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 and participate in a range of online learning activities.
History of education
To answer the question of when education was born, in 1994 Dieter Lenzen , president of the Freie Universitšt Berlin, had two suggestions: either millions of years ago or at the end of 1770. If we think of education as part of the cultural evolution of human beings, this means there has been always some sort of education. 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.
Much education has historically had a religion-based delivery mechanism: priests and monks have long realised the importance of promoting positive virtues in the young. Thus they have conventionally borne the economic costs of founding, maintaining and staffing school systems. In Europe, many of the first Universities have Catholic roots.
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.
Basic education today is considered those skills that are necessary to function in society.
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
In well-developed countries
In developed countries, teachers have little to worry about apart from the difficulties of the entertaining world distracting students' attention (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 Programme for International Student Assessment 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 badly-paid.
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)