So, what is education for?

4th February 2005 at 00:00
Ted Wragg Emeritus professor, Exeter University and TES columnist

TThere are two sides of the balance sheet in the 21st century: 1 Qualifications for people because increasingly we live in a credential-oriented society - you need more to get a job.

2 Personal qualities, because to survive and do well in our society, you need to have far more about you as a person - a better ability to communicate, organise yourself - than might have been needed at one time.

The entry fee to society for young people has gone up. So the purpose of education is to equip children as well as possible - not just to get them through exams.

Sir Ken Robinson Senior adviser J Paul Getty Trust, Los Angeles, USA

Education is for individuality. We all think, feel and learn in distinctive ways. Good education works with the unique grain of our personal capacities to help each of us become the best version of ourselves - and, with luck and determination, to make a living at it too.

Education is for culture. Every aspect of our individual lives is a kind of dialogue with the actions and values of those around us and of those who lived before. Good education engages us in the awesome diversity of human creativity and achievement, and deepens our sense of wonder, of pleasure, of perspective and of possibility. It also warns us how often and how badly things have gone wrong with human culture and why that might be.

Education is for community. We all live in complex webs of mutual responsibility. Good education enables us to appreciate the essential balances between individual freedoms and social cohesion, and promotes a sense of citizenship, locally and globally. Education is for appreciating the past, engaging with the present and saving the future.

Ted Sizer Founder of the Coalition of Essential Schools, USA

Education serves to provoke and ultimately to produce citizens who are...

Informed: aware of the best of learning from the past and the immediate present; Critical: in the habit of asking probing, imaginative, demanding, and yet respectful questions; Principled: aware and sensitive to the common good; Constructive: devoted to the betterment of the commonweal and to our understanding of ourselves and our communities, large and small; and Energetic: prepared to act on the best of what they have learned.

Jeanette Wade Teacher, Kesgrave high school, Ipswich

I believe education is for understanding "who I am" and developing "who I want to be."

Antony Edkins Executive headteacher, Harrop Fold school, Salford

Education has been, is and always will be, unashamedly and unequivocally, about values, and at the heart of which three core values remain: Excellence, Truth and Love.

Michael Barber Head of The Prime Minister's Delivery Unit, Cabinet Office.

For individuals, the purpose is to achieve personal fulfilment, to open up opportunity and to enable them to take an interest in and contribute to the world around them. For society, education should prepare young people for success in life and for work. For the benefit of civilisation, education should cherish and enhance the best that has been thought and said and done.

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