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Concept of Education

Like philosophy, there are as many definitions as there are educators. “Education” is an umbrella word under which a large number of processes take place. There is no agreement as to whether or not some activities may be considered to be educational. Individual differences about education are more or less determined by their philosophical orientations.

Meaning And Definitions Of Education

Whenever we hear the word “education” the first pla ce the mind goes to is the school. Most of the time, we tend to think of education in terms of what teachers and their pupils do in school. We forget that what takes place in the school is only a small fraction of education.

Indeed, education is a process that starts the very moment a person is born and ends whenever he finally dies. The process of education is one which involves a number of activities on the part of several people, including the teacher, the pupil, parents, the government and every citizen of the country.

They all participate in the process in one way or the other. As you are well aware, teaching is a key factor in education and learning is another. The first teacher a child ever has is his parents, and this learning process starts as soon as he
enters the world. Since the teaching –learning process starts with the child’s parents, the mother in particular, the background of the learner matters a lot.

If for instance, the mother of the child is an educated lady with a good means of livelihood, that is, a good earning capacity, one can be sure that the child will be well fed and taught a lot of things that another child from a less enlightened family is not likely to have.

A child growing up in a home where both parents can find time to teach and interact with him, certainly has some advantages in terms of his education. This is even more when there are such things as books, newspapers, magazines, radio and television to stimulate his learning in the home and increase his chances of development in education. As you can see, education begins at home with parents leading the way.

At the school, the teacher continues the process of educating the child.  You should understand that the teacher does not take over the education  of the child. The teacher and the child’s parents are partners in progress
as far as the child’s education is concerned.

At the school level also, the responsibility of educating the child is shared by all the agencies of education which ensures that adequate facilities, books, furniture, materials and qualified staff are provided. It is also government’s responsibility to ensure the safety and health of the child through its various agencies.

The process of education therefore, involves different activities on the part of the parents, teachers, the community, the government and the child. The goal is to help him acquire knowledge, skills and morals. These components of education are essential to the making of the educated person.

The educated person is one who can apply his knowledge and skill in such a way as to find solution to whatever problems that confronts him. Education indeed, is the practical way of attaining individual and social fulfillment.

Self-Assessment Exercise

(a) Who is an educated person?

(b) What is education?

Answers to Self-Assessment Exercise

(a) Your answer may have included that an educated person is a person who can apply his knowledge and skill in such a way as to
find solution to whatever problems that confront him.

(b) Your answer may also include the following:

Education is the practical way of attaining individual and social fulfillment. It is a process of socialization, enculturation and transmission of what is worthwhile to those who are committed to it, be they children or adults. It can also mean a process of developing knowledge ability in a learner in such a way that he uses this knowledge to improve himself and the society.

The Aims of Education

The statement of aims of education has become a common feature of the activities of educational planners and administrators. But more often than not, there is confusion as to what is meant by the term. Sometimes, one finds that the word ‘aim’ is regarded as the eq uivalent of purpose or intension. Headmasters and classroom teachers are not sure of what exactly is expected of them with regard to the pursuit of what is intended. Our exploration of the  aims of education here is to relate the issue to our schools.

The Meaning of Educational Aim

We can define educational aim as a statement of what we hope to do in order to achieve our goals of education. Some philosophers attempt an etymological definition of education. They trace it to two opposite roots which originate from two opposing philosophical tenets.

One view derives “educatio n” from the Latin word “educere” which means “to lead out”. This group of philosophers, following the tradition of Plato and other idealists, believe that the learner has innate ideas which only need to be squeezed out, pulled out and expanded.

The other opposing school of thought holds that education comes from the Latin word “educere” which means “to form” “to train”. This group follows the tradition o f John Locke and other realists which holds that the child’s or the learner’s mind is a “tabula rasa” (an erased or blank sheet”) on which to write .

External objects make impressions on the mind and feed it with information and knowledge. White Head defines education as the process by which people acquire the art of utilizing knowledge. It is guidance towards a comprehension  of the art of life. Dewey says that education is the “reconstruction or reorganisation of experience which adds to the meaning of experience and increases the ability to direct the course of subsequent experience”.

He asserts that “education is the fundamental metho d of social progress or reform”. And again “educa tion is an intelligently directed development or the possibilities inherent in ordinary experience.” You should appreciate that for Dewey, education is a process of living not a preparation for future life.

It is a continuous process of growth. Its purpose is the development of the intelligence in such a way that the experience one gets at one time can be carried over to a subsequent experience and used in solving one’s life problems.

Moreover, education is meant to develop both the individual and his capacity for social living. R. S. Peters in his contribution defined education as a process of socializing, enculturation and transmission of what is worthwhile to
those who are committed to it, be they children or adults.

In view of all these, we can define education as a process of developing knowledge ability in learners in such a way that they use this knowledge to improve themselves and their society.

You should understand that the word aim conveys some suggestion of an objective that is not too near at hand or too easy to attain. When we ask a headmaster of a school what he is aiming at, it is only one way of drawing his attention to what he and his teachers must be doing to raise the standard of education in his school. From the foregoing, the main points made about the aims of education are as follows:

(1) We tend to ask about the aims in context where we

think it

important to get people to specify more precisely what they are trying to do.

(2) Aims suggest the concentration on and the direction of effects towards an objective that is not too near or close to hand.

(3) Aims suggest the possibility of failure or falling short.

Having examined the suggestions that are generally associated with aim, we will now identify some aims of education and discuss them.

The aims of education are as follows:

The Minimum Skills

They should provide men and women with minimum of the skills necessary for them:

a. to take their place in society and

b. to seek further knowledge

This is the least controversial of the listed aims. It is essential that everyone in our society should know how to read and write and calculate sufficiently to go through their ordinary daily business. You should know that it is irrelevant what a person is. He needs the skills in order to do his work well.

Vocational Training

At every stage in our adult life we should be able to use not only our heads but our hands as well. We cannot all be medical doctors, engineers, lawyers or teachers, some of us must be plumbers, carpenters,  electricians and auto mechanics.

No matter what vocation you have learnt, you should take interest in areas outside your own in order to be able to help your self when you are in need. Our education should aim at making us useful not only to ourselves but to the society at large.

Stimulating the Desire for Knowledge

Our educational system wrongly emphasizes the acquisition of knowledge as a means to an end. While no one would quarrel over using acquired knowledge as a means to earning our living, quest for knowledge can be for its own sake.

Education has an intrinsic value, that is, it does not have to be seen as something that must always bring
material reward.

For instance, when you read novels for your own personal enjoyment and not for the sake of passing any examination, it  does not only give you some satisfaction but also builds up your vocabulary. Such will also improve your outlook in many ways. Our education should therefore, promote our quest for knowledge at all times
because it is not only good for the individual but for the entire nation as well.

Developing a Critical Outlook

This aim of education is a very controversial one. Government officials and private proprietors of schools or employers in general do not always appreciate people who are critical of their actions. But criticism is essential in a democratic system.

Our educational training must enable us read in between lines to detect possible areas of conflicts and point them out before it is too late. Although some people may be uncomfortable whenever such is done, it may prevent a lot of problems  in the long run.

Constructive criticism is usually better especially when  the issue is a very sensitive one. Sound education therefore, develops in us a critical mind to enable us to detect flaws and disagree with even those we respect most. Being critical is a sign of being an educated person.

Self-Assessment Exercise

a. Define educational aim

b. Mention two aims of education


a. Your answer may have included that it is a statement of what we hope to do in order to achieve our goal of education.

b. Your answer may have included that it provides men and women with minimum of the skill necessary for them to take their place in the society and to seek further knowledge. It also enables us to develop critical out look.

 Democracy As An Aim Of Education

When you take a close look at our educational system, you will see how traditional and authoritarian our schools have remained. The average child does not see going to school as enjoyable. For the children, school is a painful experience that they must live with.

But does it have to be that way?

What makes it that way?

Who is responsible for the fear o school despotism?

Somehow, the traditional teacher sees himself as a person who knows everything and has every right to inculcate knowledge and moral in every child who chooses his path. How he does it must not and cannot be challenged by anyone including  the child’s parents.

He sees it as his God given right to mould and shape  “the child according to his own will”. As far as the teacher is concerned, what he teaches in class is not as important as how he teaches it. The old lesson note that he has been reciting to every group of children that comes along must never be touched or altered.

He uses it for every generation that passes through the school. He probably taught the child’s father years ago with the same materials that he is using now. If you suggest a change of materials, he dismisses you with a wave of hand. All these show that the process of education relies too much on dictating what should be done, whereas it should
be democratic.

Although the picture painted above still exists in most primary schools in Nigeria, there have been some efforts or moves towards democratisation. Our teacher education programmes at different levels have started to emphasize the need to educate instead of training.

An educated teacher is more humane than a trained teacher. The educated teacher does not lack self confidence, he is always innovative and willing to learn in order to be more used to his student. He is also ready to learn from his students.

If our aim is to make education less painful to our pupils, teachers in the system need to be more democratic. Given that an aim of education emphasizes self-realisation, he must pay as much attention to the processes of education as well as content of work and teaching method.

The child centred educator would ensure that the child’s feeling and interest are accommodated in a given programme of study. Individual self-realisation emphasises the importance of learning by individual experience and discovery and the importance of a principle of actions in a curriculum.

In other words, children should be given an opportunity to choose from a given set of subjects in a curriculum. Teachers should be willing to accommodate this as much as possible. When this is being done, the teacher is democratic. This lays the foundation for the development of democratic principles as a national goal.


There are many definitions of education as there are educators.

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