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File:Classe maternelle2.jpg
Children in a kindergarten classroom in France

Education in its broadest, general sense is the means through which the aims and habits of a group of people lives on from one generation to the next.[1] Generally, it occurs through any experience that has a formative effect on the way one thinks, feels, or acts. In its narrow, technical sense, education is the formal process by which society deliberately transmits its accumulated knowledge, skills, customs and values from one generation to another, e.g., instruction in schools.

A right to education has been created and recognized by some jurisdictions: Since 1952, Article 2 of the first Protocol to the European Convention on Human Rights obliges all signatory parties to guarantee the right to education. At the global level, the United Nations' International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights of 1966 guarantees this right under its Article 13.


Etymologically, the word education is derived from the Latin ēducātiō (“A breeding, a bringing up, a rearing) from ēdūcō (“I educate, I train”) which is related to the homonym ēdūcō (“I lead forth, I take out; I raise up, I erect”) from ē- (“from, out of”) and dūcō (“I lead, I conduct”).[2]

Systems of schooling

Systems of schooling involve institutionalized teaching and learning in relation to a curriculum, which itself is established according to a predetermined purpose of the schools in the system.

Purpose of schools

Examples of the purpose of schools include:[3] develop reasoning about perennial questions, master the methods of scientific inquiry, cultivate the intellect, create positive change agents, develop spirituality, and model a democratic society. The purpose and goal of the school is to teach pupils how to think.


In formal education, a curriculum is the set of courses, and their content, offered at a school or university. As an idea, curriculum stems from the Latin word for race course, referring to the course of deeds and experiences through which children grow to become mature adults. A curriculum is prescriptive, and is based on a more general syllabus which merely specifies what topics must be understood and to what level to achieve a particular grade or standard.

An academic discipline is a branch of knowledge which is formally taught, either at the university, or via some other such method. Each discipline usually has several sub-disciplines or branches, and distinguishing lines are often both arbitrary and ambiguous. Examples of broad areas of academic disciplines include the natural sciences, mathematics, computer science, social sciences, humanities and applied sciences.[4]

Educational institutions may incorporate fine arts as part of K-12 grade curriculums or within majors at colleges and universities as electives. The various types of fine arts are music, dance, and theater.[5]


The term preschool refers to a school for children who are not old enough to attend kindergarten; a nursery school. Preschool education is important because it can give a child the edge in a competitive world and education climate. While children who do not receive the fundamentals during their preschool years will be taught the alphabet, counting, shapes and colors and designs when they begin their formal education they will be behind the children who already possess that knowledge.

Primary schools

File:Teaching Bucharest 1842.jpg
Primary school in open air. Teacher (priest) with class from the outskirts of Bucharest, around 1842.

Primary (or elementary) education consists of the first 5–7 years of formal, structured education. In general, primary education consists of six or eight years of schooling starting at the age of five or six, although this varies between, and sometimes within, countries. Globally, around 89% of primary-age children are enrolled in primary education, and this proportion is rising.[6] Under the Education For All programs driven by UNESCO, most countries have committed to achieving universal enrollment in primary education by 2015, and in many countries, it is compulsory for children to receive primary education. The division between primary and secondary education is somewhat arbitrary, but it generally occurs at about eleven or twelve years of age. Some education systems have separate middle schools, with the transition to the final stage of secondary education taking place at around the age of fourteen. Schools that provide primary education, are mostly referred to as primary schools. Primary schools in these countries are often subdivided into infant schools and junior school.

Secondary schools

File:Samdach Euv High School.jpg
Students in a classroom at Samdach Euv High School, Cambodia

In most contemporary educational systems of the world, secondary education comprises the formal education that occurs during adolescence. It is characterized by transition from the typically compulsory, comprehensive primary education for minors, to the optional, selective tertiary, "post-secondary", or "higher" education (e.g. university, vocational school) for adults. Depending on the system, schools for this period, or a part of it, may be called secondary or high schools, gymnasiums, lyceums, middle schools, colleges, or vocational schools. The exact meaning of any of these terms varies from one system to another. The exact boundary between primary and secondary education also varies from country to country and even within them, but is generally around the seventh to the tenth year of schooling. Secondary education occurs mainly during the teenage years. In the United States, Canada and Australia primary and secondary education together are sometimes referred to as K-12 education, and in New Zealand Year 1–13 is used. The purpose of secondary education can be to give common knowledge, to prepare for higher education or to train directly in a profession.

The emergence of secondary education in the United States did not happen until 1910, caused by the rise in big businesses and technological advances in factories (for instance, the emergence of electrification), that required skilled workers. In order to meet this new job demand, high schools were created and the curriculum focused on practical job skills that would better prepare students for white collar or skilled blue collar work. This proved to be beneficial for both the employer and the employee, because this improvement in human capital caused employees to become more efficient, which lowered costs for the employer, and skilled employees received a higher wage than employees with just primary educational attainment.

In Europe, the grammar school or academy existed from as early as the 16th century; public schools or fee-paying schools, or charitable educational foundations have an even longer history.

Indigenous education

Indigenous education refers to the inclusion of indigenous knowledge, models, methods and content within formal and non-formal educational systems. Often in a post-colonial context, the growing recognition and use of indigenous education methods can be a response to the erosion and loss of indigenous knowledge and language through the processes of colonialism. Furthermore, it can enable indigenous communities to “reclaim and revalue their languages and cultures, and in so doing, improve the educational success of indigenous students.”[7]

Alternative education

Alternative education, also known as non-traditional education or educational alternative, is a broad term that may be used to refer to all forms of education outside of traditional education (for all age groups and levels of education). This may include not only forms of education designed for students with special needs (ranging from teenage pregnancy to intellectual disability), but also forms of education designed for a general audience and employing alternative educational philosophies and methods.

Alternatives of the latter type are often the result of education reform and are rooted in various philosophies that are commonly fundamentally different from those of traditional compulsory education. While some have strong political, scholarly, or philosophical orientations, others are more informal associations of teachers and students dissatisfied with certain aspects of traditional education. These alternatives, which include charter schools, alternative schools, independent schools, homeschooling and autodidacticism vary widely, but often emphasize the value of small class size, close relationships between students and teachers, and a sense of community.

Alternative education may also allow for independent learning and engaging class activities.[8]

Systems of higher education

The University of Cambridge is an institute of higher learning.

Higher education, also called tertiary, third stage, or post secondary education, is the non-compulsory educational level that follows the completion of a school providing a secondary education, such as a high school or secondary school. Tertiary education is normally taken to include undergraduate and postgraduate education, as well as vocational education and training. Colleges and universities are the main institutions that provide tertiary education. Collectively, these are sometimes known as tertiary institutions. Tertiary education generally results in the receipt of certificates, diplomas, or academic degrees.

Higher education generally involves work towards a degree-level or foundation degree qualification. In most developed countries a high proportion of the population (up to 50%) now enter higher education at some time in their lives. Higher education is therefore very important to national economies, both as a significant industry in its own right, and as a source of trained and educated personnel for the rest of the economy.

University systems

University education includes teaching, research and social services activities, and it includes both the undergraduate level (sometimes referred to as tertiary education) and the graduate (or postgraduate) level (sometimes referred to as graduate school). Universities are generally composed of several colleges. In the United States, universities can be private and independent, like Yale University, they can be public and State governed, like the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education, or they can be independent but State funded, like the University of Virginia.

Liberal arts colleges

A liberal arts institution can be defined as a "college or university curriculum aimed at imparting broad general knowledge and developing general intellectual capacities, in contrast to a professional, vocational, or technical curriculum."[9] Although what is known today as the liberal arts college began in Europe,[10] the term is more commonly associated with Universities in the United States[cn]. Examples include St. John's College, Reed College, Carleton College, and Smith College.

Community colleges

Open Education

A growing system of higher education is open education through the internet.[11]. It is an approach to learning that gives students flexibility and choice over what, when, at what pace, where, and how they learn. Open learning system often includes aspects of e-learning.There are numerous universities and organizations that create open educational resources for self motivated students to access anywhere, at any time. Unlike other, more traditional forms of higher education, open education generally does not offer recognized degrees. However, there are organizations developing academic badges that would serve a similar purpose to a traditional degree.[12]

Adult education

Adult education has become common in many countries. It takes on many forms, ranging from formal class-based learning to self-directed learning and e-learning. A number of career specific courses such as veterinary assisting, medical billing and coding, real estate license, bookkeeping and many more are now available to students through the Internet.

Learning modalities

There has been work on learning styles over the last two decades. Dunn and Dunn[13] focused on identifying relevant stimuli that may influence learning and manipulating the school environment, at about the same time as Joseph Renzulli[14] recommended varying teaching strategies. Howard Gardner[15] identified individual talents or aptitudes in his Multiple Intelligences theories. Based on the works of Jung, the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator and Keirsey Temperament Sorter[16] focused on understanding how people's personality affects the way they interact personally, and how this affects the way individuals respond to each other within the learning environment. The work of David Kolb and Anthony Gregorc's Type Delineator[17] follows a similar but more simplified approach.

It is currently fashionable to divide education into different learning "modes". The learning modalities[18] are probably the most common:

  • Visual: learning based on observation and seeing what is being learned.
  • Auditory: learning based on listening to instructions/information.
  • Kinesthetic: learning based on hands-on work and engaging in activities.

Although it is claimed that, depending on their preferred learning modality, different teaching techniques have different levels of effectiveness,[19] recent research has argued "there is no adequate evidence base to justify incorporating learning styles assessments into general educational practice."[20]

A consequence of this theory is that effective teaching should present a variety of teaching methods which cover all three learning modalities so that different students have equal opportunities to learn in a way that is effective for them.[21] Guy Claxton has questioned the extent that learning styles such as VAK are helpful, particularly as they can have a tendency to label children and therefore restrict learning.[22][23]


Instruction is the facilitation of another's learning. Instructors in primary and secondary institutions are often called teachers, and they direct the education of students and might draw on many subjects like reading, writing, mathematics, science and history. Instructors in post-secondary institutions might be called teachers, instructors, or professors, depending on the type of institution; and they primarily teach only their specific discipline. Studies from the United States suggest that the quality of teachers is the single most important factor affecting student performance, and that countries which score highly on international tests have multiple policies in place to ensure that the teachers they employ are as effective as possible.[24][25] With the passing of NCLB in the United States (No Child Left Behind), teachers must be highly qualified. A popular way to gauge teaching performance is to use student evaluations of teachers (SETS), but these evaluations have been criticized for being counterproductive to learning and inaccurate due to student bias.[26]


One of the most substantial uses in education is the use of technology. Also technology is an increasingly influential factor in education. Computers and mobile phones are used in developed countries both to complement established education practices and develop new ways of learning such as online education (a type of distance education). This gives students the opportunity to choose what they are interested in learning. The proliferation of computers also means the increase of programming and blogging. Technology offers powerful learning tools that demand new skills and understandings of students, including Multimedia, and provides new ways to engage students, such as Virtual learning environments. One such tool are virtual manipulatives, which are an "interactive, Web-based visual representation of a dynamic object that presents opportunities for constructing mathematical knowledge" (Moyer, Bolyard, & Spikell, 2002). In short, virtual manipulatives are dynamic visual/pictorial replicas of physical mathematical manipulatives, which have long been used to demonstrate and teach various mathematical concepts. Virtual manipulatives can be easily accessed on the Internet as stand-alone applets, allowing for easy access and use in a variety of educational settings. Emerging research into the effectiveness of virtual manipulatives as a teaching tool have yielded promising results, suggesting comparable, and in many cases superior overall concept-teaching effectiveness compared to standard teaching methods.[cn] Technology is being used more not only in administrative duties in education but also in the instruction of students. The use of technologies such as PowerPoint and interactive whiteboard is capturing the attention of students in the classroom. Technology is also being used in the assessment of students. One example is the Audience Response System (ARS), which allows immediate feedback tests and classroom discussions.[27]

Information and communication technologies (ICTs) are a “diverse set of tools and resources used to communicate, create, disseminate, store, and manage information.”[28] These technologies include computers, the Internet, broadcasting technologies (radio and television), and telephony. There is increasing interest in how computers and the Internet can improve education at all levels, in both formal and non-formal settings.[29] Older ICT technologies, such as radio and television, have for over forty years been used for open and distance learning, although print remains the cheapest, most accessible and therefore most dominant delivery mechanism in both developed and developing countries.[30] In addition to classroom application and growth of e-learning opportunities for knowledge attainment, educators involved in student affairs programming have recognized the increasing importance of computer usage with data generation for and about students. Motivation and retention counselors, along with faculty and administrators, can impact the potential academic success of students by provision of technology based experiences in the University setting.[31]

The use of computers and the Internet is in its infancy in developing countries, if these are used at all, due to limited infrastructure and the attendant high costs of access. Usually, various technologies are used in combination rather than as the sole delivery mechanism. For example, the Kothmale Community Radio Internet uses both radio broadcasts and computer and Internet technologies to facilitate the sharing of information and provide educational opportunities in a rural community in Sri Lanka.[32] The Open University of the United Kingdom (UKOU), established in 1969 as the first educational institution in the world wholly dedicated to open and distance learning, still relies heavily on print-based materials supplemented by radio, television and, in recent years, online programming.[33] Similarly, the Indira Gandhi National Open University in India combines the use of print, recorded audio and video, broadcast radio and television, and audio conferencing technologies.[34]

The term "computer-assisted learning" (CAL) has been increasingly used to describe the use of technology in teaching. Classrooms of the 21st century contain interactive white boards, tablets, mp3 players, laptops, etc. Wiki sites are another tool teachers can implement into CAL curriculums for students to understand communication and collaboration efforts of group work through electronic means.[cn] Teachers are encouraged to embed these technological devices and services in the curriculum in order to enhance students learning and meet the needs of various types of learners.

Education theory

Education theory can refer to either a normative or a descriptive theory of education. In the first case, a theory means a postulation about what ought to be. It provides the "goals, norms, and standards for conducting the process of education."[35] In the second case, it means "an hypothesis or set of hypotheses that have been verified by observation and experiment."[36] A descriptive theory of education can be thought of as a conceptual scheme that ties together various "otherwise discrete particulars. . .For example, a cultural theory of education shows how the concept of culture can be used to organize and unify the variety of facts about how and what people learn."[37] Likewise, for example, there is the behaviorist theory of education that comes from educational psychology and the functionalist theory of education that comes from sociology of education.[38]

Economics and education

It has been argued that high rates of education are essential for countries to be able to achieve high levels of economic growth.[39] Empirical analyses tend to support the theoretical prediction that poor countries should grow faster than rich countries because they can adopt cutting edge technologies already tried and tested by rich countries. However, technology transfer requires knowledgeable managers and engineers who are able to operate new machines or production practices borrowed from the leader in order to close the gap through imitation. Therefore, a country's ability to learn from the leader is a function of its stock of "human capital". Recent study of the determinants of aggregate economic growth have stressed the importance of fundamental economic institutions[40] and the role of cognitive skills.[41]

At the individual level, there is a large literature, generally related back to the work of Jacob Mincer,[42] on how earnings are related to the schooling and other human capital of the individual. This work has motivated a large number of studies, but is also controversial. The chief controversies revolve around how to interpret the impact of schooling.[43][44]

Economists Samuel Bowles and Herbert Gintis famously argued in 1976 that there was a fundamental conflict in American schooling between the egalitarian goal of democratic participation and the inequalities implied by the continued profitability of capitalist production on the other.[45]


References could be improved

The history of education according to Dieter Lenzen, president of the Freie Universität Berlin 1994, "began either millions of years ago or at the end of 1770". Education as a science cannot be separated from the educational traditions that existed before. Adults trained the young of their society in the knowledge and skills they would need to master and eventually pass on. The evolution of culture, and human beings as a species depended on this practice of transmitting knowledge. In pre-literate societies this was achieved orally and through imitation. Story-telling continued from one generation to the next. Oral language developed into written symbols and letters. The depth and breadth of knowledge that could be preserved and passed soon increased exponentially. When cultures began to extend their knowledge beyond the basic skills of communicating, trading, gathering food, religious practices, etc., formal education, and schooling, eventually followed. Schooling in this sense was already in place in Egypt between 3000 and 500BC.

Nowadays some kind of education is compulsory to all people in most countries. Due to population growth and the proliferation of compulsory education, UNESCO has calculated that in the next 30 years more people will receive formal education than in all of human history thus far.[46]


John Locke's work Some Thoughts Concerning Education was written in 1693 and still reflects traditional education priorities in the Western world.

As an academic field, philosophy of education is a "the philosophical study of education and its problems...its central subject matter is education, and its methods are those of philosophy".[47] "The philosophy of education may be either the philosophy of the process of education or the philosophy of the discipline of education. That is, it may be part of the discipline in the sense of being concerned with the aims, forms, methods, or results of the process of educating or being educated; or it may be metadisciplinary in the sense of being concerned with the concepts, aims, and methods of the discipline."[48] As such, it is both part of the field of education and a field of applied philosophy, drawing from fields of metaphysics, epistemology, axiology and the philosophical approaches (speculative, prescriptive, and/or analytic) to address questions in and about pedagogy, education policy, and curriculum, as well as the process of learning, to name a few.[49] For example, it might study what constitutes upbringing and education, the values and norms revealed through upbringing and educational practices, the limits and legitimization of education as an academic discipline, and the relation between education theory and practice.


A class size experiment in the United States found that attending small classes for 3 or more years in the early grades increased high school graduation rates of students from low income families.[50]

Educational psychology is the study of how humans learn in educational settings, the effectiveness of educational interventions, the psychology of teaching, and the social psychology of schools as organizations. Although the terms "educational psychology" and "school psychology" are often used interchangeably, researchers and theorists are likely to be identified as educational psychologists, whereas practitioners in schools or school-related settings are identified as school psychologists. Educational psychology is concerned with the processes of educational attainment in the general population and in sub-populations such as gifted children and those with specific disabilities.

Educational psychology can in part be understood through its relationship with other disciplines. It is informed primarily by psychology, bearing a relationship to that discipline analogous to the relationship between medicine and biology. Educational psychology in turn informs a wide range of specialities within educational studies, including instructional design, educational technology, curriculum development, organizational learning, special education and classroom management. Educational psychology both draws from and contributes to cognitive science and the learning sciences. In universities, departments of educational psychology are usually housed within faculties of education, possibly accounting for the lack of representation of educational psychology content in introductory psychology textbooks (Lucas, Blazek, & Raley, 2006).


File:Primary Laos2.jpg
School children in Laos

The sociology of education is the study of how social institutions and forces affect educational processes and outcomes, and vice versa. By many, education is understood to be a means of overcoming handicaps, achieving greater equality and acquiring wealth and status for all (Sargent 1994). Learners may be motivated by aspirations for progress and betterment. Learners can also be motivated by their interest in the subject area or specific skill they are trying to learn. In fact, learner-responsibility education models are driven by the interest of the learner in the topic to be studied.[51]

Education is perceived as a place where children can develop according to their unique needs and potentialities.[52] The purpose of education can be to develop every individual to their full potential. The understanding of the goals and means of educational socialization processes differs according to the sociological paradigm used.

Education in the developing world

Universal Primary Education is one of the eight Millennium Development Goals and great improvements have been achieved in the past decade, yet a great deal remains to be done.[53] Researchers at the Overseas Development Institute indicate the main obstacles to greater funding from donors include: donor priorities, aid architecture, and the lack of evidence and advocacy.[53] Additionally, Transparency International has identified corruption in the education sector as a major stumbling block to achieving Universal Primary Education in Africa.[54] Furthermore, demand in the developing world for improved educational access is not as high as one would expect as governments avoid the recurrent costs involved and there is economic pressure on those parents who prefer their children making money in the short term over any long-term benefits of education. Recent studies on child labor and poverty have suggested that when poor families reach a certain economic threshold where families are able to provide for their basic needs, parents return their children to school. This has been found to be true, once the threshold has been breached, even if the potential economic value of the children's work has increased since their return to school.

But without capacity, there is no development. A study conducted by the UNESCO International Institute for Educational Planning indicates that stronger capacities in educational planning and management may have an important spill-over effect on the system as a whole.[55] Sustainable capacity development requires complex interventions at the institutional, organizational and individual levels that could be based on some foundational principles:

  • national leadership and ownership should be the touchstone of any intervention;
  • strategies must be context relevant and context specific;
  • they should embrace an integrated set of complementary interventions, though implementation may need to proceed in steps;
  • partners should commit to a long-term investment in capacity development, while working towards some short-term achievements;
  • outside intervention should be conditional on an impact assessment of national capacities at various levels.
File:Graduates in tertiary education-thousands.jpg
Russia has more academic graduates than any other country in Europe. (Note, chart does not include population statistics.)

A lack of good universities, and a low acceptance rate for good universities, is evident in countries with a high population density. In some countries, there are uniform, over structured, inflexible centralized programs from a central agency that regulates all aspects of education.

  • Due to globalization, increased pressure on students in curricular activities
  • Removal of a certain percentage of students for improvisation of academics (usually practiced in schools, after 10th grade)

India is now developing technologies that will skip land based telephone and internet lines. Instead, India launched EDUSAT, an education satellite that can reach more of the country at a greatly reduced cost. There is also an initiative started by the OLPC foundation, a group out of MIT Media Lab and supported by several major corporations to develop a $100 laptop to deliver educational software. The laptops are widely available as of 2008. The laptops are sold at cost or given away based on donations. These will enable developing countries to give their children a digital education, and help close the digital divide across the world.

In Africa, the New Partnership for Africa's Development (NEPAD) has launched an "e-school program" to provide all 600,000 primary and high schools with computer equipment, learning materials and internet access within 10 years. Private groups, like The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, are working to give more individuals opportunities to receive education in developing countries through such programs as the Perpetual Education Fund. An International Development Agency project called,[56] started with the support of former American President Bill Clinton, uses the Internet to allow co-operation by individuals on issues of social development.

Brazil has implemented the New Enem, PROUNI, Fies, ENADE, SISU educational programs.[clarification needed][57]


Education is becoming increasingly international. Not only are the materials becoming more influenced by the rich international environment, but exchanges among students at all levels are also playing an increasingly important role. In Europe, for example, the Socrates-Erasmus Program[58] stimulates exchanges across European universities. Also, the Soros Foundation[59] provides many opportunities for students from central Asia and eastern Europe. Programs such as the International Baccalaureate have contributed to the internationalization of education. Some scholars argue that, regardless of whether one system is considered better or worse than another, experiencing a different way of education can often be considered to be the most important, enriching element of an international learning experience.[60]

See also


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  2. educate. Retrieved on 2011-10-21.
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  6. UNESCO, Education For All Monitoring Report 2008, Net Enrollment Rate in primary education
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  13. "Dunn and Dunn". Retrieved 2009-04-20. 
  14. "Biographer of Renzulli". Retrieved 2009-04-20. 
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  33. Open University of the United Kingdom Official website
  34. Indira Gandhi National Open University Official website
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