Education in Theory and Perspective

What is the meaning of education?

Webster defines education as the process of educating or teaching. Educate is further defined as “to develop the knowledge, skill, or character of…” Thus, from these definitions, we might assume that the purpose of education is to develop the knowledge, skill, or character of students.

It is also defined in Oxford that education is the knowledge, abilities, and the development of character and mental powers that are resulted from intellectual, moral, and physical trainings. So, it can be said that someone who already got education will have additional knowledge, abilities and change in character and mental power.

While in Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia, it is stated that:
Education encompasses teaching and learning specific skills, and also something less tangible but more profound: the imparting of knowledge, positive judgment and well-developed wisdom. Education has as one of its fundamental aspects the imparting of culture from generation to generation (see socialization). Education means ‘to draw out’, facilitating realization of self-potential and latent talents of an individual. It is an application of pedagogy, a body of theoretical and applied research relating to teaching and learning and draws on many disciplines such as psychology, philosophy, computer science, linguistics, neuro-science, sociology and anthropology.

From the quotation above, it is assumed that education does not merely transfer knowledge or skill, but more specifically it trains people to have positive judgment and well-developed wisdom, better characters and mental powers. Through education, someone will be able to search through their natural talent and self-potential, empower them and finally will result in gaining their self-esteem and better life.

The history of education according to Dieter Lenzen, president of the Freie Universität Berlin 1994 “began either millions of years ago or at the end of 1770”. Education as a science cannot be separated from the educational traditions that existed before. Education was the natural response of early civilizations to the struggle of surviving and thriving as a culture. Adults trained the young of their society in the knowledge and skills they would need to master and eventually pass on.

The education of an individual human begins since he was born and continues throughout his life. Even, some people believe that education begins even before birth, as evidenced by some parents’ playing music or reading to the baby in the womb to hope it will influence the child’s development. For some, the struggles and triumphs of daily life provide far more instruction than does formal. Family members may have a profound educational effect – often more profound than they realize – though family teaching may function very informally.

Education: the purpose, function and in practice

Theorists have made a distinction between the purpose of education and the functions of education. A purpose is the fundamental goal of the process-an end to be achieved, while Functions are other outcomes that may occur as a natural result of the process- byproducts or consequences of schooling. To elaborate these terms, it can be seen in reality that some teachers believe that the transfer of knowledge from teacher to students is the main purpose of education, while the transfer of knowledge from school to the real world or the application of what has been transferred is something that happens naturally as a consequence of possessing that knowledge; it is called a function of education.

Here are some quotations taking from The Meaning of Education:
“The only purpose of education is to teach a student how to live his life-by developing his mind and equipping him to deal with reality. The training he needs is theoretical, i.e., conceptual. He has to be taught to think, to understand, to integrate, to prove. He has to be taught the essentials of the knowledge discovered in the past-and he has to be equipped to acquire further knowledge by his own effort” ~Ayn Rand

“The aim of education should be to teach us rather how to think, than what to think-rather to improve our minds, so as to enable us to think for ourselves, than to load the memory with the thoughts of other men.” ~Bill Beattie

From the above information it can be said that the purpose of education is to prepare the students to be able to face their life by facilitating them to develop their mind and equip them with “hard skill” and “soft skill” to deal with reality. As the result of this education, they themselves will be able to think, to understand, to integrate and to prove their ability.

Talking about the purpose of education, there are some overviews about it. There are different outlooks between autocratic and democratic regarding education. It is quite clear that each type of world outlook demands its consistent type of education. The autocratic wants the education in the purpose of making docile followers. So, that is why they prefer a type of education whose purpose is to build docility and obedience. In the other hand, Democracy is different from them. Democracy wishes all people to be able and willing to judge wisely for themselves. The democratic will seek a type of education whose purpose is to build responsible, thinking, public-spirited citizenship in all people.

This is also different for the authoritarian society. For them, it is just enough for the leaders to know what they want without thinking about what their people want. It is quite in contrary to what a democratic society wants. For the democracy society, the leaders and the most important – the large majority of the people must see clearly the aims/purpose of the type of education they have. In other words, in a democracy it is essential that the leaders and people have clear philosophy of life and a clear philosophy of education.