Purpose of Education
We can all agree that parenting is one of the most challenging roles we undertake, and we each express our concerns in various ways. Some of us are concerned about our children's nutrition, while others worry about the overall environment. Although we may have multiple concerns, sometimes a particular aspect becomes more prominent. In my case, I became particularly focused on ensuring that my children were mentally, physically, and emotionally prepared for the future. I realized that instilling good eating habits and positive behaviors was within our control, but the uncertainty of the future was not. My main concern was identifying the skills my sons would need to succeed in 15 years. I found the answer in the skill of learning. If we, as parents, educators, and caregivers, can teach them how to be effective learners, I believe we have equipped them for whatever the future holds. In essence, their innate curiosity and strong learning skills will enable them to adapt to any situation. Afterall, its all about future-proofing our children.
In my pursuit of imparting effective learning skills, I began contemplating the very essence of education and whether the present educational system is geared towards teaching them the art of learning.
As a typical millennial, I followed the familiar path of turning to Google for answers by searching for the "purpose of education." The first three results that surfaced were:
“To provide the opportunity for acquiring knowledge and skills that will enable people to develop their full potential, and become successful members of society”
“The ultimate goal of education is to help an individual navigate life and contribute to society once they become older”
“The purpose of education is to raise children to be moral, wise, productive and useful”
I think these are fairly decent definitions and point to the right goal. But none of them talk about the quintessential skill of being a learner.
I then delved further into how the world defines education, with the hope of finding a comprehensive and holistic definition. The top 3 definitions I got were:
“The process of receiving or giving systematic instruction, especially at a school or university”
“Education is the transmission of knowledge, skills, and character traits”
“Education is the process of training man to fulfill his aim by exercising all the faculties to the fullest extent as a member of society”
The current education system assures us that it will impart our children with skills to help them succeed in some distant future. However, the major flaw in this assumption is our inability to foresee what the future will hold and whether the skills we're teaching today will remain relevant. That being said, I do recognize the importance of literacy as a fundamental skill, and schools play a crucial role in this regard. Nevertheless, my central question remained unanswered, and I couldn't help but observe the apparent but seldom-discussed deficiencies in education systems, not only globally but particularly within India.
The current state of education is a product of the industrial era, primarily aimed at achieving universal literacy to facilitate employment in factories. Regrettably, despite the evolving needs, the structure of education and learning remains largely unaltered. Let's term this phenomenon a "progress delay," where the destination has shifted, but the means to reach it have remained stagnant. The disparity between the rigid educational objectives in place today and the flexibility demanded by the future must be tackled promptly to avert potential consequences.
The real purpose
Let me take this opportunity to redefine the purpose of education. The core purpose of education is to nurture adept learners and critical thinkers. Education should equip individuals with the skills to scrutinize and evaluate information, distinguishing fact from fiction and fostering the ability to adapt to a dynamic world. It empowers individuals to engage actively in lifelong learning, cultivating curiosity and problem-solving abilities. In an age of abundant information, education plays a pivotal role in enabling individuals to make informed decisions, avoid misinformation, and contribute to a more discerning society. Ultimately, education's mission is to prepare individuals for an evolving future, equipping them with the tools to lead fulfilling lives and make positive contributions to society.