What is the purpose of education? (Written as requested, and to contribute to, the #purpos/ed campaign)
When reading this I need to make it clear that I’m not an expert in education. I know nothing about the many different kinds of literacies out there, scholarly theories on the functionality of cognitive acceleration or trans-educational warp drives (I made the last one up). I make comment only in reference to the context and experience of my work in low socio-economic areas of South Yorkshire, UK.
The very aspect of ‘context’ is a central principle to my thoughts on the purpose of education. And for me, everything should centre around the individual’s context: themselves, their community and their society (probably in that order). Although these circumstances vary throughout the world, the principle still applies – education must be tailored around those contexts and environments that enable people to flourish within it. The context maybe constantly changing, so lets take that into consideration – the people within that environment will want different things, so lets take that into consideration. Education is something done by you, not to you.
Essentially, the outcome ought to be a knowledge/skill set that enables people to achieve what they may not have been able to achieve if not for education. Consequently, that knowledge/skill set will be different for an Inuit living in the Canadian Arctic compared to a Londoner in the UK. There will be similarities and differences, but an educational facilitation of some kind (formal or informal) will still take place that makes stuff happen.
I love how Ian Gilbert opens chapter 1 of his book: ‘Essential motivation in the classroom’:
‘Bad news I’m afraid. The culmination of 6 million years’ worth of neurological evolution is not the GCSE’
The current educational establishment in the UK seems to be placing everything on qualifications such as the GCSE. Don’t get me wrong: the context of the UK in 2011 means that qualifications are essential for people to enter further educational establishments and the world of work. Indeed, I recognise and embrace the importance of this. However, we must challenge the presupposition that the GCSE is the ‘one true King’. Talking about royalty, should students be required to memorise the Kings and Queens of England as recommended by the UK Government? Does this meet the needs of the context in which they live? No. No. No. So what does?
Empowerment – that’s what does. Surely the purpose of education is to enable individual social movement that challenges old conventions of ‘knowing one’s place’. Something that empowers people to improve themselves, their community and their society; something that recognises the injustice that lies at the heart of prejudice and takes into consideration the impact of our actions on other people’s global contexts. It’s about a responsibility to ensure that education enables people to become better communicators, innovators, evaluators, team workers and independent-ors (I know it doesn’t fit but I couldn’t think of another one!) Simply putting it, aspiring to be better and happier people.
Those involved in formal education have a responsibility too. Writing a blog post is one thing but how are you, the reader, actively challenging the status quo? My PLN on Twitter is full of people who are facilitating learning experiences (in many different guises) that meet the true purpose of education, and the practice and dedication is mind blowing. Consequently, how do you in your staff rooms, establishments and day-to-day interactions make change happen and contribute to something where passive resistance simply isn’t enough?
I put the ball back in your court – what is your purpose in education? Are you truly part of a movement or are you happy to sweep it under the carpet?
Let me know.