I am writing my Purpos/ed piece towards the end of what has been an interesting and exciting week for me. It started on Monday night with me catching a lecture by Leighton Andrews at Aberystwyth University [online] and it is ending with the writing and then publicising of this piece. In between I have been in school trying to balance budgets and challenging children for not wearing the correct uniform, and more unusually I have visited the ESSA Academy in Bolton and attended a talk by the renowned Finnish educator Dr Pasi Sahlberg.
So as a result of all this visiting, thinking and intellectualising what IS the PURPOSE of education?
Fundamentally, it has to be in order to make a difference for the better for all people in the world. Education is about learning and improving. I think that the BBC Radio 4 and British Museum series – A History of the World in 100 Objects illustrates incredibly well how humankind has adapted to the environment and how we have used imagination and creativity to make technological advances. Many of these have been in order to better the lot of humankind yet some have not.
Education is about learning and what we learn should always be put to good use in order to make the world a better, a fairer, safer and more sustainable place for all. The purpose of education isn’t simply to acquire skills or techniques. It is to become a rounded human being, able to communicate and interact with others, to appreciate the beauty and wonder of the world, to be fulfilled from experiencing art, poetry, music and theatre, to feel good about oneself by undertaking life affirming sporting and recreational activities and understanding that we must care for all people and for the world’s environment as well as being able to develop our individuality through creativity.
The education system in the UK is unfair, more unfair in some constituent nations than others. Leighton Andrews talked about an ‘English exceptionalism’ in his lecture – expressing concern about the public school system that prevails with all its inherent inequalities that permeate right through the system. Dr Sahlberg emphasised that one of the Finnish system’s stand out features is its emphasis on equity. This leads to a more equitable society with less extremes of poverty and wealth. At the ESSA Academy I saw evidence of the democratization of education via mobile technologies: a child with an iPod Touch in their pocket has access to much of the world’s collective knowledge [provided they have a wifi connection]!
In the UK there have been many attempts to ensure social mobility. Until we have the courage to make education truly comprehensive so that society is reflected in schools where all children can be and learn with each other and where everyone has the right to become the best they can be in any domain irrespective of their background then we are not a progressive nation.
Only by transforming our education system into a truly equitable one will we be able to ensure social mobility. Purpos/ed can help as it is bringing people together to secure a consensus on this key issue.