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So, what is education for?

Richard Wilson

Head of business policy, Institute of Directors

Education has a threefold purpose. First, it has a value for its own sake.

Reading "War and Peace", learning an instrument or acting in a school play - such activities are intellectually enriching, broaden the mind and enable one to appreciate life more fully.

Education should also play an important role in transmitting the values, identity and culture of our society from one generation to the next. In studying the plays of Shakespeare, learning the history of the British Isles or in acquiring a religious education we gain an understanding of the past, acquire a sense of belonging and appreciate the values that underpin our society.

Third, education should prepare us for participation in society at large and for employment. The system should equip us with a good general education, the basic skills that are needed in the workplace and ensure that we are capable of being trained by employers.

The purpose is not simply a means to improved national economic performance: the connection between education and economic growth is ambiguous. Nevertheless, education does enhance individual employability and productivity.

Martin J Blank

Institute for Educational Leadership, Washington

Public education prepares young people to take their place in a democratic society - as informed, engaged citizens; as supportive family members; and as productive workers. Academic achievement, while crucial, is but one measure of whether society is fulfilling these purposes. Education also develops social, emotional and physical competencies and strengthens families and communities.

Community schools work with other community agencies and organisations to offer students and their families an array of supports and opportunities and motivate students to learn by engaging them in real-world problem solving.

Tony Cressey

Retired chemistry teacher and head of science, Newcastle

This is rather a big question for some one of my great age. Often I think it is to keep children occupied and away from outside world while I enjoy my retirement. They do clutter up the towns and the country at weekends and school holidays. I suppose they also need to work in the near future to help pay the pensions of the retired.

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