Meaning of Education

Meaning of Education

Education has been considered as a natural process. The process of education started even during the pre-historic period when man in his primitive stage began to apply his intelligence to adapt himself to his environment and fulfil the needs of his life. Not only man but every living being has to adapt itself to its environment failing which its survival becomes difficult.

Some creatures have some natural powers which help them in their adaptation to environment but man lacks these powers. The nature by giving wisdom to man has deprived him of all those natural gifts which would have enabled him to adapt himself to his environment like other animals in the world. So the only way open to him was to discover and create the means of adaptation. And thus here was the beginning of education.

The process of education of man begins when he is in the womb of his mother: At that time, he has a kind of environment and he has to adapt himself to another environment as soon as he is born. If the infant fails to adapt itself to the environment of the womb, its development is retarted and it becomes weak or sick.

Such an infant does not succeed well in adaptation to the outside environment after birth. The outside environment is very much extensive than the womb of the mother and as such it needs more adaptation after birth. As the child grows up, his environment becomes more and more complex and accordingly the needs of adaptation also increase.

This activity of adaptation is a part of his education process. So, in order to prepare himself for adaptation or develop himself for environmental needs, man requires a systematic education which may continue from womb to the grave. After birth, the infant begins to learn from his mother. Then gradually it learns from the family community and the other members of the society.


‘Learning’ is synonymous to education, i.e., learning process is a part of educational process. A question arises here that when the outside environment can educate the child, what is the need of sending him to school ? In this connection it may be noted that family, community, society and environment are all educational institutions which continue to educate him since birth. But formal and planned education is given in schools only.

The education given by the above institutions is a natural process which is received by every person according to his aptitude and capability. So they do not influence all equally. They only prepare the necessary background for formal education in schools. The basis of their education is imitation, while education in schools is based on instruction, experimentation and practice.

These institutions continued to impart education till the schools were established. But with the development of civilization, the previously simple and limited life of man became more and more complex. And today when man is making newer inventions with his efforts and he has controlled a large part of nature, family, society and other institutions cannot fulfil even a small portion of educational needs.

Today man requires a systematic and planned education which should continue throughout the life in one form or the other. Only then he will be able to get acquainted with the latest human achievements. Looking to the extensive field of education it is necessary that a very skilful method is adopted to acquaint one with the human achievements and experiences.

The division of the whole educational material into subject topics, parts and classes is a part of this method but even this work requires several precautions.

Firstly, the entire educational material should be condensed and divided into subjects.

Secondly, subjects and subject-matter should be selected on the basis of age, ability, capability and intelligence of students.

Thirdly, those imparting education, i.e., the teachers should have sufficient ability and knowledge, enthusiasm and tolerance.

Fourthly, the society and nation should bear the responsibility of providing schools and teachers proper atmosphere.

Besides these, there are several other precautions which will be discussed elsewhere. Briefly, education means all those provisions that are needed to acquaint the child with human achievements. The search by man started with the discovery of fire and today he is exploring stars and planets. The credit for these speedy successes goes to education.

Definitions of Education

Education has been derived from the Latin word ‘Educere‘ which means ‘to bring up‘ or ‘to develop‘. So the basic meaning of education is ‘to develop‘, i.e., development of children. It indicates a kind of developmental process. In the beginning education meant gaining of knowledge. Even to-day some people give more importance to knowledge than to education. This is not proper. Education as communication of education alone will mean delimiting the scope of education.

Education is a process and knowledge is only its achievement. Apart from these, education is also concerned with the beliefs, values and ideals of life. It is a skill which a person can obtain by practice. It also includes acquaintance with human experiences. So from practical point of view, there is a difference between knowledge and skill, information and knowledge and accordingly education and knowledge.

In any definition, it is not fair to give them equal status. Knowledge is only a level of achievement or an aspect of education. Educationists have defined education differently.

According to Plato, education is a system which guides the youth to proper logical discourses supported by rules and regulations accepted on the basis of preceding generations.

Plato’s worthy disciple Aristotle has recognized education as a social and practical art. According to him it is a part of politics. Since it is equally interesting to all, its training should be common for all children and its organization should be the responsibility of the State. For Whitehead education is a system which is present in logic, art, literature and science. Education is the highest achievement of a human mind and it is the highest form of morality and is based on the appreciation of a direct and easily comprehensible predetermined aim.

John Dewey has defined education in an elaborate and unambiguous way which will be described elsewhere in this book. Briefly, according to him, like the process of life, education is also a process, but it is. different from the process of preparation for future life. It is a gradual repetition of experiences and feelings.

The definitions given by Indian educationists have their own uniqueness. In Upanishads, education has been considered beyond definition. According to them, the nature of education is unspeakable. So it cannot be expressed. In them, education has been recognized as an abstract thing which can only be felt but not expressed, which gets managed without any management, which is without any system and yet is systematic. Thus in the Upanishads education has been regarded as a part of life-activity.

In the Gita, the knowledge of the Brahma or knowledge of the soul has been termed as education. It emphasises ‘Karma’, particularly “Nishkam Karma’ and that is the aim of education.

In Buddhist philosophy, the search for truth and making of moral virtues practical, has been advocated as the principal aim of education, According to it, the purpose of education should not only be to make an individual educated or learned but it should equip him with the highest ability so that he may be capable of achieving the knowledge of not only this world but of the whole universe.

It is clear from the above discussion that the Indian tradition is not in favour of confining the definition of education to teaching and learning alone. Here the definition emphasizes thinking, meditation and research etc., and also includes knowledge of Brahma, knowledge of the universe and knowledge of the self. The definitions of modern educationists reflect these thoughts.

According to Sarojini Naidu education should be conducted in the above background and should be attached to mental virtues. It is expected that education will help the individual in finding an original and real method of self-expression and will create a true zeal in him.

According to Dr. S. Radhakrishnan, along with possession of knowledge and efficiency, education should include programmes related to cultural values, community and social responsibilities in order that different scientists and persons getting technical training may be acquainted with their duties and responsibilities.

According to Vinoba Bhave, a person should be educated through activities of life alone because education through any other means being incomprehensible, will be uninteresting and may have evil effects.

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