What is the Real Purpose of Education?

Last week, Phi Delta Kappa released its annual survey report on American attitudes toward education.  One of the group’s annual questions has to do with the fundamental purpose of education.

Before I share the results, I wonder, how would you answer this question?

The fundamental purpose of education is:

  1. To prepare students with academic skills.
  2. To prepare students for work
  3. To prepare students for citizenship.

The big finding form the report is – A majority of Americans do not agree that any one of these options in the major purpose of education.  A little fewer than 50% said “academic skills” were most important, and about an even number of the remainder said “Work” or “Citizenship.”

Personally, I believe the question itself reflects a big disconnect in the way our leaders think about education.  If we are really thinking about our students as just actual people who will have lives after K-12 education, we know they are going to need to be prepared in all three ways.  They must have the fundamental learning skills to grow and adapt throughout their lives; but they are going to discover how to have a meaningful career, and they need to be active, responsible citizens.

Hey, this is beginning to sound like “Career and Life Readiness.”  In the NC3T Pathways Systems model, we identify the first major component as Identifying and Defining the knowledge, skills and competencies that youth and young adults need to be “Career and Life Ready.”

It’s not Academics, or Work, or Citizenship.  It’s all of the above – Career and Life Readiness!

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