With the closure of schools and children being educated at home, it is an appropriate time to consider “What is Education?”
If we reflect upon history, studying societies of different evolutionary development, and contemplate how life has altered, we surely arrive at a definition for education similar to that proffered by Mark K. Smith, “ the wise, hopeful and respectful cultivation of learning undertaken in the belief that all should have the chance to share in life” (Infed 2015, updated March 20th 2020).
Education commences in the womb. After birth, mothers have always been the primary educators but increasingly in the West, this role has been shared with, or sometimes taken over by, fathers. In different countries, “schooling” commences at the age of 3, 4, 5 or 6. In ideal environments, such “schooling” can lead to the “respectful cultivation of learning” but frequently this is not the case. In the UK, we, the British people, have allowed a system to develop that focuses on testing, with a skill- based approach, rather than education. The best teachers work around Government directives so that they can still inspire and foster questioning minds. Unfortunately, they are rare.
So where does this leave us in 2020? The country was told that we had had enough of experts; we are currently relying upon the views of experts. A previous leader informed us that there is no such thing as society; our current leader tells us that we have proved that society does exist. We have placed our trust in hundreds of thousands of people, whom we were recently informed were low-skilled.
Above all, the EU is being so generous to the UK, treating us almost as if we hadn’t left to help us through these current times. They are allowing us to lean upon them, our closest neighbours. None of us is an island. Let us be humble and admit that we got it wrong. “All should have the chance to share in life”. “Let us be wise, hopeful and respectful”.