Thursday, August 18, 2005

Education is the backbone of our world

The education of an individual human begins at birth and continues throughout life. (Some believe that education begins even before birth, as evidenced by some parents' playing music or reading to the baby in the womb in the hope it will influence the child's development.) For some, the struggles and triumphs of daily life provide far more instruction than does formal schooling (thus Mark Twain's admonition to "never let school interfere with your education"). Family members may have a profound educational effect � often more profound than they realize � though family teaching may function very informally.
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The origins of the word "education" reveal one theory of its function: the Latin educare comes from roots suggesting a "leading out" or "leading forth", with possible implications of developing innate abilities and of expanding horizons.
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Formal education occurs when society or a group or an individual sets up a curriculum to educate people, usually the young. Formal education can become systematic and thorough, but its sponsor may seek selfish advantages when shaping impressionable young scholars.
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Life-long or adult education has become widespread. Lending libraries provide inexpensive informal access to books and other self-instructional materials. Many adults have given up the notion that only children belong "in school". Many adults enroll in post-secondary education schools, both part-time and full-time, which often classify them as "non-traditional students" in order to distinguish them administratively from young adults entering directly from high school.
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Computers have become an increasingly influential factor in education, both as a tool for online education (a type of distance education) and e-Learning. By this approach, individual students can access lessons and materials easily via the Internet and CD-ROM (for example, via a WebQuest) and participate in a range of interactive online learning activities.
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Education has been around for most of human history. To put it simply, education is the teaching of ideas, abilities, principles etc. Animals that are taught by parents also have some of their actions driven by instinct. Humans however, when they started developing tools and knowledge that had to be taught, went further than this. If we think of education as part of the cultural evolution of human beings, this means there has been always some sort of education.
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In 1994 Dieter Lenzen, president of the Freie Universit�t Berlin, said education began either millions of years ago or at the end of 1770. (The first chair of pedagogy was founded at the end of the 1770s at the University of Halle, Germany.) This quote by Lenzen includes the idea that education as a science cannot be separated from the educational traditions that existed before.
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Basic education today is considered those skills that are necessary to function in society.
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In the West, the origins of education are associated with organized religion: priests and monks realised the importance of promoting positive virtues in the young and founded, maintained, and staffed school systems. In Europe, many of the first universities have Catholic roots. During and following the Age of Enlightenment the association between religion and education became diminished.
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Jean-Jacques Rousseau fuelled an influential early-Romanticism reaction to formalised religion-based education at a time when the concept of childhood had started to develop as a distinct aspect of human development.
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The Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth's Commission of National Education (Polish: Komisja Edukacji Narodowej) formed in 1773 counts as the first Ministry of Education in the history of mankind.
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Conventional social history narrates how by about the beginning of the 19th century the industrial revolution promoted a demand for masses of disciplined, inter-changeable workers who possessed at least minimal literacy. In these circumstances, the new socially predominant structure, the state, began to mandate and dictate attendance at standardised schools with a state-ordained curriculum. Out of such systems the general and vocational education paths of the 20th century emerged, with increasing economic specialisation demanding increasingly specialised skills from a population which spent correspondingly longer periods in formal education before entering or while engaged in the workforce.
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The origins of education in China are tied up with the Chinese classic texts, rather than organized religion, per se. The early Chinese state depended upon literate, educated officials for operation of the empire, and an imperial examination system was established in the Han Dynasty (206 BC-220) for evaluating and selecting officials. This merit-based system gave rise to schools that taught the classics and continued in use for 2,000 years, until the end the Qing Dynasty, and was abolished in 1911 in favour of Western education methods.