The meaning of education – have we lost it?

By May 16, 2016 No Comments

Do we educate, really? 

If you explore the origins of the word ‘education’, you’ll find that its roots are attached to Latin verbs such as ‘bring up’, ‘rear’ or ‘lead forth’ and ‘bring out’. So, if we think about this and really interrogate modern learning, is this what we’re doing? 

I’m not so sure we are. 

There’s a lot to be thankful for – living in a country where, for the most part, we’re entitled to an education. But that doesn’t mean the system is perfect. Far from it. In efforts to systemise education, standardise testing, collect data and bureaucratise the process, we’ve lost something important. We’ve lost the meaning. 

Are we ‘leading forth’? Are we really ‘bringing out’ qualities in people that make them confident in their own abilities and empowered as learners? In my experience, it’s been more about ticking boxes, getting tests done, satisfying criteria, validating results, and so on and so on… Obviously, ‘de-schooling’ society isn’t quite the answer but how do we still teach with meaning when we’re faced with these kinds of straight-jacket like restraints? 

When we design for learning or teach, I think we need to keep these things in mind: 

  • We are teaching a person, not just satisfying performance criteria 
  • We want to empower the learner, not spoon-feed for easy ‘tick and flick’ 
  • We are teaching so as the learner can actually do something with the learning 
  • We want our learner to critically assess the value of their own learning 
  • We want our learner engaged, not feel overwhelmed by too much information 
  • We want to ‘thoughtfully deduct’ and eliminate as much extraneous material as possible
  • We want to provide context by sharing stories and making the learning real 
  • We want the learning to feel good not just provide accreditation for something 

If we’re doing these things, I think we understand what the real meaning of education is. That it’s about people. Not your ego or some lengthy document that helps justify some bureaucrat’s job. It’s about helping others achieve the things they want to achieve – whether that be, for example, a new skill, a good result, a goal, a new job or a promotion. But that doesn’t mean that the process of learning itself becomes redundant.  

We can have the best of both worlds. We can make learning engaging and still achieve what we need to achieve. I think we just need to care a little more about the true meaning of education. 

Leanne Roulston – THINKA Co-founder, Learning

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