Education is the term used to refer to learning by which knowledge, belief and habits as well as skills and values of one group of people is passed to another, from generation to generation through various aspects such as discussion, storytelling, teaching and training. It not only denotes the ‘formal transmission’ through these factors to a group of people but also ‘informal transmission’ from one person to another.
It is the system where learning takes place under the guidance of teachers and tutors; in the same way, those who teach can also educate themselves further. This is called ‘autodidactic learning’.
Education can also be used to denote ‘the knowledge gained from an experience that has an impacted effect on a person’s beliefs, thoughts, feelings and actions’.
The word ‘education’ has its origin from the Latin word ‘educatio’ used to refer to ‘a bringing up’. Broadly, ‘educo’ relates to the meaning “I train, I educate”; ‘educo’ itself is the combination of ‘e’ (from) and ‘duco’ (I conduct).
The ‘right to education’ is a fundamental right accorded to the citizens of many governments worldwide. The United Nations’ International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights endorses and recognizes the right to education for all the citizens. In most countries, education is compulsory for children up to a certain age. In developed and developing countries, formal education is that where children go to school to learn from qualified and skilled teachers. More often these days, school attendance is not always compulsory and that leads many parents to ‘home school’ or ‘home tutor’ their children with the assistance of either private teachers or through methods involving e-learning, which is the use of electronic material and technology to learn. This is a kind of informal learning.
The ‘art and science’ of education, which translates into ‘how best to teach’ is called Pedagogy. At school level, education is categorized into stages like preschool, primary, secondary, higher or tertiary etc while beyond school higher education is slotted into college and university and/or apprenticeship.
History of Education
In ancient history, there is the reference of the ‘Academy’ founded by Plato in Athens before 300 BC. The city of Alexandria, founded in 330 BC surpassed Athens as the ‘cradle of intellect’ in ancient Greece. The Library of Alexandria, a historical monument contained translations of the Bible from Hebrew to Greek under the patronage of mathematicians and astronomers like Euclid and Herophilus. The supremacy of the earliest European civilizations came to an end when the Roman Empire declined in 476 AD.
The focus then shifted eastward with the Chinese philosopher-scholar Confucius whose outlook on education and reforms influenced many south-east Asian nations like Korea, Japan and Vietnam. His teachings and discussions were recorded by his followers and his philosophies continue to exert influence to this day in many parts of Asia. In India, for instance, the gurukul tradition of teaching and learning where a teacher or trainer taught knowledge and skills to his ‘wards’ by living and training with the master in a community set up has continued in some form to this day at institutes and schools where fine arts, music and dance forms are taught.
In various regions around the world, adults of one generation trained the young of the following one in the knowledge, values and skills through oral teaching and through imitation prior to the birth of literary societies and skill sets. As cultures flourished, a system of formal education appeared to impart knowledge and skills; there is evidence of the presence of schools in Egypt in ancient days.
The Early Middle Ages saw the rise of the Catholic Church as the preserver of literary teaching and skills; many medieval universities of Christendom across Europe encourage freedom of thought, speech and enquiry producing a vast number of fine philosophers and scholars. Among the oldest continually operating universities of Europe, the University of Bologne is considered the first and the finest.
With the advent of the printing press in its earliest form, literary works of art and education flourished and spread more quickly through the continents. Missionaries and scholars, particularly the Jesuits played a significant role in the transmission of knowledge from Europe to Asia.