Philosophy of education is a branch of philosophy that addresses philosophical question concerning the nature, aims and problems of education.

The aims of education

Philosophers have different views on the aims and goals of education. For Hindus the final goal of education is attainment of heaven and the luster of Brahman (Brahma-varchasa), and liberation from bondage[1]. Thus for them “Sa Vidya Ya Vimukteya” (Education liberates) is the highest goal of education[2].

For Socrates it is to make a man better citizen and thereby happier individual. For Plato it would insure a happy and just state. For Aristotle the aim of education is to make people virtuous[3]. For Plato and Aristotle education was a matter of the state.

For Apologists the education was an instrument for the church to be used in the service of God. In the Dark ages of Europe the aim of education salvation of human soul in the world of temptation and sin[4]. In the middle ages and early Renaissance the aim of education was a matter of religion and the salvation of the human soul. According to Johann Sturm the aim of education was piety, knowledge and eloquence. For Francis Bacon the aim of education was to pass on the knowledge of the past accumulated knowledge of the society to the young.

According to Thomas Hobbes Education is an instrument of the state set up and controlled to serve the ruler and his system. The aim of education, Locke argues should be that an individual who knew all the proper methods of association with his fellows, who was wise in the ways of the world so that he could take care of himself at all times who was pious and who had enough knowledge to meet the demands of his environment. For Rousseau education should protect the child from the influence of society which will warp the natural growth of his real self. For Pestalozzi Education is a natural progressive and harmonious development of all the powers and capacities of the human being. For Johnn Gottlieb the aim was education was to build a nation.

For Wilhelm August Froebel education was a process of permitting and making possible the natural growth of the child. For John Dewey education is concerned with the individual in society and not with the individual isolated from society. In the present the fundamental aim of education is to train and mould individuals into service of the state.

Dr. Maria Montessori did not start her work on predetermined set of theories. According to her, “Education is an aid offered to the organism in course of fundamental development to live his life as he meant to live according to the laws of development.” She stressed on the liberty given to the child to development according his pace. She says that an educational method that shall have liberty as its basis must intervene to help the child to a conquest of these various obstacles. In other words, his training must be such as shall help him to diminish, in a rational manner, the social bonds, which limit his activity.

Gandhi’s and Jiddu Krishnamurthi’s and others views on Education

Gandhi emphasized the ancient central principle of education[5] “Sa Vidya Ya Vimuktaye”. Education is that which liberates. This liberation is not only the spiritual liberation after death, liberation from all manners of servitude even in the present life. He classified servitude into slavery to domination from outside and slavery to one’s own artificial needs. He confirms that the true education leads to freedom and that which opens the door for all and knowledge. He considered manual labour to be important. He felt that the useful manual labour intelligently performed is the means par excellence for developing the intellect. The intellect developed without manual labour is unbalanced distorted abortion. He emphasized physical education and motor development for the development of the intellect. The core proposal of Gandhi was the introduction of productive handicrafts in the school curriculum.  His idea was not just to introduce handicrafts as a compulsory subject, but to make the learning of a craft as the central axis of the entire teaching program.

Jiddu Krishnamurthi enumerated the following as his educational aims:

  1. Global outlook: A vision of the whole as distinct from the part; there should never be a sectarian outlook, but always a holistic outlook free from all prejudice
  2. Concern for man and the environment: humanity is part of nature, and if nature is not care for, it will boomerang on man. Only the right education and deep affection between people everywhere, will resolve many problems including the environmental challenges.
  3. Religious spirit which includes the scientific temper: the religious mind is alone not lonely. It is in communion with people and nature.

In Sir M. Vishweshwariah’s opinion,[6] the progress in a country depends mainly on the education of its people. He says that without education we would be a nation of children. He draws the difference between one man and another apart from birth and social positions, in the extent of knowledge, general and practical acquired by him … the civilized nation is distinguished from an uncivilized one by the extent of its acquired intelligence and skill.

S. P. Pani[7] defines education as the process of bringing up, instructions, teaching, training and strengthening the powers of body, mind and culture. According to him educated is to be well cultivated, cultured, knowledgeable, refined in judgement and taste, and experienced. The foundation of education is two folds psycho-physiological and philosophical.

Current Philosophical view of education

Harvey Siegel[8] classifies the moral and political aspects of the educational system into three categories.

  1. Aims goals
  2. Distributive goals
  3. Constraints

Harvey argues for five Aims goals. They are:

  1. Personal Autonomy: Children have the right to choose how to live, which religion to follow, what kind of sexual life to adopt. The autonomous person is reflective and responds to reasons; he is not merely calculating and rationally self-interested. He can see the force of other people’s needs and interests and can responds appropriately to them.
  2. The ability to contribute to social and economic life broadly understood: children have to be economically self-reliant. The education system should equip children to contribute to society.
  3. Personal flourishing: the schools should facilitate the flourishing the skill of the children
  4. Democratic competence: the schools should develop the knowledge and sills needed for democratic competence.
  5. The capacity for cooperation: the children should be taught how to make space for one another, how to share and engage in give and take.[9]
  1. Distributive goals: Harvey Siegel strongly argues that the children should have equal opportunities to develop talents and says,

“An individual’s prospects for educational achievement should be a function only of that individual’s effort and talent, not of his or her social class background.”

He says that there should be equality in distributing education. Equality in

  1. a. Meritocratic education
  2. Radical education
  3. Benefiting the Least Advantaged
  4. Adequate education
  5. Maximizing excellence: to maximize excellence we have to invest in those whose capacity are high and can develop inexpensively.
  1. Constraints and trade-offs: Harvey talks about two constraints in providing education. a. Parent-centred constraints: As children are raised by parents some theorists feel that the parents have an absolute right to direct the education of their children. If that is so it prevents the government from facilitating children’s autonomy against the wishes of their parents. Instead the parents should have a close relationship with their children and have time with their children outside school.

b. Child centred constraints: the aims goals which were described earlier were formulated keeping in view how a child is supposed to turn out an as adult. But children are not just adult-in-formation; childhood is intrinsically important, independent of its consequences for the quality of adulthood.

It is worth remembering that schooling is compulsory and children have no choice but to spend a significant number of their waking hours in the classrooms where their parents and teachers have placed them and among the other children whom they have not chosen as their companions. The means that would most improve a child’s prospects for academic achievement might diminish the quality of his school days. Ex: the frequent and rigorous testing would improve low-end achievement it would make some low-end achievers excessively anxious at the time. Even if we are confident that the rigorous testing is crucial for improving the child’s performance, it makes his school days miserable.

  1. Trade-offs: Just as we balance between parent-centred and child-centred constraints we need to make trade-offs among the goals themselves. The educational success for many working-class children would exact the high price of alienating them culturally from their parents, siblings and communities.

[1] Hurtmut Scharfe

[2] S.P.Pani, Search, January 2008

[3] S.E.Frost, Jr. Basic Teachings of the Great Philosophers

[4] S.E.Frost, Jr. 1989-215

[5] S. V. Pani, Search, a journal of Arts, Humanities and Management, January 2008

[6] Narendar Pani (edt) 2010 – 129

[7] S.V. Pani, Director, Directorate of distance and continuing education, Utkal University, Bhubaneshwar, India

[8] Harvey Siegel, The Oxford Handbook of Philosophy of education, , 2009, -36

[9] Harvey Siegel, 2009 -40

Author: Rekha Reddy

......from light to light. I intend to pass on the light which was bestoved upon me by my teachers Mr. Appaji, Mr. Gundu Rao, Mrs. Meenakshi Shivarama Krishnan and Prof. Rajendra Gupta and by my friend Mr. Balachandra. I intend to pass on the beacon of hope, love, forgiveness and progress to all those who are involved with children and to all those who want to lay a firm foundation for beautiful world by creating wonderful childhood. ... Let's march from light to light

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