What is education for?

Lots of people are starting to ask some very fundamental questions about education. Instead of asking, “How can we get schools to raise scores in tests and exams?” we now find that people are asking, “What is education for?” – a much bigger, broader and more significant question.

There’s something in the zeitgeist here. Consider last Saturday. Tanya Gold began her regular Guardian column with precisely this question, “What is education for?”, before taking off on a ramble around the subject of fee-paying schools in England that charge fees in the region of £30,000 a year, give or take the odd thousand or fifteen hundred pounds. [In the course of this article we learn that Westminster School had 89 “happy youngsters” who took up a place at either Oxford or Cambridge at the beginning of this academic year.]


Also on Saturday we heard MP Lisa Nandy say to an audience of Compass members at a gathering in London, “What is education for? Once we’ve resolved that, then we can do something about it.”

It was good to hear Lisa Nandy bringing up this issue of why we educate children and young people, though it’s almost incredible that any of us should need to ask such a question in 2013 – after more than a century of compulsory public education in Britain. Yet ask it we must – and then get on with the business of designing a system of education that’s truly fit for the 21st Century. What’s even more incredible is that this question wasn’t settled a century ago, and even now it’s unlikely to produce an answer that satisfies every parent, student and citizen across this country.

The Compass education group will be addressing this question over the coming weeks, and will be contributing to the submissions to the Labour Party’s policy review group that’s currently chaired by John Cruddas MP. Some very big decisions lie ahead. The Labour Party under Ed Miliband must certainly not make the catastrophic mistakes in education that New Labour made when they came to power in 1997. Under the slogan “Education, Education, Education” we then had Blair and Blunkett driving ever-rightwards and back to a future that embraced a much-hated chief inspector of schools, the publication of school and college league tables, university league tables, local authority league tables, “naming and shaming”, micromanagement of the curriculum and ludicrous attempts to micromanage pedagogy, targets, punitive inspections, the beginnings of payment by results, and all the rest.

3Di’s views on education in the 21st Century have been documented in this blog over the past year or so, and we have made no bones about our expectations for schools and for the rights of children to a holistic education that develops all of their multiple intelligences and their capacities to be creative, critical thinkers who can be active citizens in a truly democratic society.

Related articles


How do we educate our highly talented young people in order to produce more artists? Can we assume that someone who gets an A grade in art at 16+ will become a better artist than someone who gets a C or a D; and can we further assume that anyone who doesn’t get a GCSE, an A Level or a degree in art can’t possibly become an artist – either amateur or professional? This is nonsense, of course. We can all create works that can loosely be called “art”, and indeed we should. The question is how do we find our artistic “voice” and how do we express it and develop it?

On Saturday we were fortunate to catch an exhibition called Armenian Threads down in the cellars of the old Shoreditch Town Hall – a very atmospheric setting for the work of some very interesting artists.

Sarah Greaves is a Manchester based artist who uses embroidery to graffiti onto everyday objects. Please enjoy our photographs of some of Sarah’s recent work, which really does need to be seen in a proper setting like the one in Shoreditch to be fully appreciated.


Works from Armenian Threads – Sarah Greaves [photos (c) 3Di Photography]
























About 3D Eye

Gary Foskett and Clare Blackhall are educationalists, writers and consultants. We work with schools and other organisations who share our vision of how schools, businesses, etc should work in the 21st Century. We also run courses and contribute to conferences - speaking about our three dimensional model of intelligences and how schools, colleges and universities can develop the full potential of all their staff and students. We also offer consultancy for businesses and public sector organisations to support staff training and organisational change and development. For more detailed information read our blog at https://3diassociates.wordpress.com/ or see our website at www.3diassociates.com.
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1 Response to What is education for?

  1. I was thinking the other day. If we want to move the world into a new plane where the basic education is a “BA” we really need to change the learning system. I don’t know if education will be the point at which we get taken down or build us beyond our greatest imagination.


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