they can effectively contribute and succeed in our broken world. So that they can find out truths and help solve the problems of tomorrow. That is the purpose of education, not just for my sons, but for everyone.

500 or so words

For more information or to join the debate, visit http://purposed.org.uk/

#purposed #500words

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About the Author

Assistant Headteacher and author of the successful "Perfect ICT Every Lesson book". Also an Apple Distinguished Educator.



3 Responses to What is the purpose of education?

  1. Mark Allen says:

    I really feel the same way about so much of your post, Mark – I’m the product of an eleven-plus, grammar school, university route through education and it’s only recently with the arrival of children, getting involved in education – and maybe even the questions posed by this series – that I’ve realised that it failed me. And yet it offered an escape route out of a particular socio-economic background for so many kids – an escape which seems more difficult today. Maybe that just shows how poor the education offered to other kids was…

  2. Julia Skinner says:

    I so agree about the resilience. We seem to have many folk who don’t know what to do if someone isn’t there telling them, & then give up when it doesn’t go to plan. I think we need to instill a sense of aspiration too. We need a bit more get up & go at ‘em!

  3. Kishore Vyas says:

    Hi Mark. We met at the Festival of Education where I asked you a rather poorly constructed question about tech for learning. I can see what you are saying and its going to take a different kind of thinking to solve the problems we face. I have two youngsters of my own and I want for them, more than what the powers that be want for kids today (more than just certain benchmarks for ‘success’). My personal mission, to sound grandiose, is to help level the playing field between those who have opportunities and those that don’t. If knowledge is power, then in the information age, power is potentially everywhere. And I guess we want the power to change things for the better to be accessible to everyone. Onward the learning revolution!

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