I want to start these reflections on education with three three-dimensional images which all play a major role in my thinking about education.
Hand – Heart – Head
Thanks to Johann-Heinrich Pestalozzi these three dimensions have left already an imprint in the minds of those who theorise and those who practice education. Ideally the theorisers and the practitioners are one and the same. What is learning for the head without understanding with the heart and without shaping things, shaping reality, with your hands? The whole person is the subject of learning and making sense of the world. Only this way we can hope to find real solutions to the challenges around us and ahead of us, solutions that work and solutions that are humane.
Purpose – Practice – Policy
The purpose of education, why and what for we organise the education of the young (and older ones too), must be reflected in the everyday practice of education as well as in education policy. Too often there is contradiction between them, one pulling this way and the other pulling that way while the third doesn’t care… What we need is that the purpose of education we agree upon determines education policy and the day-to-day practice of education. What we need is a purpose that is the driving force behind our movement towards an aim. The aim is up to us to define. For me it is the vision of a sustainable society based on the universal values of human rights and dedicated to the well-being of all its individuals.
Understand – Live together – Sustain our well-being
There are many ways to understand and to describe the purpose of education. Some see the purpose of education in a) the reproduction of the existing, b) the critique of the existing and c) in pushing the boundaries of our understanding of the existing. Some others, such as the Council of Europe, see it as a) the preparation for a life of democratic citizens, b) the preparation for the labour market, c) the maintenance and development of a broad knowledge base and d) personal development.
While I find a lot of interest in these descriptions personally I prefer the following three:
- To understand myself and the world in which I live
- To be able to live with others and to contribute to a sustainable way of living together
- To sustain my own material and otherwise well-being and to contribute to the well-being of society
When speaking of society here I would not reduce this to the society of this or that country, region or town but I would include the society of all of us living on this planet.