Purpos/ed

So what is the purpose of education?

Well it’s all about control and power of course.

Not what I think it is about, but then again most educators probably think like me, however…

Most educational institutions will control education within their walls (and on the internet). They will set the parameters by which learners can learn within their four walls. Often these parameters will be set by government departments. Othertimes these constraints will be set by the institutions and by academics.

Governments fund education to control the population. To ensure that they behave according to societal norms and don’t “rock the boat”. This doesn’t always work, but does formal education cause governments to change, generally no.

Businesses want education to be about preparing people to work for them without complaint regardless of pay or working conditions. Create a workforce that will do their bidding.

Retailers and marketers want education to be about conformity, so that when we venture out we conform to an accepted norm. Not question what we are shown or see.

Of course the purpose of education should be about freedom and choice. A freedom to learn in order to free oneself from the shackles of your environment. Freedom to better oneself. Freedom to learn about new things and old things. Freedom to think.

Even most academics and practitioners would argue they see education as a way of freeing oneself, however they do this by laying down mechanisms, processes and protocols that control whoever enters education. Placing restrictions on what can be learnt, how it can be learnt and focus on assessment of learning. This is not something that is particular to any sector, but can be found in all sectors.

Of course with freedom comes responsibility and if we give learners to freedom to make choices about education, will they make educated and informed choices, or will they choose what they perceive to be the easy path, or the path of least resistance.

So are learners able to make these informed choices, rational decisions?

Many learners do and many learners will use educational institutions for education, learners will also make decisions about their education to use more informal routes to education, some of these will be semi-formalised, such as Open University modules, Adult Education and short courses at FE Colleges,

Some will be routes completely outside formal educational and will take place in local or online communities. Clubs, societies, online forums and mailing lists are all ways in which learners can access an education. They will not be looking at these as a route to a qualification. We as a society will not define these informal routes as education and often will not value this learning

Some learners won’t make informed choices, so do we say they must take part in a formal education?

So despite our best intentions to ensure education is about freedom and choice, this is what I believe education is about, the reality is that education is about control and power.

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12 thoughts on “Purpos/ed”

    1. Not doomed to failure, but it’s very difficult to achieve within the controlling influence of traditional assessment processes and qualificational frameworks. Compounded by an inspection framework that does not reward innovation and creativity.

  1. I find it quite frustrating that an over prescribed ‘do as we say’ curriculum only narrows learning to specific objectives and easy to assess targets. Control is everything and at the moment schools have little control to go outside the curriculum due to its emphasis on the measurable end result.
    Thankfully, some schools and teachers are taking control and teaching what they know is best for the children in their classrooms. After all, no one knows the children better than those who teach them every day (even parents admit to this). Schools that take control find themselves in enviable positions where children enjoy coming to school, where they want to keep learning even when the bell rings.

    1. However Kevin the educators are still controlling the system. If a learner in a school wants to learn something different, then they will need to do this outside the power and control of the school.

  2. I agree James.

    Too often education is about ‘do what I want you to do’ and yes this is a power thing.

    Academic education is not the right path for some-vocational education does have its place and many benefit.

    Shame it’s not as highly valued.

  3. James, sadly I think you’re right. Education should be about gaining freedom. For some it still is – where education can be a route out of the circumstances they might have been born into. But, for most, as you say, it’s about power and control. If you don’t fit the norm, like Lou McGill’s son (http://loumcgill.co.uk/?p=466), and many others, then you’re on your own.

  4. Yes, great post! The education system is about power and control as was the church. Operating systems bug and crash, new software makes old machines crash, dissidents and terrorists become icons and presidents. It is perhaps our job to design creative viruses, to weave pear-to-peer learning to ensure a few instants of freedom before the new system is adopted as state religion by a new generation of aspiring dictators, inspectors, and over-reaching busy-bodies. Renaissances, like Woodstock are short-lived but it won’t stop the nostalgia or the striving for chaotic inebriating freedom…

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