Education is a moral enterprise which should concern itself with how to pass worthwhile knowledge across to the learner and how to promote that which benefits society. Education is a concept that means different things to different people; often determined by the culture of each society and other equally important factors.
R. S Peters in his chapter titled Ethics and Education in the book, Philosophy of Education (2011) by Andrew Uduigwomen and Oghenekaro, describes the process of educating as an intentional transmission of something worthwhile in a morally acceptable manner.
He went further to say that education must involve knowledge and understanding such that knowledge is not inert but characterizes a person’s way of looking at things. In Peter’s view, education is all round development of a person, physically, intellectually, morally and spiritually. So he insists education should encourage holistic development of an individual.
David Tyack, a historian of education reached the conclusion in his book, The One Best System (1974) that the purpose of schooling is tied to social and economic needs. However the two educationists, Kathleen de Marrais and Margaret Lecompte in the book, The Way School Works (1999), outline a more pragmatic purpose to schooling and they are as follows: (1) Mathematical and reading skills. (2) Political purposes such as the assimilation of immigrants. (3) Economic purposes such as job preparation and (4) Social purposes such as the development of social and moral responsibility.
Others have argued that education should not only benefit mankind but should also benefit nature itself i.e protection of the ecosystem. With the climate change crisis staring the whole world in this face, this position has gained plenty of ground in the last few years.
It is the belief of some that education should also include teaching of basic skills which empower people to provide for themselves and their families i.e hair dressing, carpentry etc. In this light, education is not solely about developing intellect.
It ought to have moral value and application which doesn’t just sustain life but makes it meaningful. Yes, education is a means of developing the individual intellectually and physically to become self-reliant and for the development of the nation. So, though both education and schooling are processes, they are not synonymous. It is through the process of education that individual potentials are used to benefit both the individual and society.
It is my strong opinion though that governments in Nigeria should direct more attention to developing the vocational and technical training end of the educational sector. Contrary to the attitude in vogue in Nigeria, it’s not every individual that’s suited to a university education.
Neither is this form of education in any way inferior. The strength and talent of some lies in the more technical side of things and for education to satisfy its moral requirement of making a worthwhile contribution to society while assisting self-actualisation, adequate attention needs to be paid to those who have the ability to meet society’s sundry technical needs.
In Germany for instance, despite their sound economic footing which provides free tuition at public universities for their nationals and non-nationals alike, a significant number of people who pursue tertiary education do so through the dual education system which trains people to a nationally accepted standard to fill technical gaps.
These institutions are outside of the public school system but are financed and supervised by the federal government in conjunction with industrial groups such as Chambers of Commerce/Trade and Trade Unions. This system combines theoretical study with paid apprenticeship where a student would typically spend three days a week on the job under a trainer/teacher and two days a week at school for academic studies.
This system where an apprenticeship plan is designed by an expert and which combines both practice and theory goes a long way to explain why Germany sits on top of the pile when it comes to technological expertise globally.
Considering all the different positions put forward by philosophers, historians and educators, it becomes quite evident that no singular definition can adequately capture the aim and purpose of education but one thing that’s quite clear is that education has a moral basis because it’s an instrument most agree is used to serve the interest of society and advance the cause of mankind in one way or the other.
Changing the nation…one mind at a time.