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Education in the 21st Century: The Purpose of Education in the New Era

“If people cannot write well, they cannot think well, and if they cannot think well, others will do their thinking for them.” – George Orwell.

The importance and the intent of education can be reflected in the above quote. But if we are to dive deep into clearly accessing the meaning and purpose of education, we must first understand the history of education. 

If we go back some 70 to 80 years, education was a privilege enjoyed by the elite. Boys and some girls received education in the Gurukul system. Children of families from different sections of society rarely got an opportunity to study under a proper teacher or a guru. This was all the more rare for girls. However, with education and reform activists demanding the right to education for everyone in the West, the intent of education changed drastically. Formal education was introduced to eradicate child labour and women’s oppression and reduce societal inequality. 

The purpose of education has constantly evolved as per the needs of society. For instance, the purpose of education during the stone age for the nomads and hunter-gatherers was to transfer the ability to the younger generation so that they know how to look for food with a deep knowledge of flora and fauna and make and sharpen various hunting tools for survival. At the onset of the Industrial Era, the focus shifted to leading a disciplined life and contributing to the assembly line. This societal change shifted how kids were taught, and formal schooling came to the rescue. 

As societies become borderless and diverse, one of the primary goals of education is to enable children to understand and respect diversity and build value from our cultural differences. Education and the purpose of education is an ever-evolving phenomenon, and it changes as per the needs of society and the outside world.

We must also acknowledge that education’s purpose is different for everyone. The purpose of education in current times depends not only on the community the child lives in and their cultural roots but also on the geographical location. For instance, for someone who lives in a metropolitan area, the purpose of education can be different than for someone who lives in a remote village. 

The purpose of education varies with gender, location, cultural background and various other factors, which, mind you, will be multifold and multi-layered. 

Education today isn’t just about learning a collection of facts and knowledge that can’t be applied to the real world. It’s about being independent, able to solve problems that do not exist today, teaching a love of learning, knowing how to bounce back from failure, communicating your ideas creatively, and much more. 

For parents knowing and thinking about the purpose behind whatever it is that you or your child is studying and how that impacts your lives will lead you to an effective, efficient and practical education.