Articles, Education and Training

Education and Training: Examining The Purpose of Education

The Purpose of Education

by Denise N. Fyffe

Today, we cannot survive without education. It is the catalyst that helps us to navigate the world and achieve our objectives in life. It helps to launch us through whatever social, economic, physical, or societal demands that we encounter.

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr

Upon close inspection, one could surmise that my own beliefs about education are in line with those of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

King, Jr (1947) had a strong opinion about the purpose of education.

He stated that “education has a two-fold function to perform in the life of man and in society: the one is utility and the other is culture. Education must enable a man to become more efficient, to achieve with increasing facility the legitimate goals of his life. Education must also train one for quick, resolute, and effective thinking. To think incisively and to think for one’s self is very difficult.”

The Purpose of Education

Throughout the readings, I found a myriad of explanations given for the purpose of education. According to a Schools Minister in the UK, Nick Gibb, education is to be the “engine of our economy, it is the foundation of our culture, and it’s an essential preparation for adult life.” Along with these three purposes, he further surmises that “education is also about the practical business of ensuring that young people receive the preparation they need to secure a good job and a fulfilling career and have the resilience and moral character to overcome challenges and succeed.”

Gibb (2015) also adds that “equipping young people with the knowledge and skills they need to secure a place at a good university, start an apprenticeship, or find their first job, is a fundamental responsibility of all of us working in education.”

Certainly, these statements highlight the expected path that young people ought to take, as they are educated at each level and then move on to contribute to the overall objectives of their society or country. However, one must understand that these goals for education were not always as they are now.

The Psychology Today article, written by Dr. Peter Gray provides a synopsis of education throughout the ages, not just as it relates to formal education, in the manner it is known today.

It also encapsulates how early people learned to contribute to any group or society they were a part of. Starting from hunter-gatherers and their play, leading to people in agricultural societies who had to learn how to farm, fashion, and use their tools. To those in the industrial age, who had to work in factories to provide for their families, even children as young as 10 years old – as the law permitted.

Later we see the beginnings of the first schools in America. They were in Massachusetts. There, religious groups like the Puritans used bible lessons, scriptures, and prayers to help children not only learn how to read but also how to become good, moral citizens.

Once the foundation was laid, education started to take on an ever-changing purpose. Initially, the goal was to have people matriculate from the education system as solid workers who were dependable, punctual, and fulfilled the requirements of their jobs as dictated to them. They worked long hours and were not required to have great skill in reading and writing.

Once there was a greater cohesiveness among the various American groups, education was fashioned to produce patriotic citizens who could later be called on to serve their country as soldiers. They would be eager to do so, especially when it comes to defending their ideals and the foundation laid down by the founding fathers.

Reform later came to education by people who put the needs of children first and shaping them into the best version of themselves. The purpose of education became more about “protecting children from the damaging forces of the outside world and for providing children with the moral and intellectual grounding needed to develop into upstanding, competent adults” according to Gray (2008). Of course, there is always a hidden agenda. Students were expected to cover subjects such as Mathematics and Latin, which required rigor, repetition and would develop within them morality and immense discipline. In the end, these students would become scholars.

Gray (2008) further highlighted that recently, conventional schools became more common. Students could study diverse subjects, beyond the regular reading, writing, mathematics, or Latin. There was less focus on corporal punishment and children spent relatively most of their time learning and little or no time doing manual labor.

Nonetheless, one could say that schooling is even more demanding now than working in a factory, with the many hours required to attend school, complete homework and take on extra lessons just to keep up with the demands of the school curriculum.




GOV.UK. (2015).  The purpose of education. Retrieved from

King, M. L., Jr . (1947). The purpose of education. Retrieved from

Gray, P. (2008). A brief history of education. Retrieved from



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“As discussed in the reading, the purpose and structure of the American education system have been changed throughout the years. Interpret the general purpose of education, the purpose of education in the country you are currently in, and how it has changed over time.

In your response to three of your peers’ posts, compare and contrast your interpretations.”


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