What is education?
Education has been defined in various ways but is generally understood to be concerned with communicating knowledge and understanding of different topics and concepts – teaching and learning. According to the likes of Plato and Marx it can enable people to alter their lives. It can even contribute to the development of whole countries: it is generally found to be true that in developing countries the size of the family reduces in relation to an increase in the availability of education. In other words, the more educated people are, the fewer children they have. In addition to this, the health of the children is usually better than in countries where education is a pipe-dream.
When did education start?
It is hard to pinpoint exactly when education started. It is most likely that is has been going on since the earliest times. Behaviours and traditions, vital skills and values have been passed down from generation to generation as part of the social culture of families and communities of human beings.
Before writing was invented people learned and were taught through oral tradition, watching their elders and imitating them. Education was an informal experience which took place in every day surroundings. The formal setting of the classroom did not yet exist. People learned from a more experienced figure in the family. Thus, more complex skills relating to agriculture, fishing, preserving and cooking food, building, fighting etc. were handed down to the next generation. This type of learning continued even as formal schooling became more widely available in society: apprenticeships were served by young boys who wished to learn a trade. They would be apprenticed to a master craftsman and spend their youth learning his trade. As adults they could then set up their own business.
How did education develop?
The big change came when writing was invented in a culture. Then it became possible for the people of that culture to record traditional tales, songs, poems, rituals and customs, and of course, knowledge in general. However, writing is not an innate skill – it has to be learned. The masses were rarely taught to read and write and continued to rely on oral traditions for some time to come. Often the literacy was confined to the elite such as the nobility of the land, the religious leaders, etc. Later it came to be adopted by lawyers and traders and others who could afford to pay for private lessons or to go to the early universities. In any case, it was usually men who were taught to read and write. Women and children had to wait for history to move on.
How effective is education today?
Nowadays it is the aim for children worldwide to learn to read and write, to attend school and to be taught at least the most basic subjects. Nevertheless, some countries still struggle to educate more than 50% of their children (e.g. many African countries, Bangladesh, Afghanistan, etc.) One cannot help but feel that although education systems across the globe have developed and even flourished over the last few hundred years, they still have a long way to go.
Quick Quiz: Read the clues below and write the solutions on a piece of paper. Then take the first letter of each answer and rearrange them to find the hidden word connected with this Talking Point.
1. Education has been defined in various ways but is generally understood to be concerned with communicating knowledge and __________ of different topics and concepts.
2. The more educated people are, __________ fewer children they have.
3. It is hard to pinpoint exactly when education started. It is most likely that is has been __________ on since the earliest times.
4. __________ were served by young boys who wished to learn a trade.
5. Writing is not an innate skill – it has __________ be learned.
6. Although education systems across the globe __________ developed and even flourished over the last few hundred years, they still have a long way to go.
Talking Point Discussion
Should subjects like sex education and religion be taught in schools?