EDS 101

The Value of Philosophy in Education

I became interested in teaching in a non-traditional fashion. My first teaching position was at an English school in South Korea, which required a bachelor’s degree in any field. I loved my work as a teacher there, but my main qualifications were that I could speak English and that I had graduated from a four-year university in America. I was a passionate and motivated teacher, but I did not really understand the complexity of my work. Now that I am pursuing teaching as a career, I have greater respect for issues relating to education and how philosophical beliefs influence a school or district’s educational values, curriculum, approach, emphasis areas, and techniques. I had strong reactions to the list of ongoing philosophical issues outlined in ‘Meaning, Scope, & Functions of Philosophy of Education,’ which included:Education as transmission of knowledge vs. fostering of inquiry

In certain subject matters, either approach could be appropriate. Modern education systems claim a greater emphasis on constructivism and inquiry, but are these values reflected in practice?

What knowledge and skills should be included in education [curriculum]?

How much of an understanding of world history is needed to be ‘educated’? Do students need to be taught on desktop computers, or is tablet instruction more appropriate? Should computer coding replace penmanship?

How is learning made possible? What is the meaning of learning?

Is it enough for students to remember skills and knowledge? Why do we learn? What purpose should education serve? Will an educated student find a job or live a more fulfilling life?

Education for personal development or for citizenship? Or both?

Is it possible for a school to have skilled, knowledgeable graduates who also contribute to a better society?

Different content/aims of educational programs for different classes or cultural groups

How does the education program available to a low-income minority (ethnicity/race) student compare to an upper-income majority student in the same community? What should determine differences in education? Geography, income, intelligence, effort? Nothing?

Distinction between educating, teaching, training, and indoctrination

How is quality education defined? Why should students go to school rather than learning at home or through self-study?

Open discourse on these issues is crucial for outlining and directing the future of education on both a local and global scale, but who exactly is having these conversations? My initial reaction is that it must be the various Ministries of Education who discuss and debate how to tailor an education system to meet the present needs and future desires of the community. But is this the case? Whose opinions are heard in such settings? Teachers? Parents? Politicians? I can already imagine 1,000 different schools popping up to meet a thousand different perspectives on how children should be educated. I have never been asked my own personal philosophy regarding education; does my opinion matter as an educator?

Here in Thailand, there are countless schools and programs designed to meet the demands of contemporary parents. In a free market, private schools following a business model compete with public schools receiving government funding. In very few cases are public schools able to compete with the facilities and teacher-student ratios of private schools. Parents who can afford to pay often do send their children to private schools, but many private and public educational institutions are at odds with one another’s philosophies in terms of curriculum, values, and aims. Most international schools seem to harp on about personal development and modern marketable skills, such as ICT, math and sciences, and multilingualism. However, very few private schools are truly addressing education from a social perspective, which might relate more to ideals, character, and values rather than knowledge and skills. Public schools may emphasize citizenship and a sense of nationalism that creates an important bond to one’s community and helps develop a greater sense of character and values, but may not be able to offer students the advanced skills or knowledge that would give a competitive edge in the community.

Should a child’s education be determined by the wealth of his family? How can we ensure that all schools (especially private schools) are capable of shaping the next generation’s knowledge, skills, and values in ways that contribute to both societal and individual growth? Are we cheapening education by ignoring its philosophical underpinnings?

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