“The whole art of teaching is only the art of awakening the natural curiosity of young minds to satisfy it afterward”
The concept of education, as well as its methods, instruments, and purposes, has been changing throughout the centuries. Having arisen from monastery schools aimed at teaching elementary literacy, education now has expanded into a complex system of methods, which serve the purpose of giving the knowledge to the students. To be more concrete, education does not make students smarter, but it offers them an opportunity to become smarter. Teachers put a lot of effort into presenting the information to the students, and students, in turn, work hard to remember the information they are given. Indeed, knowledge is the key element of education, and gaining knowledge is the main target point of any studying process. However, is knowledge enough for the education process to be successful? Can a person who knows a lot be called “educated”? Obviously, the process of education is much more complex than it appears to be.
The most objective method of analyzing education is exploring it from the position of a teacher. This is due to the fact that teachers are aware of the pedagogical and methodological basis of education, while students are familiar only with the final results of the teachers’ activity. My personal perception of education subdivides teaching into three interdependent processes: development, upbringing, and giving knowledge. All three branches are equally important, as far as each of them contributes to the effectiveness of the educational process. Often teachers fail to consider all of the three processes, focusing on the knowledge alone; in this case, the education is incomplete.
Development is a “glue” process of the three abovementioned. Indeed, when a person gains knowledge, they develop their memory, thinking, and communicating abilities, etc. At the same time, the more developed a person is, the more activities they are involved in, and therefore, the more new information they need to learn. Thus, development is essential in the process of education, as it encourages learners to continue the studying process.
Another important constituent of education is upbringing. It is a well-known fact, that the responsibility of teachers is sometimes even greater than that of the parents; their task is not just to make the students learn information, but also to develop human qualities in them. Upbringing serves the purpose of showing the students how to react adequately in different situations, and how to use the gained knowledge properly. Indeed, when a person becomes knowledgeable, they need to know how to operate the information they know; how to present themselves to society, and how to stay human. Politeness, stamina, patience, respect, self-control, flexibility – these are the key qualities, which are needed for a person to live in the modern world, and which can be gained by upbringing.
The last process of the educational process is giving knowledge. However, the information should never be given in a raw state; otherwise, it will hardly be useful for the students. The task of a teacher is to prepare the information for the learners and to present it in an interesting way. In the process of preparation, the teacher should take into consideration the different age groups of students, their abilities, interests, etc. What is more, the process of giving knowledge should be subdivided into theoretical and practical activities.
The theoretical part of knowledge gaining serves as a basis for understanding and further operating the information. The practical part deals with the application of theoretical knowledge in real life. Obviously, both kinds of activities are very significant, as dull theory has no use without practice, as well as practice, is impossible without theory. The importance of practice is undeniable, and the more natural are its conditions, the better. While the vast majority of modern educational methods are based on working in an artificial environment, solving artificial problems, and achieving artificial success, my point of view is that it is better for learners to explore the real environment. In order to be capable of dealing with real problems, one should not try to escape various difficulties in their life. A famous philosopher Jean-Jacques Rousseau insisted that everyone should explore the world from childhood, and encouraged parents to give up making artificial satisfactory conditions for their children. He did not deny the necessity of theoretical preparation, but he certainly was for natural learning. The philosopher noted that “All that we lack at birth, all that we need when we come to man’s estate, is the gift of education” (Damrosch, 403).
However, there is a spread opinion among philosophers, that the theoretical ground is not necessary for the process of education, as it can be formed naturally as a result of empirical activities. One of the representatives of such opinion is Aristotle, an early empiricist. He claimed that “If a man has the theory without the experience, and recognizes the universal but does not know the individual included in this, he will often fail to cure; for it is the individual that is to be cured” (Aristotle, 289). However, the philosopher is rather objective, and he admits that “we do not regard any of the senses as Wisdom, yet surely these give the most authoritative knowledge of particulars. But they do not tell us the ‘why’ of anything, e.g. why fire is hot; they only say that it is hot” (Aristotle, 301). As we can see, theory and practice serve different purposes; however, only the accurate combination of the two can make education effective.
Having analyzed the three key elements of education, we can now draw a picture of an educated person. Due to the proper knowledge, the educated person knows a lot of information; in addition, he or she knows how to use this information in different spheres. What is more, the educated person never stops learning; the process of their development is lasting the whole lifetime. Such person is eager to improve their skills and abilities. Furthermore, an educated person is never rude; he or she also never does some unjustified actions. Their approach to living is rather rational, and they are trying to learn both from theoretical sources and from their own experience. There are people who have no education, but who have a very good sense of communication. People with a well-developed human factor and inspiration for learning achieve much better results in life than those, who are forced to study or do it without will. It is obvious, that an educated individual is not the one who knows much, but the one who is eager to know much, and who does everything possible to become wiser.
Indeed, the will to learn is probably the major condition of education process success. Therefore, studying anything should never be compulsory, as it will bring no results. Plato also expressed this idea: “Because a freeman ought not to learn anything under duress. Compulsory physical exercise does no harm to the body, but compulsory learning never sticks to the mind” (Lodge, 82). This quote proves that only a student, who is willing to know something, will learn something. From this point of view, it may seem that it depends solely on the student and that only learners can decide, whether they want to learn certain information or not. Nevertheless, it is impossible to deny that the will of students to learn to a great extent depends on teachers.
Admittedly, it is in the teacher’s power to present information in a way, that would seem attractive or exciting. It often happens at schools that children hate physics and history, and the widespread explanation for this is their natural predispositions to understand some other subjects. However, there are also cases when children are fond of both subjects, and not only a sample of students, but the whole class. This is an example of a successful pedagogical approach. In this case, the teacher managed to encourage children to learn information, which is much more effective than, for example, punishing those who do not learn it. In this way, learners become inspired, and even the greatest talents of the world were once seen and developed by a good teacher.
Undoubtedly, the teacher’s role is not only to educate but also to inspire students, to turn the dullest material into the most exciting world, open for learners. John Dewey offered a range of options to make the studying process more interesting for learners. For example, the philosopher argued that geography and history were most effectively learned in the natural conditions, and could be based on communication with nature, observing climate, etc (Dewey, 51).
All in all, it can be stated that education is a very complex process, which incorporates the efforts of students and teachers. In order to give a good education, teacher should pay attention to giving knowledge, developing, and upbringing. It is also very important to organize the studying process in a way that would be interesting for learners. The teachers should do their best to encourage students for learning.
Aristotle Metaphysics Prometheus Books,1991.
Damrosch, Leo Jean-Jacques Rousseau: Restless Genius Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2005.
Dewey, John Experience and Education Free Press, 1997
Lodge, R Plato’s Theory of Education Routledge, 2000.