The purpose of education is still hotly debated. Some older views of education focused around the need to prepare students to live a useful life. The Greek philosopher Socrates’ view was that education was not about the acquisition of bits of knowledge, but about how to learn and how to think. In the 20th century, the American educator John Dewey’s view of education as teaching young people “to live pragmatically in their current environment” was challenged because “it has elaborated no theory of social welfare”. Others, like George Counts, viewed education more about preparing the individual to live as a member of society – “to equip individuals with the skills necessary to participate in the social life of their community and to change the nature of the social order as needed”.

This kind of view (Count’s view) is commonly reflected by teachers participating in GTA training courses.

  1. In small groups read the quotes below and prioritise them according to which you agree /disagree with most at the top least at the bottom
  2. How does your education system compare to these?

What we have is a system that is shaped by historical forces, but they are now almost totally bankrupt as ideas for education in the 21st century and I think they are betraying most of our children. Public systems of education, paid for from taxation, were invented to meet the needs of the industrial economy that was emerging in the 18th and 19th centuries where we needed a workforce who could do certain sorts of things

Ken Robinson


In the old days it used to be the teacher, the man or woman up front who knows it all. Schools become steeped in history and the past, in static knowledge and fail to capture the here and now. Schools often fail to prepare young people for contemporary society, for the realities of the world we live in. And even more significantly, fail to prepare young people for the emerging issues of our time

Dr Cream Wright, Global Head of Education UNICEF


Students who are completing school this year are likely to be retiring around 2065. Given that we can’t predict with any certainty what the world’s going to look like in 10 years or even perhaps in 5 years, the very best that we can do is to prepare young people for a rapidly changing social, technological, economic environment. They’ll need to be the most flexible, collaborative, resilient, creative generation that really have ever been

Annika Small, Futurelab


Education will be the key to solving all the other problems that we’ve got

Bill Bryson