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Adam Burk

Founder/ Director, Treehouse Institute

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In your opinion, what should the purpose of education be?

Education is a prominent cultural institution used to perpetuate the prevailing values of a society.

Our modern education system has a sordid past largely rooted in industrialism. It's aim is to produce economically viable products--employable citizens. Nearly all our tweaks to the system in the last 100+ years are simply attempts to ensure that the products (graduates) are prepared for the work force.

I want to hear from YOU as I believe this conversation is crucial to lay a foundation to create significant and meaningful change.

Here is my answer:

I believe that education should be an empowering process that allows and guides children to develop their passions, critical thinking, compassion, and orientation towards wisdom for timely action.

In other words, self-cultivation should be the purpose of education. Understanding self-cultivation in terms of being a part of a unified field of relationships is key to the growth of a mature culture of peace. When the natural web of our relationships is used to strengthen our depth of knowledge, the feedback from the environment supports timely adjustments and refinements in our emotional and technical developments.

For this conversation, please focus on the question "in your opinion, what should the purpose of education be?"

We'll talk about the "how" in another conversation.

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Closing Statement from Adam Burk

Thank you all for joining this conversation. There are beautiful aspirations here of bringing for the best of humanity through the development of individuals, married with tensions to ensure that society is served and supported and that the basics are not overlooked.

There are currently 365 comments and 365 distinct articulations of "what the purpose of education should be." The process to develop a consensus on this is beyond the scope and purpose of this conversation. However, I do hope that it is understood that this question and its answer are the shapers of education systems and in turn cultures.

And so I invite you to ponder the question Thomas Brucia raised earlier, "Who should decide what the purpose of education is? http://www.ted.com/conversations/8190/who_should_decide_what_the_pur.html

Once we decide who should be making that decision then we can return to my original question and ultimately re-inventing education.

Thank you all again for sharing of your selves.

In peace,
Adam

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    Dec 27 2011: Great conversation and I am very happy for the opportunity to read though all the ideas here.

    I certainly agree that our modern education system derived from perpetuating the values of industrialism; the problem is that while basic literacy prepares workers for a position within the industry it does not concern itself with the special abilities that exist in each child allowing them to develop and contribute to society as is best for them.

    Although education and literacy are distinct, the emphasis must always be on education. The elements of literacy should be integrated throughout the day in a social manner through music, theatre, games and in the form of group discussions where the educators’ job is to assist students in transitioning from topic to topic and students learn how the various disciplines are tied into the whole picture of reality.

    The purpose of education should be to prepare children for life, nourishing the potential in every child so that each may connect and contribute his/her unique ideas and abilities to society.
    • E Pines

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      Dec 27 2011: Excellent points! We spend years teaching the math skills that could be taught as a model of approach in a few days as these will essentially done by computer and calculator anyway. In the meantime, the thinking/cooperative skills -- total integration -- necessary for true success in the new global world that has come upon us, are left to float.

      The industrial age has been passing to the information age, and now to the global/integral age.

      In the 13th century Leonardo of Pisa, "Fibonacci," widely introduced Italy and Europe to the Hindu-Arabic numeral system and its wonderful arithmetic. It freed them of the hopeless entanglement and debilitation of commerce and engineering under Roman numerals and abacus.

      Who shall come forth for 21st century children so that they may have the tools to untangle the global systemic mess. That they may work as a single vast strategist and tactician with billions of eyes, where all individuals use their unique talents, creativity, and problem solving skills in mutual concern and guarantee that links into a whole truly greater than the sum of the parts. Who will teach them to map and implement the interactive/interdependent strategies of Nature, on the human level, to achieve a world never before known. Who will bring our children to adapt, evolve, survive and thrive -- to start that great new chapter of human history, to fly forth as the butterfly from the overspent, rapidly decaying cocoon?
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        Dec 28 2011: Who is a good question—we must first of all recognize who or what constitutes education. About the age of seven, a child becomes acutely susceptible to suggestion of the values and ideas implicit in society; therefore, we must rethink our programs and systems of education (including the media) in order to provide an appropriate quality education that will enable all children to fulfill their potential and contribute to building a sustainable and just global society.

        “Education must simultaneously provide maps of a complex world in constant turmoil and the compass that will enable people to find their way in it.” (Delors Report, Learning: the Treasure Within)
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      Dec 28 2011: Nourishing the potential, C. Medansky, is a most excellent purpose.

      I wonder whether you would accept that potential as the potential to love, potential to empathize, potential to play, create, to be happy, to spread happiness, to be sensitive to the needs of our planet. I'm speaking about things that occur to me as usually not associated with head thinking or knowledge learning per se, but rather strength of spirit and heart. Even when we include health and safety (and physical agility, strength and endurance) still--emotional power and well-being often seem at the end of the list so to speak.
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        Dec 28 2011: Thanks Mark! In answer to your question: YES, I positively accept that potential as the potential to love, potential to empathize, potential to play, create, to be happy, to spread happiness, to be sensitive to the needs of our planet, and agree with Jeremy Rifkin (The Empathic Civilization: The Race to Global Consciousness in a World in Crisis) that distributed and collaborative learning experiences that foster critical thinking skills and greater empathic engagement go hand-in-hand with curricula emphasizing the interconnectedness of life and geochemical processes, preparing our children to think and act as part of a global family in a shared biosphere.
  • Dec 11 2011: In my opinion, the ultimate purpose of education is to help people be the teacher of themselves. I've been working in educational field for three years, and I am always thinking about this question. This is what I found: Education should be the process of helping people realize what they have, what they want, and what they need to do!
  • Dec 29 2011: This is a beautiful thread with so many wonderful responses. Thank you for the question.

    There is nothing more important than education. Lifelong learning is a process we all participate in, knowingly or unknowingly, in each and every moment. We are all interconnected with each other and with nature's systems. This is why I feel that your question, "In your opinion, what should the purpose of education be?" is quintessential. The answer must come from a deep causal root of understanding from which all things stem and intertwine. That said, here is an attempt at an answer.

    The purpose of education, on all levels, is for each and every person—both within the collective whole of humanity and individually as a vitally necessary, and fully whole and contributing part—to ultimately reach the full realization of what it means to be human.

    By explaining and pointing to this foundational root of understanding, in each and every activity, subject, and direction, that the most basic, common law thread that runs through all of nature is the greatest Human Universal known as The Ethic of Reciprocity, also known as The Golden Rule, each person, and all people together have the best opportunity to fully realize their humanity, as empathic, compassionate humans that care for the needs of others in all areas of society.

    Human Universals bind us together as one great global human family. The Human Universal called "The Ethic of Reciprocity," also known as "The Golden Rule," expresses itself throughout the world in varying degrees, through phrases such as, "Do not do to others what you yourself hate," "Do to others what you would want done to you," "Regard your neighbor’s gain as your gain, and your neighbor’s loss as your own loss," and "Love your neighbor as yourself," to name a few.

    If one generation of children were to be educated with this natural law of love and unity as the basis for all decisions, approaches, and mentalities, just imagine the impact.
  • Dec 15 2011: We Chinese ancestor has a saying教是为了不教 which means Education‘s purpose is just making everyone learn how to self-educate. I can't agree with this more ——in my opinion,I need education to make me understand my situation,understand others feeling,maintain interesting to this world,especially the nature.While even as a top-10 in my schoo llife,I can't get this from our current education system. I only got impatience and comparison,let myself adjust to the society,then lose myself
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      Dec 16 2011: Hello Zhiying,

      I have spent a lot of time with "The Great Learning" and this greatly informs my thinking and attitude. I agree that "how to self-educate" is a worthy purpose of education.

      Best,
      Adam
      • Dec 27 2011: woe,Adam,thanks for your confirm. Really appreciate your sincere attitude and careful consideration. My pleasure to share my view with u
  • Dec 2 2011: Because we live in a fast-paced world where that pace is accelerating. We cannot know what children will need to know in the future; we cannot even know HOW learning (or work) will be done because technology is transforming that very rapidly. Therefore, the primary purpose of education should be to learn how to learn.
    • Dec 3 2011: Technology pours forth on its own trajectory and if no major reckoning occurs to create some semblance of universal acknowledge that a unique technological phenomenon has happened which provides grounds for departures in which "ideals" rather than mere "improvements" are possible, it won't matter that technology will continue to spill forth in continuance of its "evolutionary" rather than "revolutionary" procession. I have put all of my professional and motivational eggs in one basket I believe represents such a reckoning. I call it "socio-technological literacy"--a third literacy above the traditional literacy of the ability to read and write, and above "technological literacy" which we generalize to be the ability to "use a computer", a cell phone, a DVR or what have you. This socio-technological literacy above the other two is an understanding of the fact that digital technology from the personal computer forward are no longer "tools" in the sense that tools had been used since the beginning of civilization. These devices and their impact on dialogue cause unique adaptations in the human being. We are changed by such "tools" and it is absolutely imperative to begin formalizing a literacy around developmental dynamics and the facilitation of human potential through media devices which are "unspecific" AS tools.

      Through this reckoning--this realization that we are changing from tool operators to beings partially changed by our new tool use, begins to establish a direction for deliberation in technology design. What is it about ourselves that we can no address and enhance since our tools give us freedom from physical time and space? The answer is, we can address every aspect of reason and development and create unconventional progress synergies that make for micro-economies that fall outside of what has been addressed in Industrial age business. This is how we define the line between the Industrial Revolution and the Information Technology Revolution in earnest.
    • Dec 4 2011: The primary purpose of education should be to learn how to learn.

      This deserves deeper investigation. To learn how to learn is inherently dangerous and disruptive. The process spoils authority while raising the most "unworthy" into positions of power. And yet, it is our best hope.
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    Nov 30 2011: A "good" education--one that contributes to the positive development of a human being--is always rooted in relationships. In fact, the things we most value in a democracy--participation, community, contribution--are also about relationships. I believe the purpose of education should always be creating good citizens: people who will be productive, but also good family members and neighbors, informed and engaged community members, civic-minded participants in making the immediate world a better place. The skill set for good citizenship, and the curriculum to lead youth in those positive directions does not, of course, align with what we're actually teaching in schools.
    • Dec 3 2011: Well-put Nancy. We should remind ourselves what makes us smile in life, and educate towards that.
      @ClassroomSooth
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    Dec 16 2011: The question is "what should the purpose of education be" (obviously any ideas in this regard would be the writer's opinion....).

    Shouldn't it be "Who should decide what the purpose of education should be"?

    Next: "Who should have the right to disagree with the person(s) who has decided what the purpose of education should be?"

    Finally: "What should the person who disagrees do about that fact?"
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      Dec 16 2011: however the question is what should the purpose of education be: it is rooted to challenge the educational systems that have been built for us by this who. A look into the history of education and what its relevance was back then is crucial to see what entailed this decision making process to set up a curriculum fit for the society.

      As the world is changing rapidly , so should the past reasoning behind the present educational systems be challenged. In a world that needs to be saved from historys´ effects like war, global warming, poverty, hyper consumption etc ...Todays´ education (both classroom and beyond the classroom) has to be able to shape concerned individuals who can learn from human history and be more innovative than the box allows them, to be. “Education is not to reform students…or to make them expert technicians. It is to unsettle their minds, widen their horizons, inflame their intellects, teach them to think straight.” Robert Maynard Hutchins, U of Chicago president 1929-51.
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      Dec 16 2011: Thomas, this is an excellent set of questions that certainly do need to be asked. Thanks for raising them. We've heard some answers in this thread already such as parents should be the ones to decide.

      What are your thoughts?
      • Dec 19 2011: education connects people with societies/organizations. Each organization or society has a set of 'symmetries' that people need to possess in order to function within them. Education teaches people these symmetries. When schools fail to teach people the right symmetries to work with their target societies, people appear to drop out of school (because they are naturally attracted to educational systems that will provide them those required symmetries).
  • Dec 2 2011: We each have differing talents, abilities and interests. If Mozart had gone to a public school today his teachers would have said, "Great kid, so you got an A in music, but you're failing P.E. and English. You can't just play the piano all day!" Well, you get the point. So the purpose of education would partly be to discover and develop the natural talents we each posses. To see each person as an individual, to help them discover their inner passions and to help them grow these inner passions as they develop greater skill in them.

    I also see education as a way to teach critical thinking skills and to open our minds to higher order thinking.
    • Dec 2 2011: Love the Mozart example! It reminded me of a video that conveys your point well!
      http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=o8limRtHZPs

      On the other hand, can their child be giving up too early? I did bottom of the class in math in 3&4th, in 6th I was top. I struggled again in 7th. By grad school no one could touch me. How does a parent "know" that their child is not a Mozart, or that the "It's just not my thing" is a cop-out?

      I agree that 'roundedness' is over-rated. Specialization is how we progress in almost all areas of human endeavor (and may be the principle reason that the one-size-fits-few public schools fail so many children and squander the skills of so many teachers.) After years of observation, I believe my daughter has no proclivity or ability in art; has minimal talent but deep interest in music; and has great interest and talent in science. That her current school forces equal measures of these three seems a mismatch.

      http://www.facebook.com/ParentsDecide
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    Dec 23 2011: To be precise, the purpose of education should be to become a good human being.We should not be educated just for the purpose of workforce but making all possible attempts to make this world a better place to live!!
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      Dec 28 2011: Hi Ridhima Manglani
      If the purpose of education is to guide humanity toward a better future (I'm paraphrasing your answer), what would this collection of good human beings look like? How would we live? What would be important to us? I know you answered on an individual basis, but I ask on the collective level.

      Thank you for your participation here.
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    V Raj

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    Dec 23 2011: "OF THE MANY PROBLEMS WE FACE TODAY, SOME ARE NATURAL CALAMITIES AND MUST BE ACCEPTED AND FACED WITH EQUANIMITY. OTHERS, HOWEVER, ARE OF OUR OWN MAKING, CREATED BY MISUNDERSTANDING, AND CAN BE CORRECTED. ONE SUCH TYPE ARISES FROM THE CONFLICT OF IDEOLOGIES, POLITICAL OR RELIGIOUS, WHEN PEOPLE FIGHT EACH OTHER FOR PETTY ENDS, LOSING SIGHT OF THE BASIC HUMANITY THAT BINDS US ALL TOGETHER AS A SINGLE HUMAN FAMILY".

    EDUCATION is the best way forward and I feel that one of the most important things Present Day Education needs to do is to teach People to Be Humble.... More Giving & Less Egoistic... More Understanding!

    Maybe then someday we would stop fighting over My Space - My Country - My Religion & would actually be in a position to achieve the Universal Goal of One World - One Famliy!
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    Dec 18 2011: The goal of education should be to challenge each person to maximize their own individual potential.
    A story: I used to tutor a high school girl who did poorly in the 3 R's, but she could draw a horse in 10 minutes in pencil that looked as if it would leap from the page. She drew my portrait and the likeness was stunning. This child felt like a failure and harbored a poor self esteem; why? Is there not a place in schools for recognition of talents other than those found on the standard achievement test?
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      Dec 21 2011: Deb, your story reminds me of those Sir Ken Robinson tells to highlight how we are damaging our children's creativity and esteem. My good friend, Kirsten Olson, wrote about this in detail in "Wounded By School." http://www.kirstenolson.org/wounded.php

      Through her research she really honors the experience so many have had like the girl you speak of and creates a space for us to begin having honest conversations about education and reclaiming it.

      Thanks for being here.

      Sincerely,
      Adam
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    Dec 13 2011: I still remember the first day I went to school when I was four. I couldn't wait to go to school so I put on my schoolbag at five o'clock in the morning and wait for my grandpa to send me there.School is so exciting to me at first. But I don't remember since when I didn't dare to answer questions in class because I was afraid to be scolded by teachers when I made mistakes. I don't remember since when school was not exciting any more, but pressure of not getting into a good college, or not getting a good job. And I don’t know what I want to be, basically because what I want to be is not what I can be—wanting to be a musician but studying physics in school.

    So I guess education is about providing the resources to release people’s potential. Just here is enough. Teachers should not tell us what we need to be in the future. We need to find by ourselves. What make us tick? What do we love to do? What do we love to do even nobody pay me? They are the answers we need to explore by ourselves because we’ve been privileged to have education. So many people around the world barely have access to education. We cannot afford to abuse education as a tool to kill our intuitive aspiration for knowledge. When we say we hate school, it doesn’t mean we hate learning, but we hate it that the school kind of turn the situation into this.
    • Dec 23 2011: Give "Totto Chan: The Little Girl at the Window" a read. A little story about being expelled from the first grade ..... that incorporates the philosophy of Pestalozzi and Dewey.
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        Dec 24 2011: Thanks for reminding me of that book! Actually I know it's pretty popular here but I took it as a Children's book because of its name :-p
  • Dec 6 2011: 100 years ago, the industrial model of school worked, and it worked for a reason- the work that the average student could expect, ( if they pursued their schooling) was monotonous and, if not simple, at the least, consistent. In our modern world, life happens at a different pace, and what you do at work isn't necessarily going to be the same thing every day. Indeed, even the concept of reliable employment looks like a shaky prospect right now. That being said, what graduates need, is a broad based education which focuses on the individual. If you teach a man how to think rationally, how to understand the world around him, he has a much better chance to succeed than if you teach a man how to solve a particular set of problems- all conveniently broken into different classes, punctuated by the ringing of a school bell.
  • Nov 30 2011: In my opinion, you have captured the essence of what the purpose of education can be. It is here that we need to start. It's way too easy to get caught up in the details of the "how" and miss the "why" are we educate. The purpose and goal are foremost. Without a clear vision of what education means to us we will never achieve our goal.

    Let's all imagine what outcome we want to see. Bringing out the best in each individual. Learning from our past and other great minds, learning where we came from, where we could be going. Understanding how we humans think, feel, and act. Understanding our emotions, our physiology, our history.

    To me education is a lifelong pursuit, therefore it really never ends. And knowing that even embryos learn in the womb it's hard to say when it starts. We humans come into world ready and eager to learn. It's hard to stop them from it. (But somehow our current system does). I would like for everyone to know they are natural learners who can and do learn all the time.
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      Dec 2 2011: Darleen, thanks for joining the conversation. Obviously I am right with you. If we start talking about the how, without the why, we are simply not having the same conversation together. We must explore our values and articulate this "why" together before we start shouting about the how.

      "Bringing out the best in each individual" is something I am really interested in and look forward to talking more about.
  • Nov 30 2011: I think the fundamental change in education should be to make what has been previously neglected entirely, SOCIAL DEVELOPMENT, primary and knowledge development secondary to that. This can become the "horse" of motivation that pulls the "cart" of understanding and knowledge, whereas, centering only on knowledge is mostly motivation by "threat of consequence". "Competition" has been nearly a religion in America--"cooperation" seen as foreign or even socialistic or communistic. But cooperation and competition are not only not mutually exclusive, society gets no where without both. And by having a "competition-only" foundation, western education perpetuates the 1% and 99% split where the real purpose is to raise a few winners to manage or control the massive numbers of "losers" as just dumb units to boss.

    No one should be reduced to "loser" as a child and carry some social stigma around with them. Conversely, no one who manages to pull 100 on a test should get a life-time pass to see themselves as superior. There's a dynamic now understood called neuroplasticity in which we all grow the capacity we need to overcome the challenges we face. But it also atrophies when we don't face new challenges. This is what really governs differences in people over a life time, not what was "learned" in school.

    Traditionalists will say: " we've made class sizes smaller, put computers in the class room, what more IS THERE to do than we've already done?" The answer is in the students themselves--they become facilitators of the best in each other by working within a new social development model in which all act as learners, motivators, presenters, mentors. Nature and chemistry will out the ones who truly are exceptional both at the subject and leading others. Understanding of neuroplasticity makes for new remedies for others so that fundamentally we cease accepting failure as part of the process. The purpose of education? Development, not knowledge.
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      Dec 2 2011: James, thanks for joining the conversation. Elsewhere I have written that education should be for the development of profoundly sane personalities or sage human development. This, for me, encompasses social development, but also includes intra-personal, summed up in the idea of character development.

      We have applied our impressive knowledge within limited understanding such that we have now fundamentally altered the planet's primary life systems and are slowly (and more rapidly) destroying the planet.

      A focus on development over knowledge for knowledge's sake would be a safeguard against such human folly.
      • Dec 2 2011: Hi Adam, education reform can not come from within because all in power are products of the same system which governs their logic. Many reformers on the outside are also products of the same system and simply argue for "better" ways of producing similar objectives. The truth is that inside the industrialization of education has been a profound error which has made for an institutionalization of dysfunction. I urge that no reform proceed on any other ground than correcting this dysfunction first--the assumption that guides the very idea of "classes" and "testing" i.e. that human beings have relatively static levels of intellectual capacity determined by birth/genetics and that learning is a moral/ethical matter of discipline.

        The dynamic known as "neuroplasticity" means that each individual human being grows the capacity he or she needs to accommodate the challenges they face. "Grading" as it has been done is wrong and needs to be thrown out in favor of a "development matrix". Further, the herding of kids into classes by age/year ties millions of fates to the luck of the draw as to whom else shares that fate and what "teacher" they draw. This does more to limit and confine young intellects than facilitate and motivate. Education is part of the problem of social ills and no wonder society treats young people in education as untrustworthy of playing a functioning part of producing economy. We instead look at education as a sterile expense. That's a gross dysfunction that can be turned around with opportunity to positively impact economy.

        Educators are not qualified to judge "saneness" or "sageness"--perhaps some are better than the authoritarianism which has shaped them and can stretch themselves to help a few who "seem" to be exceptional. But generations are still being limited by errant "processing" which often "kills creativity" because it surely does nothing for identity except create false measurements of intellect.
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    Nov 30 2011: The purpose of education is to go where every child can start thinking critically, and not just being a dummy of the entire system. Where every student enjoys the process of learning.
    Where every person is not the slave of money, materialism and status, but focussed instead on value creation in the society.
    It seems to be idealistic, but as Viktor Frankl says in the following video, its only if we put humans above what they actually are, can we, in the long run, bring out what they potentially can be.
    http://www.ted.com/talks/lang/en/viktor_frankl_youth_in_search_of_meaning.html
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    Dec 28 2011: The main purpose for education is increasing the degrees of freedom on various levels.

    Freedom of thought - Supplying cognitive instruments / tools, powerful metaphors, learning to master grammar and algorithmic thought

    Freedom of affect - Allowing to feel oneself, to develop an empathic theory of mind, to be able to "deeply" connect to the world: rather then just "think about it" - "feel a part of it". Feel freely about love, death, loneliness and meaninglesness (the 4 existential categories proposed by Yalom)

    Freedom of expression - Ability to learn languages: foreign languages, programming languages, mathematical descriptions of reality, Ability to use one's voice in speach and tone-shaping, Graphic and literary forms of expression

    Freedom of communion - Team skills, Problem solving and negociating skills, basic political and social concepts applied.


    - I think the whole concept of education should be about enabling children to do whatever they want to do - to make them understand that learning is not something they "have to" but something they want to in order to do whatever makes them happy. I don't think a reform in education will do it. Old forms of education have their merits and sometimes when dilluted with a bit of freedom concepts have shovn worse results than the original - which only goes to show that sometimes a full-hearted choice or the other is better than any compromise.
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    Dec 27 2011: This is a great theme, I think. To keep it simple, I believe that education should be about giving children the tools they need to make a positive change in the world. We should start being so much more creative when it comes to teaching and we should focus on showing kids around the world that everyone deserves to be happy and have the same human rights and opportunities. Education should focus on making better human beings. That's the only way we can have a better world. Let's help kids grow up to be knowledgeable people but also great inspiring courageous people that want to make a positive change in our world.
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    Dec 22 2011: In my humble opinion, education is for all. We all, whether as a young man or an old man, still need education as well. The purpose of education can be a tool to open our mind, our faith, our belief, our skills in everything that we haven't yet known into the things we know. And also to make our current knowledge sharpen. Education is not only practiced in school, but also in everywhere (home, ourselves).
  • Mary T

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    Dec 22 2011: To instill a life long love of self directed learning.
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    Dec 22 2011: Education is growth. The basic tenets of education are time-tested, but the tutoring process needs a change. Education should empower free will.
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      Dec 22 2011: We lost free will back in 53'.
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    Dec 18 2011: I'm currently a high school student, and in my experience, this is a vital question that students themselves often overlook because of the emphasis on grades and college. Education is supposed to prepare us for the future, but with the rapid acceleration of technology and our changing world, we can hardly expect to predict what the future holds or where it will take us. What education can and should do is teach us to learn, adapt, analyze, and ponder; the only way we can face the challenges of tomorrow is by developing a lifelong love of learning, so that, when the time comes, we can acquire whatever skills may be necessary to pursue whichever path we choose. Education must instill in us the desire and curiosity to explore these challenges. Education shouldn't be viewed as an isolated entity, but should instead open our eyes to learning as a lifelong pursuit.
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    Dec 16 2011: In short I think the purpose of education should be teaching people to learn and enjoy learning.
    • Dec 17 2011: Love you reply.Things are so simple. I don't know why people try to philosophize simple things
  • Dec 16 2011: I'd certainly place a far greater emphasis on creative based learning and customised learning methods that seek to understand where a child's interest and potential talents may lie and then putting them with students whose interests and skills are of a similar nature. Developing such a curriculum is not easy, but digital technology can be utilised to deliver learning structures and specific types and styles of curriculum that are geared to those students who show and shared common interests and responses to specific learning styles. Avoiding a one size fits all approach is necessary in our education system particularly when students are under the age of 12. Simple things like workshops/lessons beyond the school environment provide exposure to the 'real world', and an environment beyond the classroom. Multimedia is a great way to facilitate and track learning behaviours and interests as are group based activities and creative play/game activities where memory and strategy is involved. Identifying a student's strengths and interests and then following those interests and any new interests whilst attempting to utilise technology and activities and group interaction makes learning 'feel' both natural and rewarding. I'm a big believer is using computer/technology workshops with digital cameras/video cameras to encourage film/story telling. Plays and pantomimes also push news kinds of creative thinking with relevance to narrative, technical insight, perception, creative self assessment and the sense of accomplishment when something is conceptualised, developed, executed and then finally completed. The longer you can keep young students engaged in the learning process and to provide for their natural sense of curiosity by making each learning project something that is new, fresh, empowering and yet relevant to the real world and their own world, the easier it is to set different minds and personalities towards the path of self-orientated learning and self discovery.
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    Dec 14 2011: Independence and empowerment. Education should empower people to be explorers, and to be self-motivated, life-long learners, in all fields of knowledge.
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    Dec 13 2011: I believe education plays a critical part in our life. During the early education, we need develop our nature: curiosity, playfulness, emotional engagement, sympathy, empathy as well as love. However, when I grew up in China, the early education system would focus on competition of grades rather than individualism or teaming. As a result, when we grow up with single one child build-in mentality and lack of teaming virtue; we would choose a area we can get a better grades instead of following our heart. It has became the primary barrier to enter into professional life and personal life.

    When I came here to North America in Canada and Silicon Valley for advanced education, the different between the two countries are very different. Canada has a good and affordable public university system. In the contrast, most of top universities are private school in U.S. It is the first time I deeply felt what is meritocracy. U.S is a typical meritocracy country, it is revealed in universities and professional world or even in personal life. People are very proud of what they have accomplished or which school they went to. None of those achievement can tell who they are in a real life.
    Education is one dimension of you. Here is a example, we don't want to team up with someone looks good on resume, but unethical in real life. Can education help us to be more ethical?

    In my opinion, education should be one channel to help us to be a better person.
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      Dec 16 2011: Hi Betty,

      You speak to the many troubles in our current models. From divorcing ourselves from our passions in order to focus on obtaining rewards such as grades to the profound role privilege plays in education.

      Imagine if education helped us to be more ethical! In my opinion our major global ails can be traced back to ethical/moral failings of individuals.
  • Dec 12 2011: PS. It is worth noting the *current* (unintended) purpose of the education system; to teach the most amount of students the standard amount of knowledge for the least amount of money.

    Seen through this lense, the modern education system is remarkably successful.... !
  • Dec 12 2011: An education system must enable an individual to discover, develop and deploy their ability to create a better future for themselves, their loved ones and their community.

    The key point is to enable individuals to use their creative ability (in whatever shape it manifests itself) to create a better world. Taking that as a starting point, it rapidly becomes clear that one of the key things education should do is to enable people to discuss 'what is a better world' and 'how should we build this better world'. Developing people's ability to communicate and collaborate should lie at the heart of any 21st Century education system.

    However, it is NOT enough to merely stimulate critical thinking. One of the great challenges we face with the current education system is its fundamental failure to develop ethical reasoning and empathy. The linear, reductionist approach taking to education means that today most young people, myself included, are in the strange position of knowing everything but understanding very little!

    To conclude, I suggest education must (like all things!) return to its past to re-create itself in the future. We must return to the idea of a 'whole education', body, mind and heart. In a rapidly changing world, knowledge is quickly gained but also quickly becomes redundant. Surely wisdom (good judgement), a strong ethical capacity and good health in body and mind are at least as important as Pythagoras' theorem?....
  • Dec 10 2011: To further your answer, I believe education should also cultivate one's awareness on ethical behaviours and service to the community.

    I think my view is quite similar to the following quote:
    “The aim [of education] must be the training of independently acting and thinking individuals who, however, see in the service to the community their highest life problem.”
    —Albert Einstein

    Just being able to think critically may not be enough. They should be responsible for their action and try their best to contribute to the community.
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    Dec 10 2011: The purpose of education in my opinion is to nurture, facilitate and develop critical thinking and intellectual curiosity in students. Both, seen as skills, can help them to pursue their own goals and interests, but the most important thing, to think by themselves.