2. What are the purposes of education

‘Education is light, lack of it darkness.’ Russian Proverb

Activity one

Discuss with other teachers or think about these questions. Write down your answers:

1) Why are schools and education important?

2) Can someone be educated without going to school?

Activity two

Often schools have ‘mission statements’. A mission statement describes the aims of a school.

1) Read the four mission statements below and mark the parts you like.

2) Discuss why you like those parts of the mission statements.

Teaching note: Notice how I’m asking you to think for yourself about teaching, rather than lecturing or writing lots about good teaching. Asking students to think about things for themselves, rather than just listening to the teacher talk, will enable the students to learn better.

School one mission statement

Our mission is to provide a positive learning environment for all students so they can achieve their potential.

School two mission statement

Our mission is to provide a school for homeless children. We aim to help the children escape the bonds of poverty and hopelessness by providing education, life skills, values and a caring environment that will empower them to move into mainstream society.

School three mission statement

We seek to impart or provide:

  • A love of learning for its own sake.
  • A foundation of knowledge and body of skills with which to understand and question the world we live in and to prepare us, through an innovative approach to education, for the world we are likely to inhabit in the future.
  • An awareness of, and appreciation for the spiritual dimension in our lives.
  • An enthusiasm for the world beyond the classroom – in particular, sport, music and the performing arts.
  • A respect for difference in others and recognition that the efforts and achievements of every individual in our community are valued equally.
  • An awareness of the needs of others, and a firm belief that – whatever our age – we can make a difference, locally and globally, right now.

In short, we strive to turn out well-educated, tolerant and intellectually curious men and women who are ready to take a full, active and positive role in the life of our country and of our world.

School four mission statement

We seek to provide an exceptional biblically-based education for children, inspiring them to truly follow Jesus.

We aim to equip each student with the foundation of knowledge and skills necessary to fulfil God’s purposes in their lives. We will do this by partnering with parents in developing Christian character in their children. We teach values based on a biblical worldview. We provide a quality academic education that meets the physical, emotional, and spiritual needs of each student.

Why do we educate?

The mission statements contain many suggestions about why we educate. Some of the key points in the mission statements are:

  • Teach students knowledge and skills.
  • Help students love learning.
  • Provoke students to ask questions about the world around us.
  • Prepare students to live in the world that they will have in the future.
  • Help students be aware of the spiritual side of their lives.
  • Provide opportunities for students to engage with sport, music and performing arts.
  • Teach students to respect other people even when they are different.
  • Help students be aware of the needs of others.
  • Instil the belief that students can make a difference to improve the world.
  • Enable students to reach their potential.
  • Create a positive learning environment.
  • Help students escape poverty and homelessness.
  • Teach students life skills.

I think there are more purposes of education than those in the mission statements. Some are:

  • Teach students how to pass important national exams.
  • Teach the basic skills required to succeed in life: reading, writing, numeracy and language.
  • Enable social mobility. A good education system enables someone from a poor family to become very successful.
  • Teach the skills needed to access jobs or education.
  • Teach students how to learn new skills or abilities that they did not learn at school.
  • Teach students how to become better people through: relationships, serving others, conserving the environment and living healthily.
  • Teach students how to think critically, applying knowledge to new situations, producing new knowledge and solving problems.
  • Schools should attempt to protect children from harm from being neglected, living in poverty or being abused.

Christian schools only

Teach students about the Christian faith and help them to live in a Christian way. Some key things are:

  • Christianity is a grace-based religion. That means there isn’t a long list of rules that need to be followed to be a Christian. Teach students that with faith in Jesus, their sins can be forgiven. Christians live differently to those who are not Christian because they appreciate God and his forgiveness and therefore want to follow his path for their life, not because they must earn their way into God’s favour.
    • God loves them as they are and cares for them deeply, no matter what they struggle with or do wrong.
    • God calls Christians to put their faith into practice. He wants us to live well, as he demonstrates in the Bible.
    • Study the Bible, in an age-appropriate way. Study topics as well as whole books of the bible. Students in a Christian school should know the Bible well by the time they leave.
    • God is interested in them today and students learn how to ‘hear’ what he has to say to them. They learn how to test a message to see if it is God’s word by checking if it is in line with what has been written in the Bible.
    • Christians are sinners and make mistakes and do wrong things. Students learn that when a Christian messes up, they aren’t representing God.
    • A set of values based on the Bible, including love, forgiveness, generosity, servant heartedness, compassion, kindness, self-control and living as community.
    • Helping students deal with problems that arise in a Christian way.
    • Helping students to live a life trusting in God rather than in their own strength.
    • Include daily devotionals, brief sessions thinking about an aspect of faith.
    • Teach students to pray and include prayer in the school day. It’s particularly special to pray about issues in the lives of the students and noting when God answers their prayers.
    • Involve the students in the Christian life. Just because they are children doesn’t mean they can’t actively participate in prayer, working out what the Bible is saying to them, listening to God’s words to them and putting them into practice.
    • Helping students to know how to live as Christians in this world, in their schools, homes, communities and workplaces.
    • Faith is free choice. Not all students will choose faith, and that is their free choice.

When teaching aboard the Africa Mercy, a Christian hospital ship, we had people from all denominations who could share worship, prayer and Christian teaching. There are a few churches who have deviated too far from the core of Christian belief and practice, but your teaching should not be about ‘right’ and ‘wrong’ denominations, more about knowing God. If students know who God is and can ‘hear the shepherd’s voice’, they will not be comfortable somewhere that teaches a message far from the truth.

There are many purposes to education. Don’t be overwhelmed by them! As you read this book you will discover more purposes of education.


Discuss these questions and write down your answers:

1) Think about the purposes of education. What things do you or your school do well already?

2) What things would you like to work on to improve your own or your school’s teaching? Choose a maximum of 3 – you can’t improve everything at once! 3) What do you think are the most important points in this chapter?