"Not art, not books, but life itself is the true basis of teaching and education."

Johann Heinrich Pestalozzi (1746 - 1827)
Swiss educational reformer.

Education is a social science that encompasses teaching and learning specific skills. Practicing teachers in the field of education use a variety of methods and materials in their instruction to impart a curriculum. There has been a plethora of literature in the field of education that addresses these areas. Such literature addresses the facets of teaching practices to include instructional strategies, behavior management, environmental control, motivational strategies, and technological resources. However, the single most important factor in any teacher's effectiveness is the interaction style and personality of the teacher, for the quality of their relationships with the students provides the impetus for inspiration. The best teachers are able to translate good judgment, experience, and wisdom into the art of communication that students find compelling. It is their compassion for varied human qualities, passion, and the creativity of potential that assists teachers to invigorate students to higher expectations of themselves and society at large. The goal of education is the growth of students so that they become productive citizens of a dynamic, everchanging, society. Fundamentally, the imparting of culture from generation to generation (see socialisation)promotes a greater awareness and responsiveness through social maturity to the needs of an increasingly diversified society.


Figure 1: Education-Teacher


It is widely accepted that the process of education begins at birth and continues throughout life. Some believe that education begins even earlier than this, as evidenced by some parents' playing music or reading to the baby in the womb in the hope it will influence the child's development.

The word 'education' is often used to refer solely to formal education (see below). However, it covers a range of experiences, from formal learning to the building of understanding through day to day experiences. Ultimatley, all that we experience serves as a form of education. Individuals can receive informal education from a variety of sources. Family members and society have a strong influence on the informal education of the individual.

Origins of the Word "Education"

The word "education" is derived from the Latin educare meaning "leading out" or "leading forth". This reveals one of the theories behind the function of education - of developing innate abilities and expanding horizons.

Formal Education

Formal Education

Figure 2: Formal Education

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

Life-long or adult education has 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 selfinstructional materials. Many adults have also taken advantage of the rise in computer ownership and internet access to further their informal education.

Technology and Education

Technology and Education

Figure 3: Technology and Education

Technology and Education

Figure 4: Technology and Education

Technology has become an increasingly influential factor in education. Computers and associated technology 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). While technology clearly offers powerful learning tools that can engage students, research has provided no evidence to date that technology actually improves student learning.

History of Education

In 1994 Dieter Lenzen, president of the Freie Universität Berlin, said education began either millions of years ago or at the end of 1770. (The first chair of pedagogy was founded at the end of the 1770s at the University of Halle, Germany.) This quote by Lenzen includes the idea that education as a science cannot be separated from the educational traditions that existed before. Education was the natural response of early civilizations to the struggle of surving and thriving as a culture, requiring adults to train the young of their society in the knowledge and skills they would need to master and eventually pass on. The evolution of culture, and human beings as a species, has depended on this practice of transmittining knowledge. In pre-literate societies this was achieved orally, story-telling from one generation to the next. As oral langauage developed into witten symbols and letters, the depth and breadth of knowledge that could be preserved and passed increased exponentially. As cultures began to extend their knowledge beyond the basic skills of communicating, trading, gathereing food, religious practices, etc., the beginnings of formal education, schooling, eventually followed. There is evidence that schooling in this sense was already in place in Egypt between 3000 and 500BC. Basic education today is considered those skills that are necessary to function in society.

Challenges in Education

The goal of education is the transference of ideas and skills from one person to another, or from one person to a group. 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 transferrable. The current education system measures competency with tests and assignments and then assigns each student a corresponding grade. The grades usually come in the form of either a letter grade or a percentage, which 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 educative process. Some feel the current grading system risks lowering 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 quite the opposite. Students are not sufficiently inspired or challenged to achieve success because of the dumbing down of the curriculum and the replacement of the "canon" with inferior material. Their view of self-confidence is that it 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, one of the most famous physicists of our time, 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. However, his gifts eventually shone through and added to the sum of human knowledge. On the other hand, for millenia those who have been challenged and well-educated in traditional schools have risen to great success and to a lifelong love of learning because their minds were made better and more powerful, as well as because of their mastery of a wide range of skills. There are a number of highly controversial issues in education. Should some knowledge be forgotten? What should be taught, are we better off knowing how to build nuclear bombs, or is it best to let such knowledge be forgotten?

In developing countries

Education in Developing Countries

Figure 5: Education in Developing Countries

Education in Developing Countries

Figure 6: Education in Developing Countries

In developing countries, the number and seriousness of the problems faced is 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.

  • Due to globalization, increased pressure on students in curricular activities

  • Removal of a certain percentage of students for improvisation of academics (usually practised in schools, after 10th grade)

India however is starting to develop technologies that will skip land based phone and internet lines. Instead, they have launched a special education satellite that can reach more of the country at a greatly reduced cost. There is also an initiative started by AMD and other corporations to develop the $100 dollar computer which should be ready by 2006. This computer will be sold in units of 1 million, and will be assembled in the country where the computer will be used. This apperas to be a different computer to that developed by MIt, with the same price tag, believed to be powered by clockwork and a generator. This will enable poorer 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.

Parental involvement

Parental involvement is an essential aspect of a child's educational development. Early and consistent parental involvement in the child's life is critical such as reading to children at an early age, teaching patterns, interpersonal communication skills, exposing them to diverse cultures and the community around them, educating them on a healthy lifestyle, etc. The socialization and academic education of a child are aided by the involvement of the student, parent(s), teachers, and others in the community and extended family.

Related Links

PhD student at the University of Cincinnati

MS Human Genetics; employed as a genetic counselor at Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center

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