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Encyclopedia > Education system

Education encompasses teaching and learning specific skills, and also something less tangible but more profound: the imparting of knowledge, good judgement and wisdom. Education has as one of its fundamental goals the imparting of culture from generation to generation (see socialization).



The education of an individual human begins at birth and continues throughout life. (Some believe that education begins even before birth, as evidenced by some parents' playing music or reading to the baby in the womb in the hope it will influence the child's development.) For some, the struggles and triumphs of daily life provide far more instruction than does formal schooling (thus Mark Twain's admonition to "never let school interfere with your education"). Family members may have a profound educational effect — often more profound than they realize — though family teaching may function very informally.

The origins of the word "education" reveal one theory of its function: the Latin educare comes from roots suggesting a "leading out" or "leading forth", with possible implications of developing innate abilities and of expanding horizons.

Formal education occurs when society or a group or an individual sets up a curriculum to educate people, usually the young. Formal education can become systematic and thorough, but its sponsor may seek selfish advantages when shaping impressionable young scholars.

Life-long or adult education has become widespread. Lending libraries provide inexpensive informal access to books and other self-instructional materials. Many adults have given up the notion that only children belong "in school". Many adults enroll in post-secondary education schools, both part-time and full-time, which often classify them as "non-traditional students" in order to distinguish them administratively from young adults entering directly from high school. Computers have become an increasingly influential factor in education, both as a tool for online education (a kind of distance education), and as a way for individual students to access lessons and materials easily via the Internet and CD-ROM.

History of education

Overall development

All societies inculcate the mores and practices of the group into their young. Such processes may occur as if by intellectual osmosis, but often formal training and initiation rites develop as part of a system of education.

Much education historically has had a religion-based delivery mechanism: priests and medicine men have long realised the importance of promoting and cementing the ruling ideology amongst the young. Thus they have conventionally borne the economic costs of founding, maintaining and staffing school systems.

Jean-Jacques Rousseau fuelled an influential early-Romanticism reaction to formalised religion-based education at a time when the concept of childhood had started to develop as a distinct aspect of human development.

The Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth's Commission of National Education (Polish: Komisja Edukacji Narodowej) formed in 1773 counts as the first Ministry of Education in the history of mankind.

Conventional social history narrates how by about the beginning of the 19th century the industrial revolution promoted a demand for masses of disciplined, inter-changeable workers who possessed at least minimal literacy. In these circumstances the new socially predominant structure, the state, began to mandate and dictate attendance at standardised schools with a state-ordained curriculum. Out of such systems the general and vocational education paths of the 20th century emerged, with increasing economic specialisation demanding increasingly specialised skills from a population which spent correspondingly longer periods in formal education before entering or while engaged in the workforce.

Recent world-wide educational trends

Overall, illiteracy has greatly decreased in recent years.

Illiteracy and the percentage of populations without any schooling have decreased in the past several decades. For example, the percentage of population without any schooling decreased from 36% in 1960 to 25% in 2000.

Among developing countries, illiteracy and percentages without schooling in 2000 stood at about half the 1970 figures. Among developed countries, illiteracy rates decreased from 6 percent to 1 percent, and percentages without schooling decreased from 5 to 2.

Illiteracy rates in less-developed countries (LDCs) surpassed those of more developed countries (MDCs) by a factor of 10 in 1970, and by a factor of about 20 in 2000. Illiteracy decreased greatly in LDCs, and virtually disappeared in MDCs. Percentages without any schooling showed similar patterns.

Percentages of the population with no schooling varied greatly among LDCs in 2000, from less than 10 percent to over 65 percent. MDCs had much less variation, ranging from less than 2 percent to 17 percent.


Classical educationReadingMathLanguageScienceEthicsPhysical educationReligious education– Music education– Environmental education– Single-sex Education

Challenges in education

In well-developed countries

  • The entertaining world distracting students' attention
see Current issues in teaching
  • Program Evaluation -- answering questions such as whether different methods of education (public, private, home, or other schooling) "work", or how to improve education. See for example the Programme for International Student Assessment from the OECD.
  • The contradiction between compulsory education and nurturing the concept of personal freedom in Western society.
  • Over-education and society's perception of it.
  • Over-emphasis on examination results versus student-driven discovery and exploration of subjects. (The sausage machine analogy).
  • The "hidden curriculum" which enforces societal status quo by providing different educations to children of different social classes.
  • The Two Cultures

In developing countries

  • Small incomes of teachers
  • People unaware of the importance of education
  • Economic pressure from those parents who prioritize their children's making money in the short term over any long-term benefits of education
  • Program Evaluation
  • Due to globalization, increased pressure on students in curricular activities
  • Removal of a certain percentage of students for improvisation of academics (usually practised in schools, after 10th grade)
  • Lack of good universities, low acceptance rate for good universities (usually in countries with relatively high population density)
  • Uniform overstructured inflexible centralized programs from a central agency that regulates all aspects of education in the country

Formal education

Early childhood educationPrimary educationSecondary educationTertiary educationQuaternary education– Higher education – Vocational educationPost-secondary educationUniversityCollegeSchoolFurther education

Student activism

Student activism – Student-led school change – Student Developed Education Policy

Educational policy

LiteracyTesting & policyEducation reformKERASchool choiceCharter schoolsMeaningful student involvementStudent voiceStudent Developed Education PolicySocial promotion

Informal and alternative education

Early instruction – Home schooling – UnschoolingLifelong educationDemocratic SchoolsAlternative schoolMontessori methodWaldorf schoolOnline educationDistance educationMuseumPlanetarium – Nature center – deschooling– political education – Gifted educationRochdale CollegeautodidacticismLanguage school

Extracurricular education

United States Academic Decathlon – University Interscholastic League (UIL) – International science olympiad

Theory and methodology

Philosophy of educationTeaching methodInstructional theoryLearning theoryLearning disabilityInstructional technologyEducation PsychologyBehaviorismProblem-based learningActive learning – Outcome-based education – Reggio Emilia approachCooperative educationcollaborative learningDalton PlanTransformative learningexperiential educationSituated learningAdult educationCritical pedagogyInstitutional pedagogyPastoral careProject Based Learning
  • WikEd (http://moodle.ed.uiuc.edu/wiked) is a MediaWiki set up specificially for educators and education research.

Education by country

Education by countryList of colleges and universities by country

Education and parents

Prominent educationalists


External links

Wikibooks Wikiversity has more about this subject:
Wikiquote has a collection of quotations related to:

  Results from FactBites:
Restructuring Education Through Technology, by Theodore W. Frick, Phi Delta Kappa Educational Foundation, 1991 (6690 words)
For education to occur there must be a teacher who guides, a student who intends to learn, content to be learned, and a context or setting in which the guidance and learning occur.
Educational systems are highly centralized, making it difficult for community members to have much direct influence on what happens in the system.
In a restructured educational system, there could be a greater variety of "teachers." The educational resources of the system could be used by community members during evenings and on weekends.
Educational Technology: An Extended Literature Review (3527 words)
Educators must expect more kinds of technology including more telecommunications, more networking, more interactive learning, more multimedia learning environments, more computerized speech and handwriting, more databases, more desktop publishing, more materials for special learners, and more materials that are fun for learners.
The educational technology literature indicates that although a significant start has been made, there are still serious barriers to the widespread adoption of the type of student-centered, real world, technology-rich education our modern information society requires.
Educational administrators who resist change and are unwilling to share leadership responsibilities with teachers, and 6.
  More results at FactBites »



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