Restatement of the purpose of this blog.

The purpose of education in UK schools should be to contribute to the development of adult citizens.  There are a couple of obvious weaknesses with this statement.


The first is that it is of course legitimate (but I suggest not enough) to say that education is not a means to an end, but an end in itself.  However, education occurs not isolated from, but within, society and  it inevitably helps shape any future society.  Therefore isn’t education, more than being simply an end, necessarily functional?  (I would value comments or criticisms on this train of thought.)


The second weakness is ultimately the subject of this blog.  That is: what do we mean by development and what is an adult citizen?!


I used the phrase ‘contribute to the development’ because as a starting point I think we should acknowledge that school cannot teach everything.  A school’s principal function must be to offer a minimum foundation for further development.  The contemporary buzzwords ‘learning to learn’ and ‘lifelong learning’ are appropriate.  Nevertheless, the problem is still there:  what knowledge, skills and understanding do we consider make for the foundation of a developed adult citizen?  What qualities do we consider students should have developed by the end of their compulsory schooling?


So far in this blog I have pointed to ‘entrepreneurship’ and ‘citizenship’ as starting points for possible answers.  There are discussions on entrepreneurship below.  I have also suggested ‘social justice’ as a requirement.  The words ‘social justice’ require discussion, but what I mean for the moment, and what is perhaps most important, is that we need to find a way to break the link between educational attainment and socio-economic status.


The purpose of this blog is to serve as a stimulus, and repository, for my thoughts on the above considerations.  It is not supposed to be academic in any formal sense and my comments and content are supposed to be tentative and probing in nature.  I welcome any input: to comment upon, clarify, help define, and, most importantly, criticise and rebut anything that’s been said.


One thought on “Restatement of the purpose of this blog.”

  1. The question of the purpose of education, whether it is functional or not, is presented in Alan Bennett’s History Boys, which I saw again yesterday. The sentiment of Hector; that education mustn’t be ‘useful’, mustn’t be a means to an end, particularly not a kind of glib exam-passing end, has of course a certain appeal. Hector’s untimetabled wanderings in his ‘General Studies’ lessons, through french conversation…Proust…Brief Encounter…, recognise education for its own sake, or perhaps for the sake of the soul, certainly simply for the sake of experiencing it, or if for an end then for some unspecified end – the unpredictable outcome of the ‘passing on’ of knowledge/education. In fact, more than ‘educating’, I think Hector’s philosophy is of the importance of experiencing, of relationships, and where ‘education’ is important it is in its capacity to, I don’t know…, ehnance the experience of the human condition…?

    Can I acknowledge the beauty of the sentiment of History Boys, of education for itself, and then say ‘but’ ?! I hope so.

    The problem I have is that education cannot possibly be only for itself, unscripted, random …because of its profound effects on society. Can I legitimately say: Education for itself, yes. Schooling, absolutely and necessarily functional. One of its functions being to prepare children for adulthood. Another (perhaps the same thing) being to prepare for education.

    Are there any lessons for schooling that we can get from Hector? Perhaps this is a ridiculous exercise, but some thoughts that I had on leaving the theatre:

    Firstly the benefit and importance of informal, unstructured (perhaps linking to what I think I previously called contextual) learning.

    Secondly the importance of the relationship, the sense in which Hector was mentor or coach… More coach, I think.

    Thirdly, Hector was accountable. Not to any formal structure (they’d all done their A-levels, he didn’t care about Oxbridge), but to his committment/dedication to those students. This kind of accountability I want to consider in more detail, but I have observed it at KIPP schools here in the states and have felt particulalrly that it didn’t exist in my school in London. It requires small groups, personal relationships and perhaps crucially a belief in the efficacy of the energy spent by a teacher (It is only at that the end of the play that Hector’s doubt manifests itself when he questions what the hell he’s spent his life doing!).

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