What is Education and Why is it so Important?

Education lies at the core of all Social and Economic Developments

What is Education and Why is it so Important?
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Education is the process by which learning is facilitated. Hence it would be appropriate to keep the improvement in learner’s capacity at the center of education and all policies governing it. For effective education, the first step would be to understand the objectives of education as well as its overall purpose for the individual and the society. Education holds the key to national development.

The best indicator of the difference between a developed country and one not yet developed is the difference between the capacity and quality of its inhabitants. This is because a nation consists of people. A nation can achieve only what its people are capable of doing. Thus, it would not be wrong to say that education is that one ladder which can be used by a nation to elevate its citizen to a higher level, and thereby also put itself on an assured path of development.

What is Education?

Education is the process by which learning is imparted or obtained. When the burden and responsibility of learning is fully taken up by leaner, it becomes a case of self-education. However, in most cases, this burden is shared by several stakeholders who participate in this process in addition to the subject, who is usually referred as the learner, student or trainee.

The major part of the responsibility of education lies primarily with the teachers or the trainers, but when education is imparted in an institutional settings, then those who finance it, those who manage and maintain it and those who monitor it, for instance by an examination system, also become a part and parcel of the ecosystem that facilitates learning.

Even peers can be considered an important stakeholder, since a lot of education is mediated through the interactions among the learners, through a process called “peer learning”.

Is Education same as Learning?

Education is not the same as learning. Education is the process, while learning is the outcome of that process. Learning can happen even without a structured education system, but education in the absence of learning outcomes is a futile exercise. Thus, learning is and should always be at the core of education, and for the same reason, education systems needs to be responsive to the capacity, ambitions and limitations of learners, so as to optimize its benefits.

Formal vs. Informal Education

Education that is imparted in an institution formally established for the primary purpose of education is referred to as formal education. Schools, Colleges, Universities, training units and vocational training centers are all examples of such institutions that impart formal education. However, a very substantial part of education process takes place outside such formal institutions.

The first few years of life constitute one of the most crucial phases of one’s intellectual development, and the education that is informally imparted by parents and other family members invariably goes a long way in determining the eventual academic achievements. Similarly, learning at workplace as well as by interaction with those with better knowledge or skills is also an important part of informal education. Much of the social and political education is through the informal institutions.

What are the Components of Education?

Objectives of education can differ depending upon the type of education. However, broadly all such objectives can be categorized within three primary categories, each of which can be considered an essential component of education. The first category consists of acquisition of knowledge, the second category consists of acquisition of skills and the third category includes inculcating behavior patterns that contribute to attitude, character and personality. Different types of education involve differing levels of emphasis on these categories.

  • Acquisition of Knowledge: Traditionally, the primary focus of most of our formal education institutions, from primary schools to Colleges and Universities, has been imparting of knowledge. Usually it is undertaken with the aid of classroom instructions and discussions, backed up by readings of recommended text. Traditionally, knowledge has been a scarce commodity and those who were aware acquired a position of advantage in society, making knowledge one of the most important objectives of education. However, in the present age, where knowledge is accessible far more easily and sometime its excess becomes a challenge, the role of education is undergoing a change. Today, the role of education lies in facilitating acquisition of systemic, unbiased, scientific and validated knowledge that would bring conceptual clarity and aid analytical capacity of the learner.

  • Acquisition of Skills: Skills are almost always an essential part of formal education. In particular, skill acquisition is the central component of education in the beginning years of formal schooling, and also during the concluding years that are aimed at making an individual ready for undertaking a profession or vocation. The pre-schooling and initial years of primary school are aimed primarily at developing basic skills in communication, computation, analysis and social behavior. On the other hand, higher education aims to prepare individuals for earning a livelihood through employment or profession and is more focused on requisite skills rather than knowledge.

  • Development of attitude, character and personality: This is an embedded objective of all formal education, and is also a primary justification for the involvement of all stakeholders in the process of education. It includes inculcation of self discipline and perseverance, social values that are essential to make a distinction between right and wrong, and the overall capacity and wisdom to lead a life that is not only productive for the learner, but also results in improved welfare of the society as a whole. One of the best examples of this component of education is the training in defense forces, where the objective is to develop certain traits that are essential for defense personnel.

What is the Overall Objective or Purpose of Education?

The overall objectives or purposes of education can be classified into two categories, personal and social. The overall purpose of education from the perspective of the learner himself is to develop certain personal capacities that will develop that individual into a person that will be accepted and respected by the society, while also enabling him with a capacity to earn a decent living, either by way of employment or by way of profession or through entrepreneurship. From the perspective of the society and the State, the overall purpose of education is to develop its members into cohesive social and economic units who can flexibly and harmoniously blend together into a peaceful society and nation and optimize their economic potential together. A good system of education must always be able to cater to both of these purposes simultaneously, without compromising one for the other.

How Important are Examinations & Degrees in Education

Examinations provide a way of monitoring the education and determining the learning and capacity acquired by a student. Degrees or certificates signal that the student has acquired a certain level of such capacity. Thus, degrees are only meant as a signal for the rest of the society and in particular the potential employers about the capacity of a student who has completed his education.

Examination systems can be vulnerable to certain limitations, which adversely affect the signaling importance of degrees awarded through them. Most examinations are able to assess the acquisition of knowledge far more effectively than skills, but in real world skills may matter more than knowledge. Hence, degrees are often not relied upon by the employers for assessing skills. Other limitations of examination include the bias or limitations of examiner and the imperfections of examination system in relating to the knowledge and skills imparted.

Perhaps, one of the biggest limitations of examination is that it can change the approach of students, who instead of focusing on real learning, shift their attention and efforts to maximizing their performance in examinations. In extreme cases, such approach can even lead to adoption of unfair means, thereby compromising the integrity of examination process itself. When this happens, the resultant degrees also lose their value as the employers refuse to accept them as evidence of learning and capacity. This can become the most tragic outcome of a failed education system.

Why is Education Important?

Education is the process by which human capacity is maximized in a society or an economy. The social, political and economic status of any nation or economy is thus, primarily a function of the efficacy of its education system. On one hand, it prepares its individuals as valuable factors of production in the economy and thereby boosts the economic output of the nation. On the other hand, it ensures that the people have the necessary ability to form a cohesive society, maintain social harmony and manage collective actions, include those relating to distribution of authority and power, by a peaceful political process.

Thus, the society, the economy and the polity, all of them need a robust comprehensive education system to succeed. This is exactly why no nation or society in the world has been able to rise among its peers without a strong and effective education system.

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