Welcome back to #blogsync after a break for Summer. #blogsync gives everyone a chance to air their musings on a variety of topics and to comment on each others’ thoughts. So, in the intended spirit of #blogsync, please free to comment on my contribution to ‘The Purpose of Education’.
Back in 1946 Martin Luther King spoke about the purpose of education being to acknowledge intelligence and character and give a person the ability to make decisions and achieve goals. He said that intelligence alone is not enough. A person’s character should be developed and they should have the ability to make decisions and be able to apply their knowledge. King wanted an education system that promotes values, traditions and beliefs and makes the culture unique and ensures its survival. He also spoke of his ideals of a World free from prejudice concerning colour, race and religion. We are still a long way from King’s dream but his ideals are admirable. So this is a clever person’s view of education. Although I share some of these thoughts, education in my view means different things to different people. I’ll explain.
For a child the purpose of education is to prepare them for adult life. They are blissfully unaware of this when they start school at 4 years old. From a child’s point of view they go to school to make friends, play and be happy. Learning to be literate and numerate are a happy by product of their school days. They will learn many more things than reading and writing from their formal education. For example, they will learn to socialise, take turns, be fair to each other, have empathy with others, not to bully and to be good and decent people who are able to fit in to the norms of society. Not all children will be academic. Not all are destined for a high flying academic career and this is a good thing. Just as we need Doctors and air line pilots, we also need people who enjoy working with their hands and people who enjoy dealing with the public. All roles are important and we need people to be reasonably happy in their work whatever form it takes. Playing and being happy is the purpose of education for children.
For teachers the purpose of education is somewhat different. When I teach children I would obviously like them to master the whole curriculum at whatever level they are able to. Not all children can be the top of the class, some will be middle achievers and some will be below average. As a teacher I want everyone to strive to be the best that they can be. As a teacher of children with SEN this is the single most important thing to me. Personal best is vital. I would also like children to develop a strong sense of self confidence and make independent decisions. They should be brave enough to try something, possibly fail and try again until they’ve mastered it. I also think that the purpose of education is to learn to cope with differences between people, circumstances, religions and life in general and be tolerant towards those things. So for teachers the purpose of education is simple. We want to provide an education that helps all children to be successful at their own level. This includes those caught in deprivation to those in leafy suburbs and fee paying schools. Teachers want children to be happy and confident while in their care.
For parents the purpose of education can mean something else entirely. In a small minority of cases parents see education as a free baby sitting service. I once had a child in school with German Measles. When questioned the mother was aware that her poppet was carrying a disease but freely said she had to send him in because she was working. For once in my life I was struck dumb! Other parents may see the purpose of education as a licence to relinquish their parental responsibilities. Some expect teachers to teach their off spring basic manners, how to use a knife and fork, the use of acceptable language, how to behave in public and many things which schools really shouldn’t need to tackle. I accept that this view of some parents is rather cynical. I’m pleased to say that many parents become partners in their child’s education and continue the good work at home. These parents see the purpose of education as a valuable asset. They want their children to be equipped with the skills to pave their way in the world and earn their own living and be self reliant.
For parents of children with SEN, education is viewed as a specialised role. They are trusting their often very poorly children to the care of other people. For some this takes great courage. These parents primarily want their children to be comfortable, well cared for and happy. They would then like them to be as independent as possible. Don’t misunderstand, academia is on the list, but for very poorly children its not top ranking. These parents also sometimes see the purpose of education as a means of respite. Poorly children and those with challenging behaviours, although much loved by their families are very physically demanding. Parents need us to ensure they have some rest and time for themselves and their families. This is necessary to help the family remain intact. They are confident that school will care for their child, educate them and ensure they are happy which in turn grants them a few hours rest.
For society the purpose of education is to produce strong, law abiding citizens who are prepared to work hard and take their place in the adult world. Society needs well rounded, fair minded adults who are willing to help each other. Every adult has a place in our society and the purpose of education is to help children find their niche in the grown up world. If children are educated and achieve to the best of their individual ability they will become confident and secure in their self belief and they will be happy and hopefully good citizens of the future.
I have one person left to mention, Mr Gove. For Mr Gove the purpose of education in my opinion is as a vehicle towards his infamy. I truly believe that he wishes to be remembered as a great Education Minister. He will certainly be remembered! In my humble opinion I think he will go down in history as the Education Minister who made the most changes in the shortest space of time. He will also be remembered as the Minister who most upset an already weary profession. Many have tried this but none have been as successful as him. Well done Mr Gove.
In summary, the purpose of education means different things to different people. What we need in our society is happy, confident, well rounded, educated citizens who can cope with change and difference and contribute to the adult world on their own level. If education produces these citizens, we have done our job. (And don’t let Mr Gove tell us any different!).