Aims of education

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Rethinking our education system involves rethinking pedagogy - where "Pedagogy encompases the performance of teaching together with the theories, beliefs, policies and controversies that inform and shape it" (Alexander 2008 p4). As Murphy (2008 p35) identifies, "in order to address what is an effective pedagogy, we must be agreed on the goals of education".

The first stage in the schome approach is to build a consensus about what the aims for schome (the education system for the learning age) should be.

The current plan for how to do that is:

  1. Identify as many possible aims/purposes for schome as possible
  2. Group these so we end up with a coherent and comprehensive list of possible aims that schome might wish to meet
  3. Develop an online questionnaire which asks folk to rate and rank these aims/purposes - to show which ones they think should be most important (in much the same way that the dICTatEd project is doing with rationales for using ICT in education) - this will also encourage folk to suggest additional aims/purposes and to join in the debate in the schome community forum
  4. Get thousands (hundreds of thousands) of people to fill in the web questionnaire (see step 3)
  5. Analyse the data from all those responses and the contributions to the schome community website - and draw some conclusions about what the key aims/purposes for schome should be.

1. Identifying possible aims/purposes for education

High-level aims

This page is starting to list different aims/purposes for education - the things that people say our education system is for and/or needs to provide. At this stage the aims/purposes have not been grouped - this is something that will need to be done once we have added sufficient of them to justify it!
Please feel free to add to this page (you don't need to have a reference to support the aim you list - it could just be what you think/believe).



Contribute to society Trilling and Hood (2001 p.9)
Fulfil personal talents Trilling and Hood (2001 p.10)
Fulfil civic responsibilities Trilling and Hood (2001 p.10)
Carry tradition forward Trilling and Hood (2001 pp.10-11)
Provide the engine for economic growth Wolf (2002 p.x)
Provide a workforce with necessary basic 'academic' skills Wolf (2002 p.11)
Provide individuals with opportunity, enlightenment and knowledge (beyond work/occupation) Wolf (2002 p.11)

Trilling and Hood (2001 p.10) argue that whilst the four traditional reasons why education is seen as crucial to society (contribute to society, fulfil personal talents, fulfil civic responsibilities, and carry tradition forward) have not changed the move from the Industrial to Knowledge Age has meant that "our response to each of these goals shifts dramatically and brand new sets of demands appear, challenging our entire education enterprise".

Wolf (2002 p.11) argues that "basic 'academic' skills ... are also the main tools for survival in a developed economy, a precondition for running modern society, and, not least, a gateway to individual opportunity, enlightenment and knowledge which go way beyond the immediate concerns of work and occupation." (NB Wolf challenges the notion that education actually provides economic growth)

The curriculum

In some ways the curriculum reflects our priorities and gives some insight into what we thing the education system is for. For example, if were serious about wanting to prepare people for lifelong learning (ie being able to cope with the rapid pace of change that they are likely to face throughout their adult lives) then we would place much greater emphasis within the curriculum on learning to learn. So it might be helpful to list here the key things that you think should be in the curriculum. To help provide some differentiation let's group them under the headings

  • 'Core' (stuff everyone really ought to learn)
  • 'Extension' (stuff that we think is important - but not so important as core)
  • 'Other' (not that important)


Add your thoughts about what should be part of the 'core/compulsory' curriculum here:

  • Learning to learn
  • Applications to/in the real world (i.e. not just textbook learning)


Add your thoughts about what should be part of the 'extension' curriculum here:


Add your thoughts about what should be part of the 'other' curriculum here:


Alexander, R. (2008) Pedagogy, Curriculum and Culture. In Hall, K; Murphy, P. & Soler, J. (Eds) Pedagogy and Practice: Culture and Identities, pp3-27. London & Milton Keynes: Sage and The Open University.

Murphy, P. (2008) Defining Pedagogy. In Hall, K; Murphy, P. & Soler, J. (Eds) Pedagogy and Practice: Culture and Identities, pp28-39. London & Milton Keynes: Sage and The Open University.

Trilling and Hood (2001) We're Wired, Webbed, and Windowed, Now What?, in Paechter, C; Edwards, R; Harrison, R. & Twining, P. (eds) Learning, Space and Identity, pp.7-30, London: Paul Chapman Publishing.

Wolf, A. (2002) Does Education Matter? Myths about education and economic growth, London: Penguin Books.

Other potentially relevant sources

Chapter 7 of Alan Kerr's book (Forever Learning: Thoughts on the past, present and future of education) talks about Alan's views about the purposes of education