To find the answer to the question of intent, my initial instinct was to look at how education is measured globally. The annual OECD Education at a Glance report was quite helpful. It “provide[s] information on the human and financial resources invested in education […] and on the returns to educational investments” and is used by European and American governments to justify their education policies. Accordingly, one might reasonably conclude that:
The underlying intent of education is to increase the economic prosperity of the society (and consequently increase the tax or revenue base of its political representation).
At that point, I realized that the above answer to the question probably doesn’t tell the whole story. I wasn’t satisfied.
My next step was to consider the defining characteristics of education. This is tricky, because education philosophy offers more than a dozen paradigms to choose from. Because of its simplicity I was drawn to Kant’s proposition that: “Education differs from training in that the latter involves thinking whereas the former does not.” In my view, it follows that education is a teaching technique that requires the learners to think. This yielded the insight that there are actually multiple perspectives to consider when looking at intent. Even on the most basic level there is the intent of the teacher and the intent of the learner. In reality, there are multiple additional actors (e.g. governing bodies, industry, infrastructure providers).
By thinking about the various actors in the system, it becomes easier to answer the question of intent. Each actor in the education system has its own intent. Therefore a discussion about the Future of Education should be guided by first identifying the relevant actors, their motives, and their relations (basic system thinking).
Having formed my basic framework to tackle the question of intent, I’ll use it in the next blog entry to share with you my opinion on learners’ intent.