From Academic Kids

Template:Portal Education encompasses teaching and learning specific skills, and also something less tangible but more profound: the imparting of knowledge, good judgement and wisdom. Education has as one of its fundamental goals the imparting of culture from generation to generation (see socialization).



The education of an individual human begins at birth and continues throughout life. (Some believe that education begins even before birth, 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.) For some, the struggles and triumphs of daily life provide far more instruction than does formal schooling (thus Mark Twain's admonition to "never let school interfere with your education"). Family members may have a profound educational effect — often more profound than they realize — though family teaching may function very informally.

The origins of the word "education" reveal one theory of its function: the Latin educare comes from roots suggesting a "leading out" or "leading forth", with possible implications of developing innate abilities and of expanding horizons.

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, but its sponsor may seek selfish advantages when shaping impressionable young scholars.

Life-long or adult education has become widespread. Lending libraries provide inexpensive informal access to books and other self-instructional materials. Many adults have given up the notion that only children belong "in school". Many adults enroll in post-secondary education schools, both part-time and full-time, which often classify them as "non-traditional students" in order to distinguish them administratively from young adults entering directly from high school.

Computers have become an increasingly influential factor in education, both as a tool for online education (a type of distance education) and e-Learning. By this approach, individual students can access lessons and materials easily via the Internet and CD-ROM (for example, via a WebQuest) and participate in a range of interactive online learning activities.

History of education

Education has been around for most of human history. To put it simply, education is the teaching of ideas, abilities, principles etc. Animals that are taught by parents also have some of their actions driven by instinct. Humans however, when they started developing tools and knowledge that had to be taught, went further than this. If we think of education as part of the cultural evolution of human beings, this means there has been always some sort of education.

In 1994 Dieter Lenzen, president of the Freie Universitt 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.

Basic education today is considered those skills that are necessary to function in society.


In the West, the origins of education are associated with organized religion: priests and monks realised the importance of promoting positive virtues in the young and founded, maintained, and staffed school systems. In Europe, many of the first universities have Catholic roots. During and following the Age of Enlightenment the association between religion and education became diminished.

Jean-Jacques Rousseau fuelled an influential early-Romanticism reaction to formalised religion-based education at a time when the concept of childhood had started to develop as a distinct aspect of human development.

The Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth's Commission of National Education (Polish: Komisja Edukacji Narodowej) formed in 1773 counts as the first Ministry of Education in the history of mankind.

Conventional social history narrates how by about the beginning of the 19th century the industrial revolution promoted a demand for masses of disciplined, inter-changeable workers who possessed at least minimal literacy. In these circumstances, the new socially predominant structure, the state, began to mandate and dictate attendance at standardised schools with a state-ordained curriculum. Out of such systems the general and vocational education paths of the 20th century emerged, with increasing economic specialisation demanding increasingly specialised skills from a population which spent correspondingly longer periods in formal education before entering or while engaged in the workforce.


The origins of education in China are tied up with the Chinese classic texts, rather than organized religion, per se. The early Chinese state depended upon literate, educated officials for operation of the empire, and an imperial examination system was established in the Han Dynasty (206 BC-220) for evaluating and selecting officials. This merit-based system gave rise to schools that taught the classics and continued in use for 2,000 years, until the end the Qing Dynasty, until it was abolished in 1911 in favour of Western education methods.


India has a long history of organized education. The Gurukul system of education is one of the oldest on earth, and was dedicated to the highest ideals of all-round human development: physical, mental and spiritual. Gurukuls were traditional Hindu residential schools of learning; typically the teacher's house or a monastery. Education was free, but students from well-to-do families payed Gurudakshina, a voluntary contribution after the completion of their studies. At the Gurukuls, the teacher imparted knowledge of Religion, Scriptures, Philosophy, Literature, Warfare, Statecraft, Medicine and Astrology (Surprisingly, ancient Indians seem to have not been interested in History). The first millenium and the few centuries preceding it saw the flourishing of higher education at Nalanda, Takshila, Ujjain, & Vikramshila Universities. Art, Architecture, Painting, Logic, Grammar, Philosophy, Astronomy, Literature, Buddhism, Hinduism, Arthashastra (Economics & Politics), Law, and Medicine were among the subjects taught and each university specialized in a particular field of study. Takshila specialized in the study of medicine, while Ujjain laid emphasis on astronomy. Nalanda, being the biggest centre, handled all branches of knowledge, and housed upto 10,000 students at it's peak. British records ( show that education was widespread in the 18th century, with a school for every temple, mosque or village in most regions of the country. The current system of education, with it's western style and content, was introduced & funded by the British in the 20th century, following recommendations by Macaulay. Traditional structures were not recognized by the British govt and have been on the decline since. Gandhi is said to have described the traditional educational system as a beautiful tree that was destroyed during the British rule.

Recent world-wide educational trends

Overall, illiteracy has greatly decreased in recent years.

Illiteracy and the percentage of populations without any schooling have decreased in the past several decades. For example, the percentage of population without any schooling decreased from 36% in 1960 to 25% in 2000.

Among developing countries, illiteracy and percentages without schooling in 2000 stood at about half the 1970 figures. Among developed countries, illiteracy rates decreased from 6 percent to 1 percent, and percentages without schooling decreased from 5 to 2.

Illiteracy rates in less-developed countries (LDCs) surpassed those of more developed countries (MDCs) by a factor of 10 in 1970, and by a factor of about 20 in 2000. Illiteracy decreased greatly in LDCs, and virtually disappeared in MDCs. Percentages without any schooling showed similar patterns.

Percentages of the population with no schooling varied greatly among LDCs in 2000, from less than 10 percent to over 65 percent. MDCs had much less variation, ranging from less than 2 percent to 17 percent.

Challenges in education

The goal of education is the transference of ideas from one person to another, or from one person to a group. Can a group of people educate? Problems with the current public education sytem include: the method of knowledge delivery, how to determine what knowledge should be taught, the use and relevancy of the imparted knowledge, and how well the pupil will retain incoming knowledge.

In addition to the ability to the "Three R's", reading, writing, and arithmetic, Western primary and secondary schools attempt to teach the basic knowledge of history, mathematics, including calculus and algebra, physics, chemistry, and sometimes politics, in the hope that students will retain and use this knowledge as they age. 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 ideally represents the amount of all material presented in class that the student understood. These grades do not reveal the strengths and weaknesses of a student. Many feel this grading scheme risks lowering students self-esteem and self-confidence, as students may receive poor marks for reasons unrelated to their level of intellegence or capability, for example poverty, abuse, lack of interest in the material, prejudiced or incompetent teachers, uncomfortable classrooms, etc.

Albert Einstein, one of the most famous physicist 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.

Every child has certain gifts and abilities, but early and later childhood education rarely tries to find out what that may be and help the students develop that. If children are good at something they will excel in that subject, and if they do not, they may not do as well.

This brings us to a major critique of modern western education. It exposes children to a wide variety of disciplines which is good, but subjects are taught, tested, and then the children are generally not required to remember the content from before.

There are also some dilemmas about the teaching of knowledge. 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 well-developed countries

In developed countries, teachers worry little about the process of education because there are set guidelines that they have to follow. A reoccuring problem is the difficulty of keeping students attention and actually teaching them something they will retain throughout life. (see Current issues in teaching). Program Evaluation answers questions such as whether different methods of education (public, private, home, or other schooling) "work", or how to improve education. One example is the Program for International Student Asessment from the OECD.

A difficulty in making decisions on how to educate children is the contradiction between compulsory education and nurturing the concept of personal freedom in Western society. This has lead to parents in some countries choosing to home school their children where it is permitted. Another reason for this may also be perceived over-education, as well as the over-emphasis on examination results versus student-driven discovery and exploration of subjects (the sausage machine analogy).

A question studied by educational sociologists is that of the "hidden curriculum" which enforces societal status quo by providing different educations to children of different social classes.

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. 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 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.

Prominent educationalists


See also

External links

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