The Meaning of Education

The etymological meaning of ‘education’ is to ‘bring up’, to ‘develop’, to ‘evoke’. Education, according to Wikipedia, is the acquisition of ‘knowledge, skills, values, beliefs, and habits’. But why do we aim to acquire ‘habits’ and ‘knowledge’?


An inherently social construct, we – along with prior generations – recognise that an education can create distinction between us and the next candidate. ‘Education’ is thereby synonymous to opportunity. Further, we must question if school can be considered synonymous to education.


John Dewey believed that education is a ‘process of living and not a preparation for future living’. ‘Opportunity’ is a noun belonging to the future; ‘If I get into X University maybe I’ll have a better chance of joining Company Y’. Not an altruistic concept, we compete for the best grades and consequently the best jobs in order to benefit our future selves. 

Is the meaning of education keeping to the constraints of the curriculum so that we can offer our human capital to our corporate preceptors? 


Or, is the meaning of education to acquire skills and habits which educe passion, enabling purposeful action? 


Miss Fisher in Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird reprimanded Scout for having more knowledge than her peers. She believed she had to ‘undo the damage’ caused by her curiosity and passion for learning. 

Although the novel was set in 1930s Alabama, the mindset is a reflection of today’s limited national curriculum. Children are taught recitation skills, how to achieve optimal grades, and how to fulfil their academic potential. We rarely see teachers implementing creativity, nurturing curiosity, or encouraging passion.


Education is no longer ‘learning’, but a conforming act of memorisation. The curriculum therefore does not ‘develop’ critical thinkers or ‘evoke’ ardour. So what is the solution?


One in ten British adults actively dislike their job, whilst a survey conducted by Investors in People found that ‘half of UK employees are considering a new job in 2020’. This may be the result of years of limited learning and no true education. If students were given the opportunity to develop ‘habits’ and ‘values’ and ‘skills’, maybe more career paths would be chosen which provide a sense of fulfilment. Perhaps then entrepreneurship would be considered the norm instead of an exception. Edward De Bono’s ‘lateral thinking’ approach should be integrated into the education system – or children should be granted avenues to be truly educated and inspired, breaking the boundaries of the curriculum.


Education is an inherent change in one’s mindset and learning capacity, and is a discipline which should be implemented in one’s formative years in order to develop curious and passionate thinkers. To be educated is to show humanity, to possess wisdom and knowledge, not just information. 


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