We all talk about education and work in this field. We deal with several policies and programmes. We gain several degrees, diplomas and conduct research on education. But, many of us become blank when simply asked the meaning of ‘Education’, its semantics, its aims and objectives and the basic concepts related with its foundation. Being an educator or being concerned with the field of education, we must be aware of the basic meaning of education and must be familiar of its real aims and objectives.
The term ‘education’ comes from the Latin words ‘educare’ which literally means to bring up, and is concerned with the verb ‘educere’ which means to bring forth. The Latin author Varro writing of the person who in his time played a vital part in the life of the young said: Educil obstetrix, educat nutrix, instituit paedagogus, docet magister, which verbally means: ‘The midwife brings forth, the nurse brings up, the tutor trains, and the master teaches.’ Hence, the genuine idea of education in Western culture is not merely to lead the pupil in the acquisition of knowledge and experience, but also and principally to bring him/her up or develop in him/her those habits and attitudes with which he/she may successfully face the future.
What is ‘Education’?
The notion that education is mere ‘taming’ of the human being cannot be seriously entertained. Plato held that the end of education was ‘to develop in the body and in the soul (of the pupil) all the beauty and all the perfection of which they are capable, or to develop in short ‘a sound mind in a sound body’: mens sana in corpore sano. According to Aristotelian conception, which prevailed during the classical antiquity of the West and later, to educate meant ‘to develop man’s faculties, especially his mind so that he may be able to enjoy the contemplation of the supreme truth, goodness and beauty in which perfect happiness essentially consists.’
But, in practice we see that among preliterate as well as civilized people’s education consists in ‘an attempt on the part of the adult members of human society to shape the development of the coming generation in accordance with its own ideas of life’. Moreover, of all living beings human being is the one who needs more than anyone else the help of his parents, whereas the very young animal of the lower species can do without them. ‘The latter’, write Schmiedeler and McDonough, ‘begins life without knowledge of or contact with its parents and without assistance it carries out successfully the various life functions. The former is helpless for months, and years pass before he can lead an existence independent. Without help from others more mature than himself, he would die. The young of the lower animal knows how to care for itself; the young infant has to learn how to live independently.’
This is the reason why education in one way or another, or the initiation of the young in the ways and life of their elders is a universal feature of human society. The role played by the family in it is so conspicuous that not only in simple societies, where the life of the child is almost exclusively shaped by home and kin, but also in modern times the family remains the most powerful agency of education. But not with standing this, education as an institution more or less differentiated, makes its early appearance in the simpler societies first in the initiation rites, and afterwards when the training of the young in certain utilitarian or cultural skills is placed under the direction of some adult members of the group. The use of tutors or pedagogic, gurus or teachers, is a comparatively recent development in society.
Thus, without committing ourselves to the overstatement that ‘education is, as a rule, the strongest force on the side of what exists and against fundamental change we may say that education is formally concerned with the transmission of the social heritage to new generations.
Whatever be the origin of the word ‘education’, the concept is related closely to modification of natural development. The modification occurs through the personal experience of the person who is conscious about the purpose of changing the natural development of the child.
Narrow meaning of ‘Education’: In the narrow sense, educative process implies teaching. Teaching is imparting of knowledge and skill. The process of teaching is giving lessons at school or elsewhere in or on a subject, game or instrument etc. to a person, as in teaching the Greek or teaching one music. Teaching means showing or stating by way of instruction of fact to a person as, teaching children that the sum of the two sides of a triangle is greater than the third. The person who gives a lesson or instructs or shows by way of instruction a fact is a teacher. Teaching seldom involves personal influence. The educator does something more than a teacher. She has an impact on the child’s behaviour. She influences the personality. She educates and does not teach.
Broad meaning of ‘Education’: In the broad sense of the term education is the process of development and growth of a person from infancy to maturity (and even to senescence). It is a process by which an individual learns how to adapt himself/herself to physical, social and spiritual environment gradually and in various ways. It is a process that goes on continuously all through one’s life. It is a lifelong process. It is a process of organizing and reorienting experiences. From the point of view of the education, it is a process specially designed at influencing the development and growth of a person.
The educative process is an interactive process continually going on between the person concerned and his/her environment. It involves modification of behaviour or of natural development.
Role of an Educator
The function of an educator is to provide the individual with an invigorating atmosphere for gradually unfolding his/her innate capacities. It is the duty of the educator to provide the child with an environment that stimulates the student to change his/her behaviour in the most desirable ways. The environment may stimulate the child to physical development, to learn motor skills and to increase manual dexterity. It may animate student to mental training. It may spur him/her to learn special attitudes. It may spur to acquire appropriate emotional expressions e.g. love, sympathy and cooperation. It may lead to development of interests, ideals, and values. The creation of such an environment is the prime responsibility of an educator. Education is the harmonious and integrated development of total personality of the individual child.
Every educator lays a special stress on the developmental aspect of education. “Plants are developed by civilization and man by education”, says Locke. Pestozzi regards education as the natural, harmonious and progressive development of man’s powers. Rousseau recognizes education as a process of development. Gandhi also regards education as drawing out of the best in child and man-body, mind and spirit. There is a difference between education and literacy, he says. Literacy is neither the end nor the beginning, but means whereby men and women can be educated.
John Dewey regards educational process as a continuous process of adjustment having as its aim at every stage an added capacity of growth. He says, “Since life means growth, a living creature lives as truly and positively as one state as at another, with intrinsic fullness and the same absolute claims. Hence education means the enterprise of supplying the conditions which ensure growth or adequacy of life, irrespective of age.”