What Does Education Mean to You?

Education is a concept that means different things to different people. It is an essentially contested concept and what it means to you will depend on many factors, including your background, circumstances, and views on related issues such as democracy and justice. Having this wide range of definitions does not necessarily mean that we cannot have a common understanding of Education.

For instance, some people may view it as the key to economic success, while others may see it as a way of nurturing human potential and social development. However, even amongst those who agree on the broad meaning of Education, there are many disagreements over its purpose. Some view it as preparing young people for living in democratic societies, others think that it should focus on developing lifelong learners, and still others believe that it should be about building a skilled workforce or promoting scientific and technological progress.

The debate over the purpose of Education has impacted both its design and delivery. For example, a common criticism is that the design of Education systems tends to be driven by preconceived ideas of what education should be – such as teaching children letters and numbers or instilling in them a particular worldview. These assumptions are often based on a particular ideology, which is often tied to the beliefs and values of a specific society and can lead to a limited understanding of what education should be about.

A more constructive approach to the purpose of Education is to view it as a process that happens whenever a person learns something new and applies what they have learned in a way that makes a difference in their lives and those around them. This type of learning can be formal, such as in the case of schooling or non-formal, such as when people attend conferences or learn from their friends.

Formal education is typically centered on the idea that there are certain subjects that must be taught to young people – the so-called core curriculum – such as reading, writing, math, science, history, and foreign languages. This approach has become a cornerstone of many national educational systems.

The benefits of education extend beyond the acquisition of knowledge to include other aspects of well-being such as physical, mental and emotional health, social connections and a sense of belonging, and spirituality. The work of Amartya Sen and Martha Nussbaum has helped to broaden the perspective on what Education should be about by considering these various dimensions of a thriving life.

A high-quality education is essential for enabling people to fulfil their full potential and make a positive contribution to our global community. This is why it is so important that governments and educational institutions across the globe work together to ensure that everyone has access to Education. We need to start with the end in mind – to be inspired by Stephen Covey’s well-known quote – and work backwards to define what the desired outcomes of Education should be.