What Is the Aim of Education?

Different Opinions About the Purpose of Education

Each individual teacher has an opinion about what the aim 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. Following is a list of different aims of education that individuals might espouse.

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Knowledge to Get By

In the Bronx, a School that Works
Students raise their hands to answer a teacher's question at the KIPP Academy in the South Bronx. Corbis via Getty Images / Getty Images

This old school belief holds that school is important in providing students with the knowledge they need to get by in their day-to-day lives. They need to know how to read, write, and do arithmetic. Even though these core topics form the foundation of a student's education, most educators today would probably not agree that this should be the extent of a student's school career.

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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. 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 at large. When the school I taught at tried to implement senior projects, we got pushback from a couple of teachers who were not willing to change their lessons to include cross-curricular activities.

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Desire to Create Thoughtful Citizens

This might be considered another old school belief. However, this is held by many individuals, especially within the larger community. Students will some day be a part of a community and need the skills and mores 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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To Gain Self Esteem and Confidence

While the self-esteem movement often gets ridiculed, we do want our students to feel confident about their learning abilities. The problem comes in with inflated self-esteem not based on reality. However, this is often cited as an aim of the educational system.

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To Learn How to Learn

Learning how to learn is one of the key elements of education. Schools need to teach students how to find information they will need once they leave school. Therefore, the specific subject matter being taught is not as important for future personal success as is the ability for students to understand how to find answers for 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. Some individuals see this as one of the main reasons for sending students to school.

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To Teach Students How to Live

Finally, some individuals look at school in a more holistic manner. They see it as the means towards right living for the rest of their lives. Not only do students learn information in their individual subjects, but they also learn life lessons in and out of class. As previously explained, proper work etiquette is reinforced in the classroom. Further, students have to learn how to deal with others in a cooperative manner. Finally, they learn about how to learn information they might need in the future. In fact, 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.