Aims give direction to action. Aims of education are formulated by keeping in view the needs of the situation.
Aims of education can be immediate and ultimate. The ultimate aim of education is identical with the goal of life, which is ‘self realization’, realization of the self in proper. According to Gandhi, “true education should result not in the material gains but in the spiritual uplift”.
Immediate aims are the ones which fulfil the immediate needs such as bread and butter aims, cultural aims etc.
The aims of education can also be classified as individual and social aims. They are complimentary to each other.
The individual aims of education
Every individual is different from others. Biologists believe that every child is a new and unique product and a new experiment with life. Thompson says “education is for the individual”.
Naturalists believe that the central aim of education is the autonomous development of the individual. Rousseau said, “everything is good as it comes from the hands of the author of nature, but everything degenerates in the hands of man”.
Psychologists demand the need for considering the individual differences.
Thus, there are a number of educational aims which fall within the category of individual aims of education. They are said to be individual aims because they all focus on the life of the individual. All round development of the individual is their only concern. They are all complimentary and should not be considered competitive. They are described below.
The Knowledge Aim
Knowledge is power. Achievements of all kinds are made possible only through knowledge. An ignorant man can do nothing for himself or for anyone else; and is like an animal. Knowledge is basic to living a rich and happy life.
It is for this reason that many educationists consider imparting of knowledge to the people as an important aim. That is why all the schools have graded syllabus for children of different ages and classes. Different subjects are taught in the schools as different aspects of knowledge.
In fact acquisition of knowledge is the nucleus around which most of the activities of the schools in the whole world revolve. Most of the teaching strategies developed for teaching aim at imparting knowledge alone.
The examination systems in all countries measure, by and large, only knowledge. In fact, education and knowledge-giving have become synonymous. Teachers, students and parents all think that good education and good schools are only those which make their children knowledgeable.
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There is no doubt that knowledge-giving should be considered an important aim of education. In the past many philosophers like Plato, Aristotle, the Sophists and many others emphasized this aim very much. Comenius said that an ideal school should impart knowledge of all subjects to all men and women.
Knowledge and intellectual development go together; and cultivation of intelligence is an importance of education according to Bertrand Russel. Bacon’s slogan was “all knowledge for all”, knowledge was a virtue to Socrates.
To Cicero, knowledge was a means of mental development. Even the development of other aspects of human personality is dependent largely on acquisition of knowledge.
Thus, it is an important aim of education to impart knowledge. But where are we wrong? We commit a serious error when we accept and say that it is the only aim of education, when we say that nothing else is important. Knowledge alone is not enough and sufficient for living a happy and complete life. Knowledge is a tool which has to be used for achieving many more things.
So these many more things should also be brought within the purview of the aims of education. Hence, the right way is to say that among many aims of education, knowledge aim is also very, important.
Harmonious Development Aim:
It means the harmonious development of the child’s personality. Child’s personality may sound one but includes many things. Intellectual and cognitive development is one aspect. Emotional development including emotional control is another. Feelings, attitudes, interests, values etc, also fall within this component of emotional development.
Similarly, development of skills, desirable habits and actions constitute still another aspect of personality development. Adjustment to the environment and much social behaviour come under this. Equal development of all these aspects, balanced development of these, is considered an aim of education.
If it happens that a person is very knowledgeable, but socially maladjusted, this would mean a lop-sided development of the personality. Education should provide opportunities to all children for developing all aspects or their personalities.
This is also known as the ‘bread-and- butter” aim of education. Thus no doubt it should be considered an important aim of education. It simply means that the education received by an individual should enable him to earn his bread, should enable him to get a job, some work that pays him sufficient money regularly so that the individual is able to buy bread, clothes, house, and other things necessary for living a decent and comfortable life.
This has led in many countries, to a slogan by the people and educators which is “job-oriented education”. Vocationalization of education is another dimension of the same. Gandhi’s basic education concept had this implication. When he said that true education should be, for the boys and girls, a kind of insurance against employment, he meant to emphasize vocational aim of education.
We should neither ignore nor belittle the importance of vocational aim, nor should we consider this only important aim: Nehru struck the balance between vocational and cultural aims of education when he said that cultural and vocational or productive aspects of education both are essential.
“Everybody should be a producer as well as a good citizen and not a sponge on another person,” Mahatma Gandhi said. He also emphasized the same point when he said that body, mind and spirit all should be developed by education.
The majority of the people in the world feel that education should make individual self-dependent and capable of earning his livelihood. An educated man without a job or some work to earn is a curse, a blot on the system of education.
Complete Living Aim:
This aim means that education should enable the individuals to live a life which is full and complete. In other words it means preparing the individuals for life. Living a full and complete life means exercising and using all capacities and abilities in the interest of one’s well-being.
Keeping good health, developing a sound mind and using it for the benefit of life’s amenities, enjoying life and enriching it culturally, living like a good citizen and gainfully employed may be considered some important features of full or complete living.
In other words it is the same as harmonious development of personality. According to this aim education should enable the individual to carry out all necessary activities of life successfully.
He should be an enlightened citizen and an efficient human. Herbert Spencer seems to be the advocate of this aim. It is in a way laying an emphasis on liberal education which emphasizes teaching the pupils everything that is needed in life. It may be termed as life centered education or education for life.
The main difficulty with this aim is how to define “completeness of life”. When is life complete? Even it is possible to define completeness of life it becomes more difficult to identify what will make it so.
The Moral Aim:
This aim lays stress on the ethical development of the people. Character-formation and learning of social and moral values are the focus of this aim. Gandhi termed this as “purity of heart”. Vivekananda’s “man-making” function of education also means the same thing. Dewey said “all education forms character-moral and mental”.
This, in other words, means emphasizing the moral aim of education. Raymont also considered “cultivation of strength and purity of character” as an important aim of education. Herbart said “the whole work of education could be summed up in the concept of morality.”
The idealist philosophers supported the moral aim as an ultimate aim of education. National Policy on Education in 1986 also said that education should be made a “forceful tool for the cultivation of social and moral values”.
There can be no gainsaying that education should teach morality to children. It is a universally accepted aim of education. But, the difficulty with this aim is how to define character and morality, what are its behavioural components? Are these behavioural components acceptable universally? Does morality help the individual in actual situations of life? Is there any standard way of teaching morality?
These questions have no set and unambiguous answers. Morality is good, but very difficult to be taught, particularly in today’s materialistic world.
Yet, the aim cannot be scored out simply for these difficulties. In a democratic country where the assumption is that the human being is perfect and given the freedom he will make the best use of it in the interest of the society and his own interest, it becomes still more important to teach morality to people. Education alone can play this role. Teachers must be role models for students so that they will develop their behaviour and culture.
This aim emphasizes that education should develop in the pupil an aesthetic sense which means a taste for good and beautiful things. They feel that excellence of taste and fairness of feeling can form the basis of good character and genuine morality.
Developing in the child a sensitivity to what is beautiful and excellent ideals play an important role in being a moral person. Aesthetic development is, in fact, a part of the education of the whole man.
It is a sort of emotional training. In the past, the Athenians considered this as important. They aimed, through education, to develop a well-rounded individual; one whose physical, moral, intellectual and aesthetic powers were developed.
For developing aesthetic sense of the child the educators stressed that while teaching pupils love of beauty and art should be fostered. The students should be presented with a large variety of art forms such as paintings, drawings, beautiful sceneries both real and painted, songs, poetry, etc. They should be taught to appreciate them and realise the beauty inherent in them.
Individual Happiness Aim:
Happiness is essentially the purpose of all that an individual does in life. He goes to school, tries to build good health, tries to get a job, serves well, and does something which brings him name and fame. All these activities are goal- directed. This goal is to derive happiness out of them. Happiness is the basic goal of life. It is asserted, therefore, that education should help the individuals in achieving this goal.
All educators have considered health and well-being of the child important and that education must cater to this. For this reason athletics and games form a part of the curriculum of education in every country. For the same reason it is also emphasized that knowledge of the laws of health and right living and knowledge of laws of bodily grace and harmony should be taught to the children in the schools. Happiness of the individual very much depends on sound mind and sound body so recreational activities should be included in the curriculum.
Education for Leisure:
This aim asserts that children in the schools should be taught to utilize their leisure time such as their holidays, summer vacation and week days constructively for enjoyment and developing their potentialities. This may add to their happiness and development of creative powers.
The educators, for this reason, plead that provision for hobby centres, recreation centres, social service camps, scouting, NCC etc, should be made, in which students can participate and use their leisure time fruitfully.
Social Aims of Education:
Social aim which means that education should produce effective individuals in the sense that they realize their responsibilities towards the society. The interactive ability of man, a social being is must as it is through interaction that man comes to know of his responsibilities.
Edmund Burk asks and he himself answers: “what is education? A parcel of books? Not at all, but an intercourse with the world, with men and with affairs.”
Education inculcates certain values and principles and also prepares a human being for social life. It civilizes the man. The individual is a part of the state. The state has the absolute right to control over the lives and destinies of its individuals and this should be practically applied through the curriculum, methods of teaching and discipline at the dictates of the state.
Sparta, an ancient Greek state emphasized best the social aim of education. In Sparta everybody was born for the state and not for the individual. Military training was forced as the immediate aim of education was defence. Their whole education was an exercise of obedience.
According to John Dewey, education should make each individual socially efficient and this social efficiency must be achieved through the positive use of individual powers and capacities in social occupations. A socially efficient individual is not a drag or parasite on society or any individual. A socially efficient individual is able to earn his livelihood.