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Education is a social science that encompasses teaching and learning specific skills. Practicing teachers in the field of education use a variety of methods and materials in their instruction to impart a curriculum. There has been a plethora of literature in the field of education that addresses these areas. Such literature addresses the facets of teaching practices to include instructional strategies, behavior management, environmental control, motivational strategies, and technological resources. However, the single most important factor in any teacher's effectiveness is the interaction style and personality of the teacher, for the quality of their relationships with the students provides the impetus for inspiration. The best teachers are able to translate good judgment, experience, and wisdom into the art of communication that students find compelling. It is their compassion for varied human qualities, passion, and the creativity of potential that assists teachers to invigorate students to higher expectations of themselves and society at large. The goal of education is the growth of students so that they become productive citizens of a dynamic, everchanging, society. Fundamentally, the imparting of culture from generation to generation (see socialisation)promotes a greater awareness and responsiveness through social maturity to the needs of an increasingly diversified society.


It is widely accepted that the process of education begins at birth and continues throughout life. Some believe that education begins even earlier than this, as evidenced by some parents' playing music or reading to the baby in the womb in the hope it will influence the child's development.

The word 'education' is often used to refer solely to formal education (see below). However, it covers a range of experiences, from formal learning to the building of understanding through day to day experiences.

Individuals can receive informal education from a variety of sources. Family members and society have a strong influence on the informal education of the individual.

Origins of the Word "Education"

The word "education" is derived from the Latin educare meaning "leading out" or "leading forth". This reveals one of the theories behind the function of education - of developing innate abilities and expanding horizons.

Formal Education

Formal education occurs when society or a group or an individual sets up a curriculum to educate people, usually the young. Formal education can become systematic and thorough. Formal education systems can be used to promote ideals or values as well as knowledge and this can sometimes lead to abuse of the system.

Life-long or adult education has become widespread in many countries. However, 'education' is still seen by many as something aimed at children, and adult education is often branded as 'adult learning' or 'lifelong learning'.

Adult education takes on many forms from formal class-based learning to self-directed learning. Lending libraries provide inexpensive informal access to books and other self-instructional materials. Many adults have also taken advantage of the rise in computer ownership and internet access to further their informal education.

Technology and Education

Technology has become an increasingly influential factor in education. Computers and associated technology are being widely used in developed countrites to both complement established education practices and develop new ways of learning such as online education (a type of distance education). While technology clearly offers powerful learning tools that can engage students, research has provided no evidence to date that technology actually improves student learning.

History of education

In 1994 Dieter Lenzen, president of the Freie Universität Berlin, said education began either millions of years ago or at the end of 1770. (The first chair of pedagogy was founded at the end of the 1770s at the University of Halle, Germany.) This quote by Lenzen includes the idea that 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 surving and thriving as a culture, requiring adults to train the young of their society in the knowledge and skills they would need to master and eventually pass on. The evolution of culture, and human beings as a species, has depended on this practice of transmittining knowledge. In pre-literate societies this was achieved orally, story-telling from one generation to the next. As oral langauage developed into witten symbols and letters, the depth and breadth of knowledge that could be preserved and passed increased exponentially.

As cultures began to extend their knowledge beyond the basic skills of communicating, trading, gathereing food, religious practices, etc., the beginnings of formal educaiton, schooling, eventually followed. There is evidence that schooling in this sense was already in place in Egypt between 3000 and 500BC.

Basic education today is considered those skills that are necessary to function in society.


In the West, the origins of education are associated with organized religion: priests and monks realised the importance of promoting positive virtues in the young and founded, maintained, and staffed school systems. In Europe, many of the first universities have Catholic roots. Following the Reformation in Scotland the newly established national Church of Scotland set out a programme for spiritual reform in January 1561 setting the principle of a schoolteacher for every parish church and free education for the poor. In 1633 an Act of the Parliament of Scotland introduced a tax to pay for this programme, and by the end of the 17th century education in Scotland brought literacy to much of the population, with the system being used by all except the nobility.

During and following the Age of Enlightenment the association between religion and education became diminished. Jean-Jacques Rousseau fuelled an influential early-Romanticism reaction to formalised religion-based education at a time when the concept of childhood had started to develop as a distinct aspect of human development.

The Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth's Commission of National Education (Polish: Komisja Edukacji Narodowej) formed in 1773 counts as the first Ministry of Education in the history of mankind.

Conventional social history narrates how by about the beginning of the 19th century the industrial revolution promoted a demand for masses of disciplined, inter-changeable workers who possessed at least minimal literacy. In these circumstances, the new socially predominant structure, the state, began to mandate and dictate attendance at standardised schools with a state-ordained curriculum. Out of such systems the general and vocational education paths of the 20th century emerged, with increasing economic specialisation demanding increasingly specialised skills from a population which spent correspondingly longer periods in formal education before entering or while engaged in the workforce.


The origins of education in China are tied up with the Chinese classic texts, rather than organized religion, per se. The early Chinese state depended upon literate, educated officials for operation of the empire, and an imperial examination system was established in the Han Dynasty (206 BC-220) for evaluating and selecting officials. This merit-based system gave rise to schools that taught the classics and continued in use for 2,000 years, until the end the Qing Dynasty, and was abolished in 1911 in favour of Western education methods.


The origins of education in Japan are closely related to religion. Schooling was conducted at temples for youngsters who wanted to study Buddhism to become priests. Later, children who were willing to study started to get together a place called, "Tera-koya" (literally meaning temple hut) and learned how to read and write Japanese.


India has a long history of organized education. The Gurukul system of education is one of the oldest on earth, and was dedicated to the highest ideals of all-round human development: physical, mental and spiritual. Gurukuls were traditional Hindu residential schools of learning; typically the teacher's house or a monastery. Education was free, but students from well-to-do families payed Gurudakshina, a voluntary contribution after the completion of their studies. At the Gurukuls, the teacher imparted knowledge of Religion, Scriptures, Philosophy, Literature, Warfare, Statecraft, Medicine and Astrology (Surprisingly, ancient Indians seem to have not been interested in History). The first millennium and the few centuries preceding it saw the flourishing of higher education at Nalanda, Takshila, Ujjain, & Vikramshila Universities. Art, Architecture, Painting, Logic, Grammar, Philosophy, Astronomy, Literature, Buddhism, Hinduism, Arthashastra (Economics & Politics), Law, and Medicine were among the subjects taught and each university specialized in a particular field of study. Takshila specialized in the study of medicine, while Ujjain laid emphasis on astronomy. Nalanda, being the biggest centre, handled all branches of knowledge, and housed upto 10,000 students at its peak. British records show that education was widespread in the 18th century, with a school for every temple, mosque or village in most regions of the country. The subjects taught included Reading, Writing, Arithmetic, Theology, Law, Astronomy, Metaphysics, Ethics, Medical Science and Religion. The schools were attended by students representative of all classes of society. The current system of education, with its western style and content, was introduced & funded by the British in the 20th century, following recommendations by Macaulay. Traditional structures were not recognized by the British govt and have been on the decline since. Gandhi is said to have described the traditional educational system as a beautiful tree that was destroyed during the British rule.

Recent world-wide educational trends

Overall, illiteracy has greatly decreased in recent years.

Illiteracy and the percentage of populations without any schooling have decreased in the past several decades. For example, the percentage of population without any schooling decreased from 36% in 1960 to 25% in 2000.

Among developing countries, illiteracy and percentages without schooling in 2000 stood at about half the 1970 figures. Among developed countries, illiteracy rates decreased from 6 percent to 1 percent, and percentages without schooling decreased from 5 to 2.

Illiteracy rates in less economically developed countries (LEDCs) surpassed those of more economically developed countries (MEDCs) by a factor of 10 in 1970, and by a factor of about 20 in 2000. Illiteracy decreased greatly in LDCs, and virtually disappeared in MDCs. Percentages without any schooling showed similar patterns.

Percentages of the population with no schooling varied greatly among LDCs in 2000, from less than 10 percent to over 65 percent. MDCs had much less variation, ranging from less than 2 percent to 17 percent.

Challenges in education

The goal of education is the transference of ideas from one person to another, or from one person to a group. Current education issues include which teaching method(s) are most effective, how to determine what knowledge should be taught, which knowledge is most relevant, and how well the pupil will retain incoming knowledge. Educators such as George Counts and Paulo Freire identified education as an inherently political process with inherently political outcomes. The challenge of identifying whose ideas are transfered and what goals they serve has always stood in the face of formal and informal education.

In addition to the "Three R's", reading, writing, and arithmetic, Western primary and secondary schools attempt to teach the basic knowledge of history, geography, mathematics (usually including calculus and algebra), physics, chemistry and sometimes politics, in the hope that students will retain and use this knowledge as they age. The current education system measures competency with tests and assignments and then assigns each student a corresponding grade. The grades usually come in the form of either a letter grade or a percentage, which are intended to represent the amount of all material presented in class that the student understood. However, these grades do not necessarily reveal the strengths and weaknesses of a student. There is growing concern about the lack of youth voice in the educative process, and those effects on schooling. Some feel the current grading sytem risks lowering students' self-esteem and self-confidence, as students may receive poor marks due to factors outside their control. Such factors include poverty, child abuse, and prejudiced or incompetent teachers.

Albert Einstein, one of the most famous physicists of our time, credited with helping us understand the universe better, was not a model school student. He was uninterested in what was being taught, and he did not attend classes all the time. However, his gifts eventually shone through and added to the sum of human knowledge.

Every child has certain gifts and abilities, but early and later childhood education rarely tries to find out what that may be and help the students develop that. If children are good at something they will excel in that subject, and if they do not, they may not do as well.

This brings us to a major critique of modern western education. It exposes children to a wide variety of disciplines which is good, but subjects are taught, tested, and then the children are generally not required to remember the content from before.

There are also some dilemmas about the teaching of knowledge. Should some knowledge be forgotten? What should be taught, are we better off knowing how to build nuclear bombs, or is it best to let such knowledge be forgotten?

In well-developed countries

In developed countries, teachers worry little about the process of education because there are set guidelines that they have to follow. A reoccuring problem is the difficulty of keeping students attention and actually teaching them something they will retain throughout life. (see Current issues in teaching). Program Evaluation answers questions such as whether different methods of education (public, private, home, or other schooling) "work", or how to improve education. One example is the Program for International Student Assessment from the OECD.

A difficulty in making decisions on how to educate children is the contradiction between compulsory education and nurturing the concept of personal freedom in Western society. This has lead to parents in some countries choosing to home school their children where it is permitted. A perceived lack of rigour or the alleged presence of political correctness drives this trend too - whilst most common in the USA, British authors such as Peter Hitchens and Alexander Deane wrie about it in the UK context, too.

Another reason for home schooling may also be perceived over-education, as well as the over-emphasis on examination results versus student-driven discovery and exploration of subjects (the sausage machine analogy).

A question studied by educational sociologists is that of the "hidden curriculum" which enforces societal status quo by providing different educations to children of different social classes.

Bullying has been identified as a challenge in many schools.

In developing countries

In developing countries, the number and seriousness of the problems faced is naturally greater. People are sometimes unaware of the importance of education, and there is economic pressure from those parents who prioritize their children's making money in the short term over any long-term benefits of education. Recent studies on child labor and poverty have suggested, however, that when poor families reach a certain economic threshold where families are able to provide for their basic needs, parents return their children to school. This has been found to be true, once the threshold has been breached, even if the potential economic value of the children's work has increased since their return to school. Teachers are often paid less than other similar professions.

A lack of good universities, and a low acceptance rate for good universities is evident in countries with a relatively high population density. In some countries there are uniform, overstructured, inflexible centralized programs from a central agency that regulates all aspects of education.

  • Due to globalization, increased pressure on students in curricular activities
  • Removal of a certain percentage of students for improvisation of academics (usually practised in schools, after 10th grade)

India however is starting to develop technologies that will skip land based phone and internet lines. Instead, they have launched a special education satellite that can reach more of the country at a greatly reduced cost. There is also an initiative started by AMD and other corporations to develop the $100 dollar computer which should be ready by 2006. This computer will be sold in units of 1 million, and will be assembled in the country where the computer will be used. This apperas to be a different computer to that developed by MIt, with the same price tag, believed to be powered by clockwork and a generator. This will enable poorer countries to give their children a digital education and to close the digital divide across the world.

In Africa, NEPAD has launched an "e-school programme" to provide all 600,000 primary and high schools with computer equipment, learning materials and internet access within 10 years.

Parental involvement

Parent involvement is an essential aspect of a child's educational development. Early and consistent parental involvement in the child's life is critical such as reading to your child at an early age, teaching patterns, interpersonal communication skills, exposing them to diverse cultures and the community around them, educating them on a healthy lifestyle, etc. The socialization and academic education of a child requires the involvement of three parties: the student, the parent, and the teacher.

Academic acheivement and parental involvment are strongly linked in the research. Many schools are now beginning program of parental involvement in a more organized fashion, in part due to the No Child Left Behind legislation from the US Department of Education.

Prominent educationalists


  • Brief review of world socio-demographic trends shows world illiteracy trends.
  • Siljander, Pauli (2002). Systemaattinen johdatus kasvatustieteeseen, otava. ISBN 951-1-18439-3.
  • Dharampal (2000). The Beautiful Tree, Other India Press.

See also

Look up education in Wiktionary, the free dictionary.

External links


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