Time for the big education debate – what are we educating for?

Sun shining on a seascape

Why exactly do we educate people? Is it so they can get jobs, achieve qualifications or to prepare them for society and life?

This year a top-level, high-profile seminar series ‘What are we educating for? An Education Policy and Politics Seminar Series’ , organised by education experts at Lancaster University, set out to find real answers to shape future policy.

These included former education ministers Kenneth Baker, the Rt Hon the Lord Baker of Dorking and Tessa Blackstone, the Rt Hon the Baroness Blackstone.

The seminar series has now been turned into a series of blogs, covering early years education right through to teacher education, published as a blog special issue this week by the British Educational Research Association.

The special issue is edited by former secretary of State for Education the Rt Hon Charles Clarke, a Visiting Professor in Social and Educational Futures (Education and Engagement) at Lancaster University, and Professor Paul Ashwin, of the Department of Educational Research at Lancaster University.

The special issue explores the interaction of education policy and politics focusing on the question of what are we educating for through the education life cycle.

Professor Ashwin said: “It is really important that we open up debate around questions of what we are educating for and it is great that the Blog Series provides the opportunity to this.

“There are clear tensions between whether we are educating for employment, for credentials, or to prepare people for engaging with society more broadly but there is little discussion of how these different purposes shape the form and quality of education.

“The quality of education is a vital concern for every family in the country and policies or proposed policies can easily be subjected to ‘scrutiny by focus group’ and have outcomes which bear little relationship to genuine education policy choices.”

Charles Clarke said: “There is increasing consensus that our education system needs long-term reform around clear aspirations. The blog special issue explores those needs and the potential conflicts with short-term political challenges.”

The seminar series was funded by the Economic and Social Research Council’s Impact Acceleration Account and Lancaster University and supported by the British Education Research Association and Society for Research into Higher Education.

Back to News