What Is the Purpose of Education: Shaping an Individual

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Table of contents

  1. Introduction
  2. Understanding the purposes of education
  3. Reflection and Conclusion


What is the purpose of education? Throughout this essay I will be discussing the different ideas surrounding the purpose of education. Children's character, values and morals and the transmission of knowledge are two key areas in educational development. These are important areas within education as they are the base of a child's learning journey. I will be primarily focusing on what exactly the transmission of knowledge and character are and how or if we can teach them. As the paper develops, I will also be discussing the different ideas around the philosophy and theories of how education shapes us as individuals.

Understanding the purposes of education

Within my placement a small village school with a class size of 30 pupils in south Yorkshire in, while observing a session of PSHCE the children were discussing anti-bullying as it was anti-bulling week. The teacher used this opportunity to discuss the ideas of character, morals, and values. The children were given a learning resource sheet where they had to work out the characteristics of a bully or the change in behaviour of someone who maybe being bullied. They then came back together as a class and discussed these areas. This was a sensitive topic which the teacher led well. The teacher went around different tables asking them to share their ideas on the topic. This allowed time to children's different thoughts and ideas about what both bullies and victims of bullies maybe feeling. Theodore Roosevelt (1858-1919) said, 'to educate a man in mind and not in morals is to educate a menace to society'. Roosevelt is expressing his concerns for society due to the education system. Interpretation of this quote is that if a man was educated purely through knowledge and no morals, they would be in danger as they don't understand how to behave morally and possibly have no understanding from what is right from wrong. This is a cause of concern for the society as their will be some individuals whom in-danger others due to the lack of morals or are not clear on the difference between right or wrong. Listening to other children in the class may alter children's thoughts or ideas about their character and morals. Allowing them to create their own ideas and morals which overall will create an individual child's character. Emilia's philosophical approach suggested children learn from being taught and observing what they know from this and what it is they are curious about. Within terms of character building and values, this approach will enable teachers to understand what a child interprets from a task, involving emotions and feelings as it may have an impact on the way they act or the way they treat others. However, is it possible for a teacher to shape a child to have the correct character and morals.

Sutherland, M (1988) believed 'personality development as well as cognitive learning and having good character as a teacher enables a good role model for the students'. Therefore, to be a good teacher do you need to be perfect and not make any mistakes, to educate and make sure the future generation know the difference between right or wrong or should teachers be there to support children, educate them though knowledge and excitement while keeping them on track though managing and dealing with difficult behaviour. Sutherland,M (1988) carried on to say 'children working on a topic that interests them will show initiative and determination into searching for information on the topic'. This will enable children to learn how to research for themselves discovering new interests and learning new skills. If children are engaged within their learning, they are less likely to be causing disruption allowing the classroom to be a controlled, enjoyable, environment for both the students and the teachers. This creates a purposeful learning environment for the children where the teacher can use their skills and knowledge to support and develop the minds and ability of their class. By enforcing this classroom atmosphere, the teacher becomes a role model for children.

It is believed that play is an important aspect of a child' development in the early years, as it is seen as a starting point learning as it is where their adventure into education begins. They begin to develop their own imagination, speech, communication, and language. Preparing themselves for their future education. Some theorists. such as the Prominent Dewey argued that children learn best when learning by doing through the idea that play is the starting point for all learning. Dewey (1859-1952) held that most human beings are 'hand-minded', interested in learning through practical activity rather than words or books. Furthermore, is this idea set on the idea of play in early years education or is there more beneficial ways for children to learn through physical activity. Bandura a psychologist of social cognitive theory believed children learned through observation, contradicting Dewey's theory of learning by doing. Vygotsky on the other hand supported Banduras theory through the idea of learning from one's own culture, leading to the idea of learning by observation. Learning by observation is called social learning children imitate what other children or adults do, which is mainly were our human behaviour comes from. As well as Vygotsky believing in learning through culture, he had a theory on social interaction. Knowledge and skills passed on from the more able to the less able. It is through are social interactions that we develop are speech language and body language.

Children`s learning culture comes from observing how themselves and others live and learn. This is how we grow as a person individually. Therefore, it is important that all children are educated on how other children are brought up, in terms of their culture. Schools can celebrate different cultures to help children understand the different types. They will observe different foods, clothing, behaviour, and communication. This gives the children an accurate representation of how their fellow classmates lives differ to their own. Teachers discussing cultures in sessions teaches children not to judge other cultures expressing how it is important not to disrespect cultures through showing bad behaviour or attitude towards them and the ideas in which they believe. Wa'qaar A Mirza(2020) stated 'Creating an inclusive classroom environment where everyone feels comfortable and equal can help build confidence and encourage pupils to participate in group settings, answer questions and ask for help, all of which can help them to achieve academically'. This creates a contemporary education setting for the class as all children feel comfortable in expressing themselves giving them the confidence to speak up when needing help or support. It also gives children the opportunity to socialise together as they will understand each other's cultures and believes leading to a more supported class system.

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Which is the ideal class to have as it means children will be supported by one another academically, allowing the teacher to pickup who may need more support or which children work better independently or in groups. Allowing children to have cultural knowledge as well as temporal knowledge is important as it crafts an empiricism individual. This will allow the children to operate effectively as citizens, growing into the world in which we live with respect and knowledge of others and their cultures.

There is no clear definition to what education is, however, the ideas surrounding it are rather complex. Whitehead (1959) described education to 'education has to impart is an intimate sense for the power of ideas, for the beauty of ideas, and for the structure of ideas, together with a particular body of knowledge which has peculiar reference to the life of the being possessing it'. Whitehead is expressing how he believes education to be a sign of beauty as it gives individuals the opportunity to express their own thoughts and ideas. Which may be seen to create a nice environment as people are sharing and possibly supporting one another's ideas. However, the reality of education is that it isn't beautiful, it is dependent on society and curriculum, where children are shaped and made to learn set subjects to great standards. Hirst.P (1974) said education 'is subsumable under seven different forms. These are: mathematics, physical sciences, knowledge of persons, literature and the fine arts, morals, religion and philosophy'. Showing how he supported the idea that for something to be educational it must have structure and set subjects. However, educating children should not just be about exam results and lead tables. Maitles. H (2005) stated 'Nearly all of us who chose education as a career did so to make a difference; not just exam results, but to the lives and aspirations of young people and society as a whole'. Stating how practitioners went into this role to make a difference in a child's life, to inspire them to believe they can do anything if they put their minds to it. Not put them down based on which part of society they come from. Liberal or classic all children should be given equal opportunities within education for it to serve a purpose in their lives and for them to grow in confidence and self-belief as they know they have the potential to be successful. Education needs to be progressive so while children are developing physically and emotionally their knowledge is also growing crafting them into the young individual they aspire to be.

Maria Montessori's philosophical approach about education touched on the idea that education began from birth, as at this this stage children experience periods when they are eager to learn. The approach aims to get children to want to learn naturally, rather than relying on a parent or practitioner to encourage their curiosity towards learning. Montessori. M believed children should be allowed to be independent from a young age allowing them to explore and learn themselves. Which links to whitehead theory of education being something amazing as the children find out what they like and how they want to learn. Ruhl, C. (2021) said 'the Montessori method creates an environment that promote a child's optimal intellectual, physical, emotional, and social development to occur'. Which is the whole child's development, holistic development. Without this the child is unlikely to for fill their development in many areas of the curriculum. Montessori also believed a child can only be free when the adult becomes an acute observer. Therefore, inferring that until the adult is taken away from the situation, the child will rely on their parent or practitioner for guidance or answers. Within a classroom situation, from personal experience a child attempting to complete a jigsaw, if they are alone, is very different than if they are with a parent or practitioner. When alone the children enjoy searching for pieces and match up colours and pictures, however when there is a practitioner close to them, they rely on guidance and avoid utilising their own knowledge and ideas about how these pieces may work together. Individuals differ greatly in the values they hold and, in their needs, and aspirations, and thus what they perceive to be the purpose of college education may vary considerably. Children with specific educational learning needs, will need this support from a parent or practitioner, but they should also be given the opportunity to explore and try tasks on their own. This may enable them to develop skills they may have been told they wouldn't accomplish in their early development, but due to them being given independence and a slight freedom into their exploration of activates, they can develop certain aspects of their knowledge they may not of had the chance to do.

Aristotle believed there are 3 different types of knowledge: episteme which is theory, techne which is practice and phronesis which means wisdom; how to do the right thing at the right time in the right way. All involve both theory and practice. However, where does knowledge come from; are we born a tabula rasa, waiting for our knowledge to be crafted from our education, lifestyle, and surroundings. How do we determine the part that sets out what type of education we will receive? Wither it is sporting capabilities or our status in society either way why should are education be dependent on something that is out of a 3-11 year olds control. The Plowden report 1967 (29-36), contrasted the plight of the child from the poor home; 'his vocabulary is limited, his general knowledge is narrow; he has little opportunity for reading and his power of expressing himself ... is inadequate'. Which expresses the idea that if a child is not from a wealthy home, they will struggle to achieve the same level as a child who is from a wealthy family. Ideas have developed over years on this argument. The national education association 1953 believed in a liberal education 'making freely available the common heritage of human association and human culture opens to every child and the opportunity to grow to his full stature'. High culture and academic disciplines should be retained but should be made accessible to every child through a common curriculum.

Plato's theory links to Aristotle as he believes knowledge is a property of all human beings and it is an attribute to each individual as they bring their own knowledge to transmit to other individuals helping them to grow in their understanding and ideas about character, morals, and knowledge. Plato also stated there is a difference in believing and knowing something. Just because we have some beliefs in areas or ideas, that does not mean we have the knowledge behind the idea.

Reflection and Conclusion

In my opinion I do not believe character is an aspect that can be taught. If we were taught how to act and behave; we would be clones of one another. Which may take away a child's unique personalities and qualities. This can impact children a lot as they grow. When they come to leave primary school, children will meet many new individuals, this transition will expose them to a world of new personalities and experiences. This may cause a child to feel lost and struggle to understand who they are or what they aspire to be or do. This could also lead to some children misbehaving as they may feel they weren't given the best opportunity to learn right from wrong. Therefore, they explore new things possibly leading them into dangerous situations or making dangerous choices. However, in terms of behaviour I believe this is mainly learnt from family and peers as these are the people we are mostly around, the ones we look up to and hope to be like one day. As a result, it is increasingly likely that our thoughts and behaviours will very closely match the behaviours that our peers and parents exercised at a similar age.

Everybody's upbringings are different, and everyone is unique in their own way. Children will go through different life experiences, crafting how they handle and decide to act in certain situations. Family structure and life play a large part in why we act in certain ways and why we have certain insecurities and worries about different situations. Therefore, I do not believe teachers are able to teach children how to behave and the correct morals, but I do think that they can explain the differences between right and wrong and help to guide children in their development.

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