The goal of education in society has been

The goal of education in society
has been a difficult topic to understand and many philosophers such as Plato
and Aristotle have tried to explain. This essay will compare and contrast two
classical philosophers (Plato and Aristotle) and two enlightenment philosophers
(Rosseau and Locke). This will also look whether the goal of education is to
prepare young people for future roles determined by social class and gender. Or
whether the goal of education is to nurture talents and personal interests. Lastly,
this essay will compare the views of philosophers to modern day UK education

Social class can have a significant
impact on a child’s quality and goal in education. This might be because
children from upper and middle-class families can afford a better-quality
education in private institutions. They are also able to access different parts
of the education system to their benefits (Walkup,2011). Whereas, children from
lower social class who are entitled to free school meals (FSM)- a measure for
social class and poverty are 17 per cent less likely to achieve good grades by
the age of 11. This gap continues to increase in secondary schools where
children receiving (FSM) are 26 per cent likely to achieve 5 A* to C and 18 per
cent of them going into higher or further education (Symaco, 2014). With more
jobs requiring educational attainments, individuals from low socioeconomic
groups may find it difficult to obtain a role in society.

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Plato divided the soul into three in
an illustration of a story of a charioteer with two horses to control. One
horse is black and symbolizes the bronze soul. 
This soul acts on desire and appetites, which include food, warmth and
pleasure. Their roles for the state consist of labourers, farmers and
craftsmen. This soul is similar to lower or working class social groups and the
roles they have in today’s society. The other horse is white and represents the
silver soul. This soul is described to be courageous and spirited. This element
of the soul is represented by the noble white horse on the right. These people
are auxiliaries who are responsible for defending the state. Lastly, the
charioteer represents the gold soul. They are responsible for ruling the state
and controlling both the souls as they possess reason and wisdom which is why
they are regarded as philosopher-kings.

Gender is another factor that could
influence the goal of education for young people. For centuries women have been
marginalised and regarded as second-class citizens. It was only during World
War II that women were allowed to work in men’s’ jobs, while they were at war. Education
also began to change as legislations such as the sex discrimination of 1975 which
was introduced to protect men and women from discrimination in employment or
education. It was later reformed into the Equality Act 2010 which also included
thirteen other protected characteristics (Equality Act, 2010).

In the Greek society of Plato and
Aristotle’s time women has very little rights and were expected to be obedient
subordinate beings to their husbands and fulfil their roles as housewives and
mothers. Plato, in the Republic argues that women should be able to undertake
the same roles as men if they show the same capabilities as men. Plato said “then
the women has equally with the man the qualities which make a guardian” (Tuana,
1994). Plato’s notions have a significant link with the ideas that modern day
UK education polies are enforcing. As both believe that women should be
educated the same and receive the equal preparation for future roles (Tuana,
1994). The student of Plato, Aristotle disagreed with Plato when he stated “as
regards the sexes, the male is by nature superior and the female inferior, the
male ruler and female subject” (Smith, 1983). The beliefs of Aristotle
regarding educating women are significantly different to what modern day UK
policies are trying to implement. He also advised that women be regarded lower
than men but higher then slaves in the social hierarchy. Jean-Jacques Rousseau
is considered one of the key enlightenment philosophers. Rousseau’s views on
educating women are similar to Aristotle, as they both share the idea that
women’s roles in society is to cater and obey men. In Rousseau’s book ‘Emile’
which talks about the way children specifically everyman should be raised and
educated he also wrote one chapter about ‘Sophie’ explaining how to raise every
girl on being a suitable wife material for Emile John Locke another
enlightenment philosopher believed that boys and girls should be educated but
differently, girls educations should prepare them for domestic roles (Richardson,

The other goal of education is to
nurture the talents and interests of young people. During the mediaeval times
children were viewed as sinful creatures that needed to be disciplined.
People’s attitudes towards children’s education was no better as knowledge was
acquired through books and memorisation. John Locke challenge the attitudes and
stated “children are to be treated as rational creatures”. (Cahn, 2012: 109) He
also disagreed with beating and capital punishment as they are not fit to be
used in education and emphasised the importance of relationship between tutors
and parents this is also projected in modern day education policies such as
parents evening which provide parents with the opportunity to observe children
levels in education. Locke rejected the idea of innatism and described the mind
as ‘Tabula Rasa translating to blank state. He argued that knowledge is gained
through experience.  Jean-Jacques
Rousseau and John Locke both had a child-centred approach in raising and
educating children. Rousseau challenged the traditional pedagogy when children
were encouraged to learn from books. He stated “I hate books. They only teach
one to talk about what one does not know”. (Curren, 2007:83) He believed that
children should be reasoned with not punished.

The national curriculum is an
important legislation that was passed by the government in 1989, as a guide for
teachers and educators on what students are expected to learn and how the
learning is taught. It also ensured that “pupils received a broad and balanced
curriculum” (Walkup, 2011:34). The national curriculum embarked on maintaining
same subjects, same level and teaching in every school. It introduced tests to
as part of the curriculum to assess the level or stage of learning that
children were at. According to Walkup this could either motivated or discourage
a child’s attitude towards learning. The curriculum upheld a significant focus
on the three core subjects (Maths, Science and English). Whereas, subjects such
as Arts, Music, IT and Drama were given less time in comparison to the core
subjects (Matheson, 2008). This did not give children sufficient amount of time
to be creative and develop a personal interest. This UK education policy could
be criticised on the goal of education regarding the certain concentration it
has on core subjects. The use of same education for all is democratic and fair,
however, Nodding thought this could also be undemocratic and ineffective. He
stated that “it will be ineffective if Plato was right when he said that people
will care for (and do well at) works they love. Many fail in schools because
they are forced to do work they hate and deprived of work they love.

Plato stated “Education is meant to
serve the state and the person. To the person it owes the opportunity for the realization
of one’s abilities. To the state it has the responsibility of developing citizens
trained and happy in the roles” (Cahn, 2009:103). Plato also believed that the
education should not put knowledge into the soul but it should draw out talent.
Whereas, Aristotle thought the goal of education is to raise a child who grows
up to be ‘virtuous’ and acts virtuously.

Rousseau and Locke share many
similar views on the way education should be and who funds them, they both thought
that education should be playful and not strict. They also share the belief
that it’s the parents’ responsibility to fund their education.  If this notion was implemented in modern day
education policy there could be a cause a divide and lead to social inequality.

Overall, the national curriculum
has tried to incorporate both goals of education in nurturing the talents of
children by including various different subjects to the curriculum as it allows
children to find an interest and develop it. The curriculum also tries to prepare
children and young for their future roles in society. Locke and Rousseau have
significantly influenced modern day UK education policies on how children
should be raised and educated. Although, Rousseau favoured the education of
boys and thought girls should be prepared for domestic roles. The goal of
education is whatever a person makes it to be, but factors such as social class
can have an influence.  


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