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An education to change the world

September 30, 2013 Leave a comment Go to comments

This month’s #blogsync topic is reactionary, evocative and emotional.  It can be read, and answered in many different ways, and I can imagine that there have been many fierce and impassioned debates on the topic all over the world. I have very much enjoyed reading the contributions published so far and look forward to reading more.

While thinking about the question I remembered hearing the following quote from Nelson Mandela:

“Education is the most powerful weapon we can use to change the world”.  Mandela (2003)

And I think that this really sums up the purpose of education. Education is the key to everything. The pupils we are educating are the people who will be in charge of the country, the world, in the future. They are the future prime ministers, presidents, politicians, economists, bankers, police, doctors, teachers, everything. The impact we leave on these pupils will be our legacy and that impact will last forever.

The power of education is truly great on a macro and a micro level, and I intend to discuss both here.

On a macro level, it is the education of today’s young people that will affect the way society runs in the future. If we wish the future to have advancements in the field of medical science, then we must ensure that the science curriculum in schools is adequate enough to produce scientists who are capable of making those discoveries. If we wish our future to involve a secure economy, we must make sure that the pupils we have are equipped with the right mathematical skill to be able to balance a budget, both their own and that of the country. We need to ensure that enough of the young people are interested enough in the economy to study it further and to make sure the future is bright. We also need to educate our young on the issues that affect social policy. The world is forever changing, but we must instill a sense of fairness in it. We can all see prejudice in the world, and we have all grown up with unfairness ad inequality. If we educate the pupils of today on these matters then when they are tomorrow’s policy makers then they can ensure that they are bringing in policy which fights and eradicates those injustices.

On a micro level, the purpose of education is to improve oneself. To find a future where one can be happy, doing something worthwhile and enjoyable. I met a guy called Jonathan over the summer. He was a friend of a friend and we got chatting and quickly the discussion turned to education, He told me the following about his family, which I really think hits home about the power of education. He told me his mother was one of many siblings (possibly 7), and that her father had been a miner in the town they lived in in Scotland. He had been keen for his children to get an education and worked and worked to ensure they could all follow their education through to postgraduate level. He said that they all ended up with well paid jobs, and later paid for their father to return to his own education, and in fact he ended up lecturing in higher education in later life. Jonathan spoke of this social mobility as something that would not have been possible without the power of education and I’m inclined to agree.

“We don’t need no education, We don’t need no thought control.” (Waters, 1979)

This song is part of the fantastic work that is “The Wall” by Pink Floyd, and today a year 11 pupil sang it too me in an attempt to claim that she should not be required to study maths for homework outside of school, and I thought I needed to mention something about it here. I think that there is a lot wrong with the sentiment of the statement. Although I do love the irony involved with the double negative. The overall sentiment of the line, as used by said year 11, was that society uses education as a means of controlling the thoughts of the young. And I think that when misused, that is a danger of schooling, and that certain regimes over the course of history have used schooling as a source of indoctrination. However, I think that fundamentally education is the exact opposite. It is not about controlling the mind, it is about freeing the mind. It is about ensuring that pupils leaving education do so with the tools to succeed, and to investigate their own paths and create their own futures.

Free education for everyone under 18

We are lucky enough to live in a society that offers a free education for all people up to the age of 18. Infact, one that insists upon it. This is something I feel we can be immensely proud of. It means that the tools of social mobility are there. There are also many things in place to aid anyone that wants to to continue their study (i.e. student loans) and this too is something to be proud of. Personally, I would suggest we could do more. I would suggest that university education should be free, paid for by a graduate taxed levied on graduates who earn above a threshold. The exact same way the loan works, but with no nominal amounts attached to individual people. An equal society for all.

This free education we receive hasn’t always been. It was what James Keir Hardie and others fought for at the turn of the 20th century, to take the monopoly on education out of the hands of the privileged few and give it to all, as historically poorer families either couldn’t meet school fees, or needed the extra income they could gain by sending their children out to work.

This free education for all is something that is coveted still in the modern world. In Pakistan, for instance, girls are still fighting for the right to be educated. Malala Yousafzai has become famous for this fight, one she very nearly lost her life in. Pedagog in the machine has written a superb blogsync entry on her here.

She gave an extremely passionate speech on her 16th birthday which included this quote:

“We must not forget that millions of people are suffering from poverty, injustice and ignorance. We must not forget that millions of children are out of their schools. We must not forget that our sisters and brothers are waiting for a bright, peaceful future. So let us wage a global struggle against illiteracy, poverty, and terrorism. Let us pick up our books and our pens. They are our most powerful weapons. One child, one teacher, one book and one pen can change the world. Education is the only solution. Education first.” (Yousafzai 2013)

So what is the purpose of education?

Put simply, to change the world for the better. By educating the young people of today, we can ensure a better, fairer, more equal society for the future. We can show them the mistakes we have made, and the mistakes of those that have gone before us to ensure that those mistakes are not repeated. No one can see what the future holds, but by using the powerful tool that is education we can do our best to make it better for everyone concerned. For individuals sure, but also for society as a whole. That is why we do it, that is the overall aim of the overwhelming majority of educators I know, and that is what people all over the world are fighting to be able to achieve.


Reference List

Anonymous. 2013. The Purpose of Education. 18th September. Pedagog in the Machine. [Online]. [30th September]. Available from: http://pedagoginthemachine.wordpress.com/2013/09/18/the-purpose-of-education-ask-malala-yousafzai/

Mandela, N.R 2003. Lighting your way to a better future. 16 July, Planetarium, University of Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, South Africa.

Waters, R 1979. Another Brick in The Wall. Pink Floyd. The Wall [CD] Correns/New York/Los Angeles: Harvest Records/EMI records

Yousafzai, M. 2013 Speech to the UN. 12th July. United Nations headquarters, New York.

  1. December 7, 2013 at 8:54 am

    Reblogged this on Primary Blogging.

  1. October 16, 2013 at 10:28 pm

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