So, what is education for

28th January 2005 at 00:00
Sam Jensen

Reception pupil at Ravenswood primary school, Heaton, Newcastle upon Tyne Why is school important? Because it's important to learn to do your jobs, and do PE.

Margaret Hodge

Minister for Children, Young People and Families

The early years of a child's life are precious - not just because of the joy of seeing them develop and grow, but also for the critical learning that goes on during that stage. Parents are always a baby's first educators. But it's also crucial that good, high-quality early years education sets a child on those first steps towards fun, but structured learning. Independent research shows that learning through play increases a child's attainment at school and so improves their life chances. Children's emotional, social and physical well-being matters as much as their intellectual development. Language skills, number skills, learning to share - all this and more blossoms when quality provision is available. That's why I am so passionate that effective pre-school education, where required by parents, should be available, affordable and accessible to all.

James Tooley

Professor of education, Newcastle University

Education is for human flourishing. This has two aspects. First, to flourish as a human being, you will probably want to be initiated into the best that has been thought and said - the traditions of knowledge. This is an intrinsic aim , the transmission of what is worthwhile through conversations between the generations of mankind. Second, to flourish you will benefit from the instrumental personal and social roles that education can bring: personal empowerment, becoming equipped for the adult world of family life, work, politics, and personal and social responsibilities.

Education in both these respects has been corrupted by two tyrannies: that of schooling and that of the state. Schooling is part of the institutional mechanisms which the state has either created or set in stone, for purposes which may or may not relate to education. Schools have had their purpose for other ends, such as social control or surveillance.

Education is too important to be sullied or corrupted by the state. So when governments tell us what we need from education (read schooling), we should resist their clarion calls. What we need from education is to take part in the conversation between the generations and to become empowered as social beings and as individuals.

Michael Rosen


Education should be about learning how to investigate and discover how the world and human beings are. In the long run it must always be for the social good, but, individually, you have to feel that you are getting somewhere, that you are finding out things - investigating and discovering.

Julia Neuberger

Rabbi, writer and broadcaster

Education is to lead out of children the individual skills and talents they have. It's to bring out the best in people. We have to find out what their talents are and nurture them.

Education in our society has become too much defined by skills. We are trying to teach people how to read and write, but we lose sight of trying to capture the individual spark in kids.

The more we have a shaped national curriculum the less we have space for finding out what really motivates children.

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