Is there a purpose for Education?

Written by Neeru Khosla on October 19, 2009
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Education
I had the privilege of presenting at the Gifted Education Conference organized by the Nueva School.  The theme of the conference was not only Gifted Education but also Innovation (for example role of design process in K-12 Education, Social-Emotional Learning) and professional development for teachers.  To complete the holistic nature of education, the conference extended their reach to include students as shown by the inclusion of a 15-year-old student who had started his own company that sold a card game he had invented.  The concept of this game was based on concepts in chemistry similar to the popular card game Magic.  780 teachers, parents, and school administrates attented this very informative and stimulating conference.
I was asked to be on a panel focusing on “What 21st Century Education will look like.” Surprisingly, not one of us came up with a similar answer, especially since the work in education focus is different.  As expected, my response based on customized and individualize education.  The essence of my point of view is that we must ensure that we must meet the needs of the students starting from where they are rather then where we expect them to be.  The second person on the panel focuse on Emotional Quotient (EQ), Culture Quotient (CQ) and Intelligence Quotient (IQ).  Based on his own eperience in education the next panelist felt that he was taught to be “adaptable to changing situations” and hence we should be teaching for adaptability.  The final panelist, however, based on his research and experience felt that the focus should be on ethical education.

Hearing these responses I thought really these are four divergent responses begging the questions:
“What is the purpose of education?”
and
“What is the role of schools?”
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No doubt that each of my more distinuished fellow panelist brought a very important and much needed angle to education.  However, the  bottom-line is that there are only so many hours in a day.  What do we include and what do we take out?  Are we requiring our schools and teachers to de facto become the “family unit”?  Are we requiring our schools to be everything to everyone?  Can we continue to do so while taking care of very diverse, in many ways, population?

How do we ensure that schools teach to learning the essentials of academics, while making sure that we allow time for complex, individual and ever changing emotional and humane characteristics? Any thoughts?