What is the Purpose of School? – Introduction to Education (2023)

Jennifer Beasley and Myra Haulmark

What is the purpose of school? Neil Postman said that “without a purpose, schools are houses of detention, not attention” (1995, p. 7). Most countries have systems of formal education and many of these are compulsory. Although the names of schools differ, most include a primary school for young children and a secondary school for teenagers (Roser & Oritz-Ospina, 2019).

Objectives and Key Terms

In this chapter, readers will…

  • Understand the basic purposes of school
  • Describe several different understandings of the concept of “school”
  • Define the nature of school for each level: elementary, middle, and high schools

Key terms in the chapter are…

    • Compulsory
    • Formal Education
    • Informal Education
    • Vocational

Defining School

Before landing upon a definition for school, it is important to delineate the differences between education and schooling.

Education is a process of learning and growing as one gains understanding about the surrounding world. This is a lifelong process. It is, as John Dewey (1916) put it, a social process – ‘a process of living and not a preparation for future living.’

Schooling can often look like an institution with a very specific motive – drill learning into people according to some plan often drawn up by others. Paulo Friere (1973) famously called this banking – making deposits of knowledge. This type of “schooling” treats learners like objects.

(Video) The Science of Teaching, Effective Education, and Great Schools

Interested in learning more about this? https://www.gse.harvard.edu/news/ed/15/01/whats-worth-learning-school

What do you think?

What is the Purpose of School? – Introduction to Education (1)

Schooling vs. Education Sort

Sort the following phrases into the category where it best fits:

Choices: Rigid, Structured; Facts, information to be absorbed; Life experiences; Personal, individual interests; Stops and starts, finite; May is not all that is learned; Always going on; Can exist without schooling; Can exist without education

School Culture

What makes a good school culture? Shafer (2018) noted that it is all about connections. She describes five interwoven elements that support school structure, 1) Fundamental beliefs, 2) Shared values, 3) Norms (how people believe they should act), 4) Patterns and behaviors, and 5) Tangible evidence. To read more about those elements, you can find the article here: https://www.gse.harvard.edu/news/uk/18/07/what-makes-good-school-culture

“In a strong culture, there are many, overlapping, and cohesive interactions among all members of the organization.”
– Leah Shafer

Purposes of School

Is School for Knowledge?

If asked, most people would say that the purpose of school is to provide knowledge, but the question becomes what knowledge and who should decide. Is learning for the sake of learning what school is about? Learning expands the mind and school is a way for students to be exposed to different ideas and concepts. Knowledge obtained through school can provide students with a sense of personal fulfillment (Education).

“It seems to me, that education has a two-fold function to perform in the life of man and in society: the one is utility and the other is culture. Education must enable a man to become more efficient, to achieve with increasing facility the legitimate goals of his life.”
–Martin Luther King Jr (1947)

It is argued that anything learned in school could be learned on your own (Gatto, 2005). In the modern-day of the Internet and with vast libraries of knowledge available to us, this is very true. There then becomes a problem of motivation. What would make someone want to learn math or science? Does a child just decide someday that they want to learn all about Chemistry? (Postman, 1995) It is not an issue of what information is necessary, but an issue of exposing students to different ideas that they can choose to grow and build on. It is teaching them how to learn. Education should expose students to information and teach them how to think, not tell them what to think. Martin Luther King Jr said, “Education must enable one to sift and weigh evidence, to discern the true from the false, the real from the unreal, and the facts from the fiction” (1947).

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Is School for Getting a Job?

Not everyone has the opportunities or wants to go to college. Therefore, the purpose of school must be to give students the skills to get a job. This means that education is a way for anyone to support him or herself and economically contribute to society (Education). Some of these skills are taught in many of the basic classes: reading, writing, and arithmetic. There is also vocational education, which is extremely important to the lives of students who do not enjoy academia. Just because a student does not like school does not mean that the school should ignore them. It is the school’s responsibility to educate all students and prepare them for their future.

Is School for Socialization?

It is argued that any of the above items can be learned on your own (Gatto, 2005). As stated earlier, the issue of motivation and outside circumstances does provide a problem with this theory, but what can replace the socialization that a student receives in school?

“Schooling at its best can be about how to make a life, which is quite different from how to make a living” (Postman, 1995, p. x).

Einstein said that the school’s responsibility is to educate the individual as a free individual but to also educate them to be part of society (Haselhurst, 2007). Students are around hundreds of people their own age and this teaches them how to act in society and how to communicate. This is helpful no matter what they do with their future and nothing can replace those skills. Being in a school with that many people also exposes the student to people who are different from him or herself and this is extremely helpful in anyone’s development as a human being and a better member of society (Postman, 1995). Professor Nel Noddings said that the school’s aim is “to produce competent, caring, loving, and lovable people” (Kohn, 2004, p.2).

Types of Schools

In most states, the school year is 180 days. School days often last a total of six and a half hours. This means that a child may spend more than 1,000 hours in school each year. In elementary school, how are these hours typically spent? In these sections, we will discuss the teacher’s role, what students experience in elementary, middle school, and high school.


An elementary school is the main point of delivery of primary education for children between 5-11. In elementary school, children are exposed to a broad range of topics and often remain together in one classroom. School districts and the state determine the curriculum, but generally, a student learns basic arithmetic, English proficiency, social studies, science, physical development, and fine arts.

The Role of the Teacher

An elementary school teacher is trained with an emphasis on human cognitive and psychological development as well as the principles of curriculum development and instruction. Teachers earn either a Bachelors or Master’s degree in Early Childhood or Elementary Education.

The public elementary teacher typically instructs between twenty and thirty students of diverse learning needs. These teachers use a variety of ways to teach, with a focus on student engagement (getting a student’s attention).

What Students Experience

Originally, an elementary school was synonymous with primary education. Many students prior to World War I did not attend school past Grade 8. Over the past few decades, schools in the USA have seen numbers of high school graduates rise and with it, changes in what students experience in school.


An elementary school typically contained one-teacher, one-class models, but this has been changing over time. Multi-age programs, where children in different grades share the same classroom and teachers. Another alternative is that children might have a main class and go to another teacher’s room for one subject. This could be called a rotation and it is similar to the concept of teams found in junior high school.

Middle School

Watch the following video from the perspective of a middle schooler. What would you point out as part of her environment at school? Is there any evidence of her relationship with what she is learning or her relationship with educators at her school?

High School

While there is no set standard for an American high school, some generalizations can be made about the majority. Schools are managed by local, elected school districts. Students ages 14-18 participate in four years of school. School years are normally around nine months and are broken up into quarters or semesters. The High School curriculum is defined in terms of Carnegie Units, which approximate 120 class contact hours within a year. No two schools will be the same, and no two students will have the same classes. There are some general core subjects, but electives will vary by school.


Fill out the following to highlight was is important in each level: https://docs.google.com/document/d/1gAAwwsThkvlVNHrYcII_2m5PByo8ggC4JQe6QJy4dYw/edit?usp=sharing


Watch the following video with this question in mind: According to this author, what do effective schools do differently? Does this align more closely with the notion of “schooling” or “education”?

Dig Deeper

The following resources are provided when “digging deeper” into the chapter:

Roser, Max; Ortiz-Ospina, Esteban (2019). “Primary and Secondary Education”. Our World in Data. Retrieved 24 October 2019.

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Freire, P. (1972). Pedagogy of the Oppressed. Harmondsworth: Penguin.

Shafer, L. (2018) https://www.gse.harvard.edu/news/uk/18/07/what-makes-good-school-culture

Postman, Neil. (1995). The End of Education. New York: Vintage Books.

Education. (n.d.). Retrieved September 16, 2007 from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Education

Gatto, John Taylor. (2005) Dumbing us Down: The Hidden Curriculum of Compulsory Schooling. (Rev. ed.). Canada: New Society Publishers.

Haselhurst, Geoff. (2007) Philosophy of Education. Retrieved September 19, 2007 from http://www.spaceandmotion.com/Philosophy-Education.htm

Hirsch, E.D. Jr. (2006). The Knowledge Deficit. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company.

King, Martin Luther Jr. (1947). The Purpose of Education. Retrieved September 19, 2007 from http://www.drmartinlutherkingjr.com/thepurposeofeducation.htm

Kohn, Alfie. (2004). What Does it Mean to Be Well Educated? Boston: Beacon Press.

(Video) 6 Problems with our School System

Modified from:



What is the Purpose of School? – Introduction to Education? ›

Therefore, the purpose of school must be to give students the skills to get a job. This means that education is a way for anyone to support him or herself and economically contribute to society (Education). Some of these skills are taught in many of the basic classes: reading, writing, and arithmetic.

What is the importance of introduction in education? ›

Your introduction conveys a lot of information to your readers. You can let them know what your topic is, why it is important, and how you plan to proceed with your discussion. In most academic disciplines, your introduction should contain a thesis that will assert your main argument.

What do you learn in introduction to education? ›

Students will reflect upon and critique their own educational experiences and articulate their own beliefs and values about teaching, learning, and schooling. Students will also examine current and historical roles, expectations, stereotypes, and characterizations that define teaching as a profession.

What is the purpose of school and education? ›

The main purpose of education is to provide the opportunity for acquiring knowledge and skills that will enable people to develop their full potential, and become successful members of society.

What is the meaning of introduction in education? ›

Introduction to education means to ensure the highest levels of academic achievement for all students and it helps students develop a positive self- concept by providing knowledge about various dimensions of teaching.

What are the 4 main purposes of an introduction? ›

The first objective is to gain the interest of the audience. The second objective is to reveal the topic. The third objective is to establish the speakers credibility and their goodwill. The fourth objective is to preview the body of speech.

What is the most important thing is an introduction? ›

The most important thing to include when writing an introduction is your thesis. A thesis statement is the main point of your paper; it is narrow, focused, and specific and very clearly explains your paper's topic. Essentially, a thesis functions as a brief summary of your essay.

What do you learn in an education class? ›

What is education? Education is the study of the process of receiving and giving systematic instruction. As a degree, it mixes a theoretical grounding in the history, anthropology, sociology and economics of education, psychology and human development, and applied courses on teaching methods.

What is the best major in education? ›

Best College Majors to Become a Teacher
  • Education. As an education major you will explore what education entails and how to improve it, often with a focus on public K-12 education. ...
  • STEM. ...
  • Psychology. ...
  • Sociology. ...
  • History. ...
  • English/Liberal Arts. ...
  • General Tips to Becoming a Teacher.
Mar 19, 2021

What is the real purpose of school? ›

Therefore, the purpose of school must be to give students the skills to get a job. This means that education is a way for anyone to support him or herself and economically contribute to society (Education). Some of these skills are taught in many of the basic classes: reading, writing, and arithmetic.

What is the purpose of education in the 21st century? ›

A 21st century education is about giving students the skills they need to succeed in this new world, and helping them grow the confidence to practice those skills. With so much information readily available to them, 21st century skills focus more on making sense of that information, sharing and using it in smart ways.

What is the purpose of public education? ›

Help children fulfill their diverse potentials. Enable students to become well-rounded individuals, focusing on the whole child and not just mastery of academic content. Prepare students to live a productive life and become good citizens, while obeying the social and legal rules of society.

What is the best introduction for school? ›

Students must first introduce themselves by giving their names, the location they are now in, and the place they belong. If required, provide a little summary on the topic that you will be speaking about. Tell the audience a little bit about yourself; mention your interests, preferences, and so on.

What are the three types of introduction in the classroom? ›

The three parts of an introduction are typically the hook, the background information or topical sentence, and the thesis statement. Learn these parts and understand how they're different from each other, how you may place them, and how you can structure your sentences in each.

What is a good introduction definition? ›

A good introduction should identify your topic, provide essential context, and indicate your particular focus in the essay. It also needs to engage your readers' interest. A strong conclusion will provide a sense of closure to the essay while again placing your concepts in a somewhat wider context.

What are the three main points of an introduction? ›

Your essay introduction should include three main things, in this order:
  • An opening hook to catch the reader's attention.
  • Relevant background information that the reader needs to know.
  • A thesis statement that presents your main point or argument.
Feb 4, 2019

What is one of the three basic purposes of an introduction? ›

The introduction and the conclusion make up two of the three parts of a speech. The purpose of the introduction is to grab the audience's attention, prepare the audience for the content of the speech, and establish the credibility of the speaker.

What are the three goals of an introduction? ›

When giving an oral presentation, the most important part of your entire presentation is the introduction. This is where you 1) capture your audience's interest, 2) give them a context for your work, 3) pose your central question, problem, or issue, and 4) offer the most concise answer or argument you can give.

What are the 5 purposes of an introduction? ›

Common theory says that there are 5 goals you should aim to accomplish in the introduction of your speech: get the audience's attention, show the value and relevance of your ideas, establish your credibility, state your main idea, and provide a verbal map of the presentation.

What are the 2 most important parts of an introduction? ›

An introductory paragraph is usually the first paragraph of an essay. The two parts of an introductory paragraph are as follows: Hook. Thesis Statement.

Why is the introduction effective? ›

The introduction allows the writer to begin the essay by gaining readers' attention, providing necessary background information, and by establishing the essay's main idea, purpose, and direction.

What are essential skills in education? ›

Classroom-related hard skills include curriculum and lesson planning, testing and grading, record keeping, student supervision and discipline, computer and in-class technology skills, and more. Each of these is crucial for a smooth-running classroom where students can learn.

What are the most important things we learn at school? ›

Critical Thinking Skills

“Being able to identify and think logically through a problem objectively is one of the more important skills a student must learn to be successful in school as well as in their career,” says Wagner.

What skills does education provide? ›

Societies with high rates of education completion have lower crime, better overall health, and civic involvement.
  • Poverty Reduction. ...
  • Connecting Across Borders. ...
  • Sense of Accomplishment. ...
  • More Productivity. ...
  • Better Communication. ...
  • Critical Thinking Skills. ...
  • Identification of Skills. ...
  • Greater Sense of Discipline.

What is the hardest major in school? ›

Top 15 Hardest College Majors Table of Contents
  • Chemistry.
  • Environmental Economics and Policy.
  • Environmental Earth Science.
  • American Studies.
  • Nuclear Engineering.
  • Energy Engineering.
  • Astrophysics.
  • Applied Mathematics.

What is the hardest education degree to get? ›

What are the hardest degree subjects?
  • Aerospace Engineering. Aerospace Engineers study the design, manufacturing and testing of aircrafts. ...
  • Architecture. Architecture is one of those degrees that we wish was easy. ...
  • Pharmacy. ...
  • Psychology. ...
  • Statistics. ...
  • Nursing. ...
  • Physics. ...
  • Astrophysics.

What is the easiest major in college? ›

As the most popular college major since 1980, business encompasses a variety of sub-disciplines, such as finance, accounting, and marketing. It's also considered to be one of the easiest college majors. With a business degree, you could also work in fields like healthcare, human resources, or public administration.

What are the qualities of good teacher? ›

The Top 14 Qualities that Make a Good Teacher
  • Adaptability. Adaptability is a must for teachers, who need to continuously evaluate what's working for their students — and even more importantly, what isn't working. ...
  • Empathy. ...
  • Patience. ...
  • Engagement. ...
  • Active Listening. ...
  • Lifelong Learning. ...
  • Free of Bias. ...
  • Respectful Attitude.

Who is called a teacher? ›

a person who teaches or instructs, especially as a profession; instructor.

What is the best introduction for a teacher? ›

My goal every day is to have a positive impact on young people. Therefore, I am highly motivated to apply for the position of Teacher in your school. I believe that I can perform as an excellent educator, and I hope to contribute as much as possible to help in the positive development and growth of the school.

What is the purpose of education quotes? ›

“Education's purpose is to replace an empty mind with an open one.” —Malcolm Forbes. Although getting an education at school sometimes involves cramming facts and information into your brain, this quote is a great reminder that critical thinking is more about opening your mind than filling it.

Which of the following is an important function of education? ›

Education serves several functions for society. These include (a) socialization, (b) social integration, (c) social placement, and (d) social and cultural innovation.

What did Martin Luther King say about education? ›

The function of education is to teach one to think intensively and to think critically. Intelligence plus character–that is the goal of true education.” Dr.

What are the 3 purposes of education? ›

Over the decades, the following have all been goals of education: To prepare children for citizenship. To cultivate a skilled workforce. To teach cultural literacy.

What is the purpose of education philosophy? ›

A philosophy of education is a statement (or set of statements) that identifies and clarifies the beliefs, values and understandings of an individual or group with respect to education.

What is the introduction of 21st century education? ›

Twenty-first century learning refers to developing learning, literacy and life skills as part of the classroom experience. Learning skills encompass critical thinking, creativity, collaboration and communication, which have been identified as essential for successfully adapting to modern work environments.

Why was school created? ›

Over time, however, populations grew and societies formed. Rather than every family being individually responsible for education, people soon figured out that it would be easier and more efficient to have a small group of adults teach a larger group of children. In this way, the concept of the school was born.

Why is public education important in today's society? ›

A population that is better educated has less unemployment, reduced dependence on public assistance programs, and greater tax revenue. Education also plays a key role in the reduction of crime, improved public health, and greater political and civic engagement.

How do you start a school introduction speech? ›

A speech introduction example may include sentences like, "Hello, everyone! Thank you for having me today. My name is ______ _______, and I am going to be speaking to you today about _______. To begin, _______ is important because…".

How do you end an introduction to school? ›

Greet at the end: Once concluded, you need to greet again with a thank you. You can also add 'thanks for the opportunity for allowing me to provide my self-introduction. ' at the end of the introduction.

What are the two purposes of an introduction in a lesson? ›

It should arouse interest and curiosity among the students and make them ask questions, which leads to further involvement. In addition, an introduction can inform the students about the further steps as well as about the intended learning objective.

What is a good introduction example? ›

Posing a question, defining the key term, giving a brief anecdote, using a playful joke or emotional appeal, or pulling out an interesting fact are just a few approaches you can take. Use imagery, details, and sensory information to connect with the reader if you can.

What should be included in an introduction? ›

An introduction should include three things: a hook to interest the reader, some background on the topic so the reader can understand it, and a thesis statement that clearly and quickly summarizes your main point.

How do you start an introduction? ›

How to Write a Good Introduction
  1. Keep your first sentence short.
  2. Don't repeat the title.
  3. Keep the introduction brief.
  4. Use the word “you” at least once.
  5. Dedicate 1-2 sentences to articulating what the article covers.
  6. Dedicate 1-2 sentences to explaining why the article is important.
Jul 30, 2019

What are the 4 parts of an introduction? ›

There are 4 elements to a great introduction:
  • Introduce yourself.
  • Introduce the organisation – museum/company.
  • Learn about & connect the participants.
  • Introduce the programme & its goal.
Mar 16, 2022

How long should an introduction be? ›

Most introductions should be about three to five sentences long. And you should aim for a word count between 50-80 words. You don't need to say everything in that first paragraph.

Why is it important to be introduced? ›

The right introduction is crucial — so let's talk about that! Introductions are, by far, the best way to make new friends. When a friend introduces you to someone, you can be relatively sure you'll get along — your friend is friends with them, and you trust your friend, right?

What are the two important elements of introduction? ›

Your essay introduction should include three main things, in this order:
  • An opening hook to catch the reader's attention.
  • Relevant background information that the reader needs to know.
  • A thesis statement that presents your main point or argument.
Feb 4, 2019

What is the most important part of introduction why? ›

The thesis statement is the most important part of the introduction. It gives the reader clear information about the content of the essay, which will help them to understand the essay more easily. The thesis states the specific topic, and often lists the main (controlling) ideas that will be discussed in the main body.

Why is it important to have effective introductions and conclusions? ›

The introduction prepares your reader for the ideas that are to come in the body of your essay. The conclusion provides important reminders about key points from the body of your essay and provides you with an important opportunity to leave a lasting impression on your audience.

What are the 3 purposes of an introduction? ›

The purpose of the introduction is to grab the audience's attention, prepare the audience for the content of the speech, and establish the credibility of the speaker.

What are the three purposes of an introduction? ›

During an introduction, speakers attempt to impart the general and specific purpose of a speech while making their audience members interested in the speech topic, establishing their own credibility, and providing the audience with a preview of the speech structure.


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