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Importance of Education: What is the Purpose of Education

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John Fitzgerald Kennedy once said about education, “The goal of education is the advancement of knowledge and the dissemination of truth.” The questions which now comes up is, ‘Does ‘teaching’ or ‘instructing’ become education?’, ‘Can developing the child into good human being known as education ?’, ‘Is education only confined to children ?’ or can there is more than one meaning for ‘Education’.

Etymologically speaking, the word education is derived from the Latin word ‘educare’ meaning ‘to raise’ and ‘to bring up’. According to few others, the word ‘education’ has originated from another Latin term ‘Educere’ which means ‘to lead forth’ or ‘to come out’. These meanings indicate that education seeks to nourish the good qualities and draw out the best in every individual.

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We must also know that education is a cyclical process. Krishnamurti speaking about education wrote “The right kind of education begins with the educator, who must understand himself and be free from established patterns of thought; for what he is, that he imparts. If he has not been rightly educated, what can he teach except the same mechanical knowledge on which he himself has been brought up? The problem, therefore, is not the child, but the parent and the teacher; the problem is to educate the educator.” The students who aspire to become a teacher or a professor often end up teaching the same way they were taught in their respective schools and colleges. They even go ahead to discipline the students in the way they were disciplined. Thus, the cyclical process of education continues. If the teacher has been the product of no proper education, the teacher will then behave in the manner in which his/hers previous teacher behaved with them. The circle continues to become vicious until and unless a deliberate attempt is made on the part of the teacher to overcome his/her prejudice. 

When we take into consideration all the factors for education, we realise that education is much more than just imparting of knowledge. It’s a way of life, because all the daily events contribute immensely to education. Thus the definition of the dictionary of education which defines education as, ‘the aggregate of all the processes by which a person develops abilities, attitudes and other forms of behaviour of practical values in the society in which s/he lives; the social process by which people are subjected to the influence of selected and controlled environment (especially that of the school), so that they may obtain social competence and optimum individual development’ [footnoteRef:3] makes more sense. Learning is not merely reading writing and studying. It involves interaction with the surrounding, perceiving and experiencing the environment which surrounds us, be it natural or controlled. 

S. Radhakrishna at the UNESCO round table conference in 1954 said, “Education, to be complete, must be humane, it must include not only the training of the intellect but the refinement of the heart and the discipline of the spirit”[footnoteRef:4]. It is indeed wrong to confine education to mere retention of knowledge. Rather it is the gaining of experience. Knowledge means the theoretical or practical understanding of a subject. But on the other hand experience is rather a practical contact with observed data and facts or events which also includes one’s own life.

The dictionary of education defines education as, ‘the aggregate of all the processes by which a person develops abilities, attitudes and other forms of behaviour of practical values in the society in which s/he lives; the social process by which people are subjected to the influence of selected and controlled environment (especially that of the school), so that they may obtain social competence and optimum individual development.’Thus education can be summed in two words. ‘Growth’ and ‘Excellence’. Growth in knowledge and experience of being a member of the society is a necessary aspect of human survival. But to make a difference, ‘Excellence’ is the key point. Growth and excellence and goes hand in hand on the path of education. 

Another misconception which is common is that people often think that education is an off and on switch. One does not gain education only at school. Education is a process and a continuous journey. One may cease to gain knowledge but one continues to be educated throughout their lives. That we say that will we die, we continue to learning.

When we speak about growth and excellence in education, the two qualities should not only be confined only to the students or the one to whom the knowledge is imparted. It boundaries extend even to the teachers and the people who are involved in imparting knowledge. Education is rather a symbiotic relationship formed between two groups of people who can sustain each other through the exchange of ideas. The teacher may provide knowledge, learning assistance and also proper feedback, but the students also provide insights into the matter, which may not be discussed among the grown people. Students also help the teachers confirm about the method of teaching and provide valuable feedback on their technique of teaching, thus helping the teacher to progress even better on their pursuit to impart knowledge.

‘Education is really aimed at helping students get to the point where they can learn on their own “says renowned linguist, philosopher, historian, and scientist,  Noam Chomsky[footnoteRef:6]. In the growing world of today, what is the purpose of education? Is it necessary that a person be educated if he/she has to survive in the world of today? And can education guarantee someone a job, which seems to be the ultimate talk when we deal with the topic of education? 

According to Plato, the aim of education was the attainment of Knowledge. To them the attainment of knowledge was necessary both for the interest of the individual and the society. But his student Aristotle thought differently. According to him the purpose of education was to attain happiness or goodness. He has divided ‘goodness’ into two categories ‘goodness’ of intellect and goodness of character. Goodness of the first category can be produced and increased by teaching and is the product of training. The Goodness of the second category is the result of habit, and it can be attained by the formation of good habits. So he spoke about education in terms of Experience and Knowledge.

As spoken earlier, education and knowledge are two separate things. Knowledge is a part of education. Education has been closely associated with school, academics and books that one fails to go beyond these. Play, craft, drama, sports etc. are all a part of education. No doubt that gaining knowledge is the most essential thing because that is why the parents send their children to school. But at the same time, the experience which one gains through the extra-curricular activities is what compliments learning and makes education wholesome. To be whole is the purpose of education.

Books and classrooms offers knowledge. But the outside world is more than books and the information one has. How one uses the information which one has gained in classroom requires skill. This skill if not available in books and papers. It requires putting one’s self into the active situation and letting one’s self be affected by the situation.

Dalinda Alcantar of Texas says, ‘I think it is simple: the purpose of education is grow children into productive citizens that use their knowledge, talents, and learned skills to sustain themselves and help others while pushing the human race forward in areas of equality, equity, and harmony.Other than only sustaining themselves, education concerns the entire human race. If education was only inculcation knowledge then there would not have been any scientific breakthrough, nor any inventions. The knowledge which has been passed on to us proves that there is a big picture in mind. That picture is the sustenance of the human race. Looking at the big picture is something which is found in education and not in Knowledge. Knowledge may be selfish but education is selfless. Thus the purpose of education is to see the big picture which is to benefit the future generation. 

The school alone cannot teach a child a better human being. It can do much in directing thought and formulating standards, in creating habits of responsibility. Home and surroundings are the determining factor in development. In recent times it has been proved that the success at school largely depends on the environment at home. And it has also been proved that a child picks up a lot from school which can be seen at home. Therefore both home and school plays an important role. We cannot compare schools with home or vice versa to see what influences the child more.

John Dewey, one of the stalwart in the field of education proposed two fundamental principles of education: Continuity and Interaction. Continuity refers to the experience of past and present which influences the future while interaction refers to how the current situation influences their experiences. Dewey combined these two principles, stating that one’s present experiences are a direct result of how their previous experiences interact with and influence their present situation. Simply put, Dewey stated that human experiences- past, present, and future- influence the capacity to learn. He once said that: ‘Education is a social process. Education is growth. Education is, not a preparation for life; education is life itself.

The ultimate purpose of education is to prepare a person to face life. People who gain knowledge in order to have a good career end up having unfulfilling lives. Knowledge without experience does not help an individual to deal with the various situations which springs out of the blue. Experience on the other hand prepares the people to deal with life. But to add to experience, knowledge also plays an important role. The amalgamation of experience and knowledge is the true purpose of education and this is what helps the person to face life.

Like other thinkers and philosophers, J. Krishnamurti also agrees that the purpose of education is to enable the person to face life. But that is done by making students feel free, so that they can think freely. According to him society is corrupt, violent, and oppressive.  If students fail to think freely then they too will give into the evils of the society.  Therefore they must think freely so that they will rebel against everything that is wrong with society, so that they can change society. 

Jiddu Krishnamurti argues that if people are not educated to understand the whole process of life; “the constant battle between groups, races and nations… the subtle, hidden things of the mind-the envies, the ambitions, the passions, the fears, fulfilments and anxieties” (Krishnamurti, xl), then they will miss the whole point of life, that life is actually extraordinary, all life is extraordinary, the earth and all the animals and plants on it and everything else, all are extraordinary[footnoteRef:9].  If people fail to understand how extraordinary life is then they will not live their lives to the fullest, and instead will decaying.  If education does not help the person to discover the purpose of life, then that is not proper education. 

It I impossible to completely prepare oneself to face life. Because life according to krishnamurti throws various obstacles which the person wasn’t expecting. However, proper education can result in free encouragement to think freely and to deal with obstacles in his/her own style. Having this perspective, it is easy to notice that Krishnamurti’s aim of proper education was to attain goodness. Goodness being the ultimate goal of human being, proper education is one of the surest means of obtaining this goal.

Regarding the purpose of education, what makes Krishnamurti different philosopher and thinkers is that, the other philosophers regard happiness as the purpose of life. They may agree on the fact that the purpose of education is to prepare for life. But krishnamurti never really gave a clear cut answer to the purpose of life. The only thing closest to life, which he spoke was, the right education.

Education in India

The literacy rate at present is 74.04 % which is a huge growth as compared to the previous years. Given the fact that it has a huge population and having been recently freed from the clutches of the colonizers, the progress in indeed a remarkable one. The government is making a lot of efforts in providing education to children. Education of children has been the main point right from the Independence to the present.

Education is not a recent phenomenon in the country. In ancient times, India had the Gurukula system of education in which the members of the higher caste, went to a teacher’s (Guru) house and requested to be taught. The guru teaches the student everything that he wants to learn, from Sanskrit to the Holy Scriptures and from Mathematics to Metaphysics. The student stayed as long as he wished or until the guru felt that he had taught everything he could teach. All of the learning was closely linked to nature and to life, and not just confined to memorizing some information. 

In the modern day, education in India is provided by public as well as private institutes which is controlled and funded by three levels: central, state and local. Under various articles of the Indian Constitution, free and compulsory education is provided as a fundamental right to children between the ages of 6 and 14. Unlike olden day, the girls are encouraged to attend school. Various subjects like, language, science, mathematics, social science are common in almost all the schools around the country.

The education in India suffered drastically due to the colonial rule. After obtaining freedom, compulsory education was considered as a wastage because of the lack of resources and the focus at that time was to develop and bring India to the position where it could self-sustain itself. Government did encourage education for children, but that never became a key point in the beginning. At the same time, only the rich could get educated which almost 55% of the remaining population were illiterate. But gradually when the country began to take shape, the literacy rate of the country changed for good.

The present day education has become a system. A system which has its own methodology and syllabus. This system is known as ‘boards’ in the India. The most famous boards of education in Indian right now are Central board of secondary education (CBSE), Council for the Indian School Certificate Examination (CISCE) and Indian Certificate of Secondary Education (ICSE). The school seeks to have the best education board and the colleges prefer seeks to gain autonomous certificate and because of the institutionalisation of education there is a heavy competition going on in the country. In one way this competition is healthy because it brings out the best out of the students preparing them to face future challenges. At the same time given the population of the country, the education system creates a battle ground where only the fittest can survive.

Given the fact that there is a heavy competition going on the parents tend to plan the education and the career of the child even before they are born. The child’s education, school, college and the stream of career is well chosen. The idea of giving their child a head start is imprinted very firmly on the mind of the parents. When the child is born, he/she is placed in the arena of competition with other children.

The advancement of education in India, has given way to excellent development within the field of economy. People are less unemployed and some of them are self-employed. Another positive things is that, the child labour has seen a steep decline. There are also reservation systems available for the socially underprivileged people. The present statistics is 7.5% of the scheduled tribes, 15% for the scheduled castes and 27% of the other backward class, but the exact percentages vary from state to state. In Haryana, the reservation is 18% for SCs and 1% for OBCs and 0% for STs, based on local demographics. In Tamil Nadu, the reservation is 18% for SCs and 1% for STs, based on local demographics.

The Major disadvantage of the Indian education system is that it is not easily affordable. Nowadays in India, more than 37% people are living below poverty level. Therefore, they cannot afford education even at primary level. The quality of Government schools are not up to the mark. The private institutes which provides good education have laid down large fees which an average person cannot afford. Thus education has become a social status for the rich which further expands the gap between the have and the have nots.

The pursuit of excellence in education is a constant search. Given the population of the country, it is really a big challenge to give quality education to all the people. But having realised the importance of education in the Indian economy, the government is making extra effort to improve the education in India.

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