So, what is education for?

11th February 2005 at 00:00
Jane Davidson

Minister for Education and Lifelong Learning in Wales

As a former English teacher, I always turn to a dictionary for a definition. The Oxford dictionary defines education as "the systematic instruction, schooling or training given to the young in preparation for the work of life". That is a good general definition of what education is for. My vision is that education in Wales should be geared to respond to our individual needs to get the best for Wales. Here we put local communities and locally determined needs and priorities at the centre of our agenda for schools.

Dr David Sue Field

Homeschooling parents of Sarah, 17, Ruth, 15, and Esther, 10, in Southgate, London

Life is about knowing and loving and serving the one true God who is known in the Lord Jesus Christ and revealed reliably in the Bible. Education is about preparing young people for life. Our understanding of education comes from the Bible and includes handing on a body of knowledge, developing life-skills, and forming character. Religiously neutral education is impossible. Giving children an education which pretends that God does not exist (or that we can understand life without reference to him); that the Bible is not his reliable Word (or we can still study the world adequately without reference to it); that life has no intrinsic meaning (or that it may be a different meaning for different people) is thus a much, much worse version of telling them that poison is good to drink, that busy railway lines are fine places to play, and that you can fly if you jump off a cliff and flap your arms fast enough. Quite simply, it is out of touch with reality and desperately harmful to those who receive it. Education is the preparation of children for life at its best and most real, that is, life in relationship with God through Jesus Christ.

Sally Hardman

Supply teacher and part-time lecturer in Hampshire

I am afraid of a future without emotion. Education should be exciting enough to stimulate children into feeling, experiencing and remembering.

While computerised learning has a place, everything is second hand and encountered at a distance. It is safe because it does not require an emotional input. I wonder if this will promote a generation unwilling to feel and too scared to risk.

The ability to participate and communicate effectively is probably one of the most valuable skills in life. Interaction is vital, both with peers and with the teacher. Losing this link to a world dominated by software could ultimately lead to a society dominated by uncaring individuals experiencing the world through an unresponsive intermediary. The chance for children to feel, enjoy and ultimately to create must be preserved.

Chris Waller

Association for Citizenship Teaching

Education is a mechanism that enables young people to make sense of the world around them. It should allow them to expand their understanding, interacting with other learners. The context should be within a challenging framework - of which the learner has some ownership. In this context citizenship is an active partner and, as it evolves,JJit should be well set to meet these objectives. The worldJpresents increasingly complex problems for young people to manage. Much of the complexity is about the nature of society.JCitizenship should provide young people with the skills to engage positively with society.

Interviews Philippa White

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