Learning to Unlearn|Apr 11, 2012 7:41 AM| by:

Aims of Education

The nature and scope of education cannot be considered without various aims and purposes of education. In other words, “education” as such has a number of meanings and purposes. It will be worthwhile to ponder over some common meanings given to the word education.

Generally by education people at large think the process of teaching. Whatever a teacher teaches is education. Thus, we can say that one meaning of education is in terms of teaching or instruction.

The other meaning of education is in terms of schooling. In other words, whatever takes place in a school is considered as education. For example, teaching in the classroom, teacher-pupil relationship, pupil-pupil relationship, games, co-curricular activities and many other such things are necessary parts of schooling.

The third meaning which is rarely given to education is that it is a discipline or a field of study. Nowadays in many universities of the world, education is being taught as a social science subject which is sustained by the related fields of psychology, sociology, anthropology, economics, history, political science, public administration, etc.

It is this view or meaning of education which is extremely important to bear in mind, for it enables us to have a world-view which is helpful in understanding the various aims and objectives of education.

The Individual Aim of Education

Aims of education can be considered from different points of view. One approach is based upon the needs and values of an individual. Those who consider the individual as the centre of education emphasise the fact that aim of education should be such as enables an individual to develop his total personality.

As a matter of fact the individual aim of education is very much emphasised in those social systems which are democratic in nature. In other words, such societies which emphasise the democratic way of life and freedom for the individual have the individual aim of education.

Thus, we find the individual aim of education being accepted by those people who are opposed to group control.

In human history, more particularly in the history of education, one can observe that there has been a kind of conflict between the individual and the society. In some periods the individual was in ascendance and the society was in submission. In some other period the individual was given less importance than the society.

Thus, the individual aim of education became popular in those times when the philosophy of life was individual centered. In this connection an observation made in a report is worth quoting:

“What is the aim of education is a question that admits of no answer without a reference to ultimate convictions about human nature and destiny, about society and how the individual stands related to it.”(1)

It is evident from this quotation that the aim of education is necessarily dependent upon the philosophical and sociological understanding of man. The individual aim of education emphasises the individual and his unique nature and personality. According to it, the development of total personality of the individual should be the aim of education.

The Social Aim of Education

The social aim of education takes into consideration the social needs of society. Education is provided with a view to making new members of society familiar with social traditions, manners, mores, customs, etc.

In other words, when a society wants to have a very strong social organisation and does not permit freedom to the individual members to deviate from its social traditions, it emphasises to a great extent the social aim of education.

In the social aim of education great importance is attached to society and, therefore, an individual becomes of secondary importance. In countries where socialistic governments are functioning, there is great emphasis on the social aim of education. While the social aim is good so far as it helps in the social growth of a people, it is at the same time injurious for the development of an individual’s initiative, freedom and enterprise.

It has been seen that new inventions and things of extraordinary historical importance have been generally done not by a group of people but by certain individuals in their own way. If there is any regimentation of thought and action it is bound to lead to mediocrity.

It is only in an atmosphere of freedom that one can think boldly and discover something entirely new. But at the same time a lot of risk is involved when an individual is given too much of freedom.

So the supporters of the social aim of education would like to take a calculated risk. They prefer their own society to be in the forefront and regard the individual merely as an instrument or servant of the society.

As a matter of fact there will always be a conflict between the interests of an individual and that of a society. But this conflict can be resolved if we consider an individual to be such a unit of society as is helpful in general social development.

We know very well that there cannot be a society without individuals and at the same time individuals cannot survive without social security. Thus any aim of education which ignores this fact is likely to be incomplete.

As a matter of fact the individual and social aims of education are complementary for we want such a development and education of an individual as enables him to be an effective and useful member of society.

The social aspect of education conserves the useful traditions and values of a society and the emphasis on the development of an individual permits progress in various fields of life. Thus, in an ideal situation the individual and social aims of education are well harmonised and they are never in conflict.

In Conversations with the Mother, we find the following statement which is most meaningful in the context of aims of education:

“The terrestrial transformation and harmonisation can be brought about by two processes which, though opposite in appearance, must combine – must act upon each other and complete each other:

1) Individual transformation, an inner development leading to the union with the Divine Presence.
2) Social transformation, the establishment of an environment favourable to the flowering and growth of
the individual.(2)

Sitaram Jayaswal


1. Secondary Education (H.M.S.O. 1947), p. 9, quoted by F.W. Garforth in Education and Social Purpose, London, 1962.
2. Words of Long Ago, MCW, Vol. 2, pp. 47-8

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