The Purpose of Education: What’s Education All About Anyway?

What’s the purpose of education? What constitutes a “good education”?

A “good education” is commonly talked about as a building block of a “good life”. In order to achieve “the dream”, one must start with a “good education”. 

But have we ever taken the time to think about what makes a good education? What is the purpose of education anyway?

If you asked me to summarize the purpose of education in one word, the word I would give you would be preparation.

Therefore, a “good education” is one that properly prepares the student for what comes next: namely life with all its challenges and opportunities.

Incremental Preparation

This preparation takes years. As we prepare children to live and work productively in the world we have a lot to teach them. 

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First, we need to teach them motor skills so they can survive and function. Then we teach them how the world works. We teach them fundamental principles like “1+1=2”.

As time goes on, we build on each of these principles and simultaneously get more specific. We expect everyone to know that 1+1=2 but as we build up, we also build in, like a pyramid. We don’t expect everyone to know how to build a sales pipeline or how to wire a house. These more advanced abilities are taught on the foundation of general knowledge but also require more specialized training.

More Time = More Specific Education

Therefore, we have a model where the more time someone spends studying something, the more specific instruction they receive. The longer a medical student stays in grad school, the more specialized education they get. 

At some point, this specific education has to touch the real world. There’s a point in this pyramid where abstract education becomes impractical. If the thing learned isn’t applied, it’s useless.

That’s why we think project-based education is best suited for high school and college. 

Project-Based Education 

As students reach high school and college, they are reaching a level of education that is useless unless it’s applied in real life. The foundation has been laid. The lessons have become incredibly specialized to the point of being a waste of time if there’s not a chance to apply them.

Project-based education is a model that leads with application. If education is meant to prepare students for life, then as they reach high school and college, they should be practicing life

All too often we see the opposite. We see colleges and universities teaching their students abstract principles and theories. We see them assigning papers and exams that have little to do with everyday life in the real world. 

Contrast that with the experience of students utilizing project-based learning. They get specialized training in the fields they’re pursuing, while actively applying what they learn. This does a far better job at preparing them for the real world than abstract theories would.

A Good, Practical Education

What makes a good education?

We think an education is only as good as its application in the real world. 

When a student has been taught foundational principles and equipped to practice them in the real world, they’ve received a good education.

Ascend is Unbound’s project-based education program. Applications will open soon. Check out the program here.

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