Guest Features

The Purpose of Education

As an organisation that is committed to creating platforms and establishing programmes that encourage the free exchange of ideas across borders, the Centre for Escalation of Peace (CEP) seeks to broaden the conversation around education, sustainable development, society and culture.


One of these platforms is the Philosophers’ Retreat where eminent thinkers from the field of education, government, business and social work, come together to have an open discussion about education and how our systems could be better equipped to benefit the learner in an ever-changing world. Below are the salient points put forth by the panelists on their personal philosophies of what the purpose of education should be.


Education is a lifelong process, and the process is as important as the end result. Life itself is a journey of personal growth and development; therefore, the classroom curriculum should reflect the world around us. It should help the learner understand what is going on around them. We should realise that schooling is a very small part of the education process. At the moment, schooling gives us sound academic knowledge but it does not prepare us for life outside of school. Learning in schools tends to happen in silos although real life does not work that way. Over time, we have become an over-schooled and under-educated society, and this is something that needs to change. Education should help learners navigate the world that is in front of them. They need to be able to sift through useful and useless information.


Education should be about studying to learn and not learning to study. Education needs to go beyond a content acquisition framework. At the moment, there is a lot of emphasis on content, which means when it becomes obsolete, you become obsolete. If you learn how to learn, then any kind of content would become accessible. This is not to say that content is not needed as content too has a role in education. It is what builds perspectives. But the process of learning needs to encompass a lot more.

Education needs to help learners actualise their potential. People are wired differently and thus society and education should be able to cater to all types of learners and allow them to grow. We need to understand that people who ace their traditional exams can also be creative individuals. Tests should be conducted in such a way that they assess what the learner knows rather than what they do not know. Assessment should be about enabling students and not become about competitiveness. Competition with oneself is more important than with others. The true purpose of assessment should be to gauge whether the learner is better today than they were yesterday.


There is a need for education to strive towards building good principles and character in learners. Certain principles have to be acquired by all learners, particularly universal ones such as justice and compassion. Education should also impart skills with reference to physical, emotional and social hygiene. We need to inculcate values that would bring happiness in one’s life and others. There are some essential traits needed in a learner such as curiosity, quest for clarity, passion, awareness, integrity, respect for others, empathy, luck, unconditional love, and discernment. Values such as hard work and rigour too need to be inculcated.

While we talk about what needs to change, we should not wholly dismiss the current system. The purpose of the education system is to challenge you. Before thinking out-of-the-box, we need to learn to think inside the box. Certain basic skills, such as reading, writing and speaking have to be acquired even if they prove to be challenging. Struggle often brings out the best in us. Education is like a tasting menu and it is a platform to understand what suits us and what does not. We do not know what our best is unless we stumble upon it, either intentionally or by chance. Education should provide us with opportunities to discover what our best is.

Education should empower learners to think about their personal philosophy. We need to make the idea of having a personal philosophy appealing. Our personal philosophy is dictated by our experience, geographical location and social environment. We need to ensure that learners develop positive personal philosophies and apply them in their day-to-day lives. Developing a personal philosophy at a later stage can often be difficult and disconcerting; that is why education should provide a conducive environment for learners to think about their personal philosophies at a young age. We need to realise that personal philosophies can help in self-actualisation.

Education is about finding that internal passion, drive or drumbeat, and then marching in the real world in harmony with this drumbeat.The government and citizens have to work in a cohesive manner in order to create a system where there is a focus on inspiring the drumbeat at an early age. Schools need to expose students to a wide variety of options so that they discover their drumbeat by the time they leave school. The system must focus on developing self-confidence so that every learner is able to pursue her true calling in life.


Education is powerful and liberating because it helps one attain freedom. We need to realise that education is about empowerment – creating independent, free thinking individuals who are able to actualise their dynamic potential and become the best version of themselves. 

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