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What is the purpose of education?: The most important question in the education revolution

It is recently trendy to say "its time for an education revolution". So before we get these lofty ideas about all the things wrong with the system and how to fix it, lets talk about what the purpose of education is. Once decided (will it ever be truly decided?) then, and only then, can we create a proper educational system.
So lets hear some options! Whats the purpose of education???


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    Sep 14 2013: I suppose what you mean to ask is what is the ideal purpose of education since "education" as it now exists has as many purposes as there are cultures and educators. With the Khan academy and internet making content education almost obsolete we can really begin to focus on absolute fundamentals. This seems proven too by studies which show that facts and even skills are seldom retained even one year after high school, about 20% being the average. Several contributors speak of learning how to learn and others focus on finding out what to learn both of which are good and necessary. But I would begin with self awareness, to learn what it means to be a human being by studying what we have in common with others and also how are we different. How can we find our place in nature and explore what we each need to know without this fundamental understanding? Few can retain much content unless they have become convinced of its relevance to them, so why try to cram a so called standard curriculum down students throats? If we study ourselves we will have the opportunity to learn how each of us can best learn. There is no one perfect way that works for everyone. The best teachers like those in Finland study the child to discover what works for them. Visual, tactile and aural modes vary in their effectiveness. Experiential modes work for many but again if self motivation is lacking it will still tend to be futile in the long run. The Dalai Lama is quoted as saying essentially that we need more healers and peacemakers not more "successful" ethic-less profit makers. A clever lawyer without ethics serves no one but himself. Some Japanese schools focus the first years on "learning to be happy" this seems to include social awareness and communication both of which fit well with the approach I describe. I have been nominated for next years TED prize with the explicit goal of creating a working model of an ideal school. I am looking for volunteers who would like to help develop such.
    • Sep 14 2013: Chad, thank you for this contribution. It is so well informed and very relevant to today's issues. I have had many a conversation discussing whether content knowledge is obsolete and whether we still need to learn facts that can be looked up on a device in our pockets, and I have come to the conclusion that it is necessary to some extent. In order to apply new knowledge, put it in its proper context, or think critically about it in any way, we have to have some sort of footing of knowledge in our heads to compare it to. Yes, we only retain a small percent of what we learn (as you said, 20%), but if we dont learn much, 20% of not much is pretty useless!
      That being said, your comments about self awareness and learning what it means to be human are crucial. Factual knowledge is useless without this sort of understanding. I think you philosophy is very well centered on what is really important in life and where we should be headed for the future if we want to create a world that we actually want to be a part of.
      I wish you the best of luck with the TED prize. Although I am still a student, creating a revolutionary school model is my life goal as well and its always reassuring for me to find others working towards that same goal. I'm not so sure there is such a thing as one "ideal" school, but there are definitely ways to do it better for particular students, and we can definitely keep heading closer towards those ideal schools.

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