The Many Purposes of Education

Children raising their hands in a classroom.

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Each individual teacher has an opinion about what the core purpose of education should be, not only in their own classroom but also in school in general. Many issues occur when differing opinions about the purpose of education collide. It is important to recognize that other people, including many of your coworkers, administrators, and your students' parents might have a different point of view concerning what education should be all about.

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Knowledge to Get By

Imbuing students with the knowledge to get by is an old-school belief. It's the idea that schools need to provide students with the knowledge they need to be functional adults in their day-to-day lives. They need to know how to read, write, and do arithmetic. These are the core topics that form the foundation of a student's education.

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Knowledge of Subject Matter Being Taught

The purpose of education to some teachers is to impart knowledge about the subject matter they are teaching without much thought to other classes. While it's important for students to have a firm grasp of each subject, this can sometimes be problematic. When taken to the extreme, these teachers focus on their own subject matter as being more important than what students are learning in other classes. For example, teachers who are unwilling to compromise their own subject matter for the good of the students can cause problems for the school by not being open to cross-curricular activities.

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Creating Thoughtful Citizens

The desire to create thoughtful adults might be considered another old-school belief. However, this is held by many individuals, especially within the larger community. Students will someday be a part of a community and need the skills to exist within that society as thoughtful citizens. For example, they will need to be able to vote in presidential elections.

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Self Esteem and Confidence

While the self-esteem movement often gets ridiculed, we do want our students to feel confident about their learning abilities. This way, they not only have a firm grasp on each subject but also the confidence to apply that knowledge in everyday life. It's important to nurture a strong balance between encouraging good self-esteem and assuaging unrealistic goals. 

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Learn How to Learn

Learning how to learn is one of the key elements of education. Schools need to teach students how to find the information they will need once they leave school. Therefore it is important for future success that the students understand how to find answers to any questions and problems that might arise.

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Lifelong Habits for Work

Many of the lessons that schools teach are necessary for success in their students' future lives. As adults, they will need to be able to get to work on time, dress and behave appropriately, and get their work done in a timely manner. These lessons are reinforced on a daily basis in schools around the nation.

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Teach Students How to Live

Finally, some individuals look at school in a more holistic manner. Not only do students learn information from their individual subjects, but they also learn life lessons in and out of class. Proper work etiquette should be reinforced in the classroom, students need to learn how to deal with others in a cooperative manner, and they must learn how to acquire the information they might need in the future.

One of the things that many business leaders cite as being necessary for future workers is the ability to work as part of a team and problem solve.