What is ‘An Education’?
Some say education is about making people cleverer: about ensuring that people have access to lots of knowledge. I can’t see anything to argue with in that (although I don’t think teaching lots of knowledge necessarily makes anyone any cleverer, they just know more things than they did before). It’s a bit of a reductive viewpoint though, surely, to suggest that this is all that educators can achieve?
As a parent, that does not look like ‘An Education’ to me. It’s part of it, for sure, but it’s a tiny part out on the far right hand side of the field. Because if my children can read, and want to learn, then all that knowledge is freely available to them in books.
So, what is it that I would like teachers and schools to achieve for my children during their education?
* A love of learning that reaches far beyond the school gates.
* The ability to use language in a rich and varied way, that suits the situation they are in.
* To keep them reading, and to cultivate the love of reading that they have at present.
* To build their imaginative powers, and to place value in things that cannot be measured, as well as in those that can.
* To interact with the world in all its multi-sensory glory – with the outdoors seen as an important aspect of that world.
* A set of moral principles that guide their behaviour (not based on an external faith based system, but on an intrinsic desire to do good).
* A sense of courage, and self-discipline, and the ability to focus and work hard.
* A variety of experiences, and opportunities, perhaps ones that they might not get at home.
* The ability to co-operate and work well with others, to be supportive of other people’s ideas and efforts.
* A sense of what it means to be inclusive, and why equality matters, and a strong sense of empathy.
* The ability to be creative, and to find joy in taking risks and experimenting.
* A broad and balanced understanding of the world and the people in it – how it works, our history, our future, the links between subject areas, the knowledge and skills within each one.
* An understanding that there are people in the world who have much less than they do, and what they might do to make the world a more equitable place.
* A wide set of skills that will equip them for what looks to be a very challenging future.
* Some kind of sense of what they might like to do with their lives, which doesn’t have to involve going to an ‘elite’ university, if that is not what they want to do.
* For them to feel happy, and relaxed, and to have fun.
I’m not convinced that any of this will make them ‘cleverer’. Smarter, yes, more fully rounded, more sensible and more knowledgeable as well. But what I really want is for them (and for all children) to reach their full potential as human beings.
This, to me, is ‘An Education’.