A kindergarten classroom in Afghanistan.
A kindergarten classroom in Afghanistan.

Education is a term often used to refer to formal education (see below). However, the word's broader meaning covers a range of experiences, from formal learning to the building of understanding and knowledge through day to day experiences. Ultimately, all that we experience serves as a form of education.

It is widely accepted that the process of education is lifelong. Studies have shown that the child is educated by the experiences it is exposed to in the womb even before it is born. [citation needed]

Individuals receive informal education from a variety of sources. Family members, peers, books and mass media have a strong influence on the informal education of the individual.

Education also refers to a discipline, a body of theoretical and applied research that draws on other disciplines such as psychology, philosophy, computer science, linguistics, neuroscience, sociology and anthropology.




The word education is derived from the Latin educare (with a short u) meaning "to raise", "to bring up", "to train", "to rear", via "educatio/nis", bringing up, raising. In recent times, there has been a return to, an alternative assertion that education derives from a different verb: educere (with a long u), meaning "to lead out" or "to lead forth". There is an English word from this verb, "eduction": drawing out. This is considered by some to be a false etymology, used to bolster the theory that a function of education is to develop innate abilities and expand horizons.


Philosophy of education

The philosophy of education is the study of the purpose, nature and ideal content of education. Related topics include knowledge itself, the nature of the knowing mind and the human subject, problems of authority, and the relationship between education and society. At least since Rousseau's time, the philosophy of education has been linked to theories of developmental psychology and human development.

Fundamental purposes that have been proposed for education include:

  1. The enterprise of civil society depends on educating young people to become responsible, thoughtful and enterprising citizens. This is an intricate, challenging task requiring deep understanding of ethical principles, moral values, political theory, aesthetics, and economics, not to mention an understanding of who children are, in themselves and in society.
  2. Progress in every practical field depends on having capacities that schooling can educate. Education is thus a means to foster the individual's, society's, and even humanity's future development and prosperity. Emphasis is often put on economic success in this regard.
  3. One's individual development and the capacity to fulfill one's own purposes can depend on an adequate preparation in childhood. Education can thus attempt to give a firm foundation for the achievement of personal fulfillment. The better the foundation that is built, the more successful the child will be. Simple basics in education can carry a child far.

The nature, origin and scope of knowledge

See also: Data, Information, Knowledge, Wisdom, Self-realization, and Ability

A central tenet of education typically includes “the imparting of knowledge.” At a very basic level, this purpose ultimately deals with the nature, origin and scope of knowledge. The branch of philosophy that addresses these and related issues is known as epistemology. This area of study often focuses on analyzing the nature and variety of knowledge and how it relates to similar notions such as truth and belief.

While the term, knowledge, is often used to convey this general purpose of education, it can also be viewed as part of a continuum of knowing that ranges from very specific data to the highest levels. Seen in this light, the continuum may be thought to consist of a general hierarchy of overlapping levels of knowing. Students must be able to connect new information to a piece of old information to be better able to learn, understand, and retain information. This continuum may include notions such as data, information, knowledge, wisdom, and realization.


Psychology of education

Educational psychology is the study of how humans learn in educational settings, the effectiveness of educational interventions, the psychology of teaching, and the social psychology of schools as organizations. Although the terms "educational psychology" and "school psychology" are often used interchangeably, researchers and theorists are likely to be identified as educational psychologists, whereas practitioners in schools or school-related settings are identified as school psychologists. Educational psychology is concerned with the processes of educational attainment in the general population and in sub-populations such as gifted children and those with specific disabilities.

Educational psychology can in part be understood through its relationship with other disciplines. It is informed primarily by psychology, bearing a relationship to that discipline analogous to the relationship between medicine and biology. Educational psychology in turn informs a wide range of specialities within educational studies, including instructional design, educational technology, curriculum development, organizational learning, special education and classroom management. Educational psychology both draws from and contributes to cognitive science and the learning sciences. In universities, departments of educational psychology are usually housed within faculties of education, possibly accounting for the lack of representation of educational psychology content in introductory psychology textbooks (Lucas, Blazek, & Raley, 2006).


Academic disciplines

An academic discipline is a branch of knowledge which is formally taught, either at the university, or via some other such method. Functionally, disciplines are usually defined and recognized by the academic journals in which research is published, and by the learned societies to which their practitioners belong. Professors say schooling is 80% psychological, 20% physical effort.

Each discipline usually has several sub-disciplines or branches, and distinguishing lines are often both arbitrary and ambiguous. Examples of broad areas of academic disciplines include the natural sciences, mathematics, computer science, social sciences, humanities and applied sciences.



It is now widely recognized that the most important factors in any teacher's effectiveness are the interaction with students and the knowledge and personality of the teacher. The best teachers are able to translate information, good judgment, experience, and wisdom into a significant knowledge of a subject that is understood and retained by the student. Teachers need the ability to understand a subject well enough to convey its essence to a new generation of students. The goal is to establish a sound knowledge base on which students will be able to build as they are exposed to different life experiences. The passing of knowledge from generation to generation allows students to grow into useful members of society.

Further information: socialization

Teachers should have a firm grasp of a given knowledge area so that they can pass it on to their students using whatever techniques are effective. Different people learn in different ways, and many things will have to be explained many different times in many different ways before most of the students "get it". Some students, unfortunately, never will "get it"--since they are not interested or have not learned enough of the foundation knowledge of a given subject to advance to a new level. The main role of a teacher is to teach the students the core knowledge accumulated over centuries of human experience well enough for them to understand and retain enough of this knowledge to be able to continue to build on it and, at least in part, understand how the world works.

These ideas reflect a traditional view of teaching in which the responsibility for learning is placed on the student. In contemporary British pedagogy particularly, the onus lies on the teacher to create the appropriate dynamic for effective learning by students of all abilities, backgrounds and inclinations. The teacher is more than a repository of knowledge: effective teaching draws on a range of skills, insights and techniques which afford access to knowledge as well as to the development of appropriate skills. Students may not 'get it' because their social backgrounds exclude them from curricula which presuppose certain cultural and social values. It is the job of teachers to understand and identify barriers to learning, to remove those barriers and to bring the best out of those they educate.



Schooling occurs when society or a group or an individual sets up a curriculum to educate people, usually the young. Schooling can become systematic and thorough. Sometimes education systems can be used to promote doctrines or ideals as well as knowledge, and this can sometimes lead to abuse of the system.

Life-long or adult education have become widespread in many countries. However, education is still seen by many as something aimed at children, and adult education is often branded as adult learning or lifelong learning.

Adult education takes on many forms, from formal class-based learning to self-directed learning. Lending libraries provide inexpensive informal access to books and other self-instructional materials. Many adults have also taken advantage of the rise in computer ownership and internet access to further their informal education.


Alternative education

Alternative education, also known as non-traditional education or educational alternative, describes a number of approaches to teaching and learning other than traditional publicly- or privately-run schools. These approaches can be applied to all students of all ages, from infancy to adulthood, and at all levels of education.

Educational alternatives are often the result of education reform and are rooted in various philosophies that are fundamentally different from those of traditional compulsory education. While some have strong political, scholarly, or philosophical orientations, others are more informal associations of teachers and students who are somehow dissatisfied with certain aspects of traditional education.

Educational alternatives, which include charter schools, alternative schools, independent schools, and home schooling vary widely, but often emphasize the value of small class size, close relationships between students and teachers, and a sense of community. Today, especially in the United States, the term alternative refers to educational settings that cater to students who have special educational needs as well as those who would like to experience school differently.


Charter Schools

Charter schools are publicly funded schools that operate outside the direct control of conventional school districts and are under the authority of quasi-contracts. Their public funding is tied to the number of students enrolled. Charter schools are typically open to all students, and when capacity is reached they are required to select students randomly. Generally, Charter schools have goals that include offering a wider array or more specialized curriculum, with smaller classrooms and more personalized hands on attention. Some charter schools help families escape poorly performing public schools and provide opportunities for an equal education by allowing families to cross class and neighborhood lines.

The first charter school opened in Minnesota in the early 1990’s. Now there are 37 states that have passed charter school legislation. California has more charter school students than any other state and ranks second to Arizona in the number of charter schools.

In many states there are “conversion” and “startup” charter schools. Conversion schools are schools that previously existed as conventional public schools and they typically keep the same existing facility as well as faculty and students. The motivation behind the conversion is to change specific educational programs, due to not liking mandated curriculum programs. Startup schools are new entities that require new facilities, faculty, and students. These schools were initiated to create a new holistic approach, including curriculum programs, instructional practices, and overall mission of the school.

There are some states that also practice the use of non-classroom based charter schools. Non-classroom based charter schools are schools that do not require attendance of its pupils be at the school site under the supervision and control of a qualified teaching employee of the school for at least 80% of the required in instructional time. Students that are enrolled in this type of charter school spend part of their day in the classroom and the other part receiving non-classroom instruction, such as being home schooled, independent study, and distance learning. Non-classroom settings rely heavily on computer instruction in which parents are the primary instructor with oversight provided by teachers. Which may include visits to homes, one-on-one meetings with the parents and/or students, monitoring progress of homework, collecting reports, and administering tests.

Advocates of charter schools would say that one of the positive aspects of charter schools is that it involves more parent participation compared to some of the public schools. This may be due to parents being able to choose among small, autonomous schools. Statistics show children whose parents are active in their education tend to have better results in school. Charter schools have given more options to parents when it comes to choosing the type of education for their children.



Inexpensive technology is an increasingly influential factor in education. Computers and mobile phones are being widely used in developed countries to both complement established education practices and develop new ways of learning such as online education (a type of distance education). This gives students the opportunity to choose what they are interested in learning. The proliferation of computers also means the increase of programming and blogging. Technology offers powerful learning tools that demand new skills and understandings of students, including Multimedia literacy, and provides new ways to engage students, such as classroom management software. Technology is being used more not only in administrative duties in education but also in the instruction of students. The use of technologies such as PowerPoint and interactive whiteboard is capturing the attention of students in the classroom. Technology is also being used in the assessment of students. One example is the Audience Response System (ARS), which allows immediate feedback tests and classroom discussions.


Reference: Wikibooks



The goal of education is fourfold: the social purpose, intellectual purpose, economic purpose, and political/civic purpose. Current education issues include which teaching method(s) are most effective, how to determine what knowledge should be taught, which knowledge is most relevant, and how well the pupil will retain incoming knowledge. Educators such as George Counts and Paulo Freire identified education as an inherently political process with inherently political outcomes. The challenge of identifying whose ideas are transferred and what goals they serve has always stood in the face of formal and informal education.

In addition to the "Three R's", reading, writing, and arithmetic, Western primary and secondary schools attempt to teach the basic knowledge of history, geography, mathematics (usually including calculus and algebra), physics, chemistry and sometimes politics, in the hope that students will retain and use this knowledge as they age or that the skills acquired will be transferable. The current education system measures competency with tests and assignments and then assigns each student a corresponding grade. The grades, usually a letter grade or a percentage, are intended to represent the amount of all material presented in class that the student understood.

Educational progressives or advocates of unschooling often believe that grades do not necessarily reveal the strengths and weaknesses of a student, and that there is an unfortunate lack of youth voice in the educational process. Some feel the current grading system lowers students' self-confidence, as students may receive poor marks due to factors outside their control. Such factors include poverty, child abuse, and prejudiced or incompetent teachers.

By contrast, many advocates of a more traditional or "back to basics" approach believe that the direction of reform needs to be the opposite. Students are not inspired or challenged to achieve success because of the dumbing down of the curriculum and the replacement of the "canon" with inferior material. They believe that self-confidence arises not from removing hurdles such as grading, but by making them fair and encouraging students to gain pride from knowing they can jump over these hurdles.

On the one hand, Albert Einstein, the most famous physicist of the twentieth century, who is credited with helping us understand the universe better, was not a model school student. He was uninterested in what was being taught, and he did not attend classes all the time. On the other hand, his gifts eventually shone through and added to the sum of human knowledge.

There are a number of highly controversial issues in education. Should some knowledge be forgotten? Should classes be segregated by gender? What should be taught, are we better off knowing how to build nuclear bombs, or is it best to let such knowledge be forgotten? There are also some philosophies, for example Transcendentalism, that would probably reject conventional education in the belief that knowledge should be gained through purely personal experience.

A recent book argues that children are being expected to learn too much. In Yaneer Bar-Yam's book, Making Things Work, he writes, "There is an ongoing tendency to increase the length of textbooks. There are various reasons why people want to add to the education of children. People who work on education often believe, nobly enough, that the most important contribution is to get children to learn more. Publishers want to sell new books and adding new material is an important aspect of an effective sales pitch". Y. Bar-Yam, Making Things Work, NECSI/Knowledge Press, 2005.

The cost of higher education in developed countries is increasingly becoming an issue.


Education and Economic Growth

If we look at a sorted list of nations with the highest level of secondary schooling we would notice these to be the richest countries in the world, based on GDP per capita. High rates of education are essential for countries to achieve high levels of economic growth. In theory poor countries should grow faster than rich countries because they can adopt cutting edge technologies already tried and tested by rich countries. But economists argue that if the gap in education between a rich and a poor nation is too large, as is the case between the poorest and the richest nations in the world, the transfer of these technologies that drive economic growth becomes difficult, thus the economies of the world's poorest nations stagnate.


Developing countries

According to The Borgen project, 115 million children lack access to education. In developing countries, the number and seriousness of the problems faced are naturally greater. People are sometimes unaware of the importance of education, and there is economic pressure from those parents who prioritize their children's making money in the short term over any long-term benefits of education. Recent studies on child labor and poverty have suggested, however, that when poor families reach a certain economic threshold where families are able to provide for their basic needs, parents return their children to school. This has been found to be true, once the threshold has been breached, even if the potential economic value of the children's work has increased since their return to school. Teachers are often paid less than other similar professions.

A lack of good universities, and a low acceptance rate for good universities, is evident in countries with a relatively high population density. In some countries, there are uniform, overstructured, inflexible centralized programs from a central agency that regulates all aspects of education.

India, however, is starting to develop technologies that will skip land based phone and internet lines. Instead, India launched EDUSAT, an education satellite that can reach more of the country at a greatly reduced cost. There is also an initiative started by a group out of MIT and supported by several major corporations to develop a $100 laptop. The laptops should be available by late 2006 or 2007. The laptops, sold at cost, will enable developing countries to give their children a digital education, and to close the digital divide across the world.

In Africa, NEPAD has launched an "e-school programme" to provide all 600,000 primary and high schools with computer equipment, learning materials and internet access within 10 years.

Private groups, like The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, are working to give more individuals opportunities to receive education in developing countries through such programs as the Perpetual Education Fund.

An International Development Agency project called, started with the support of American President Bill Clinton, uses the internet to allow co-operation by individuals on issues of social development.


Parental involvement

Parental involvement is an important element in a child's educational development. Early and consistent parental involvement in the child's life, for example by reading to children at an early age, teaching patterns, interpersonal communication skills, exposing them to diverse cultures and the community around them, and educating them about a healthy lifestyle, is critical. The socialization and academic education of a child are aided by the involvement of the student, parent(s), extended family, teachers, and others in the community. Parent involvement is more than the parent being the field trip helper, or the lunch lady. Parents need to be asked about how their child learns best. They need to share their career expertise with the children. Today's educators need to remember that parents are the child's first and foremost teacher; parents, too, are experts, and teachers should learn from them.

Academic achievement and parental involvement are strongly linked in the research. Many schools are now beginning parental involvement programs in a more organized fashion. In the US this has been led in part by the No Child Left Behind legislation from the US Department of Education.



Education is becoming increasingly international. Not only are the materials becoming more influenced by the rich international environment, but exchanges among students at all levels are also playing an increasingly important role. In Europe, for example, the Socrates-Erasmus Programme stimulates exchanges across European universities. Also, the Soros Foundation provides many opportunities for students from central Asia and eastern Europe. Some scholars argue that, regardless of whether one system is considered better or worse than another, experiencing a different way of education can often be considered to be the most important, enriching element of an international learning experience (Dubois et al. 2006).


See also




External links



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