What is the purpose of Education in the 21st Century?

With the development of a National Curriculum in Australia it is timely to ask the question “What is the purpose of Education in the 21st Century?”.

Systemically the purpose of education in Australia is outlined in the Melbourne Declaration on Education Goals for Young Australians that outlines two goals:

  1. Australian schooling promotes equity and excellence; and
  2. All Australian students become successful learners; confident and creative individuals; and active and informed citizens   

Some may argue that the purpose of education has changed little from the time of Plato who believedthat the purpose of education was to teach “good character, citizenship and leadership”. A common theme throughout the history of public education in the United States, the UK  and Australiais the the need of public education to be free, compulsory and secular. Also, education should produce informed, useful and active citizens. What has changed is what it means to be an active, useful and informed citizens.

Educator responses to a question in YAMMER “What is the purpose of education in the 21st Century?” indicated that there still is a strong belief that a purpose of education is still to develop citizens. Whether that be sustaining community, inter-cultural understanding, socialisation, preparing students for the society in which they will live, transmission of culture in society, develop the skills that will help them with their future lives, good people or to develop respectable, thoughtful and creative citizens who participate in the wider society.

Further it was suggested that there are skill that students will require include: 

  • Critical thinking
  • Problem Solving
  • Creative expression
  • Communication skills
  • Access, interrogate and manipualte  information. Create content
  • Understand yourself. How you learn. Your perceptual and cognitive biases.
  • Collaborate
  • Peaceably resolve conflict
  • Knowledge of a discipline
  • Interdisciplinary knowledge

Some may see these as the skill necessary for students to become active and informed citizens in the 21st Century.

How we do and how we put it into a framework are questions for another time. But however we do this we must ensure that the love of learning is kept alive. “Education is about lighting that inner fire – not filling a bottle”

What do you see as the purpose of education in the 21st Century?