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Friday, January 26, 2018

What is the mission of education (as a human practice)?

What is the mission of education?

Education is an important human practice, and many books offer various views on the matter. The majority of those books, however, are written by scientists and for other scientists – so, thick, complex, too theoretical. Most of the parents, politicians, even teachers and school administrators do not need to have deep philosophical or scientific view on what education is for. A short, clear, operational definition is sufficient. Everyone who wants to develop a scientific view on education can begin from using a simple operational one, and then deepen it to extend which would feel satisfactory.
At least, that is my approach to teaching, which I, as a practicing educator (a.k.a. a practitioner) has been successfully using for many years (
Here it is, my take on the mission of education.
Education is not about knowledge, per se.
The mission (i.e. the reason for existence) of education 
as human practice is to ensure the progress of humanity.

The mission of education as social institution
is enabling people to succeed in life.

The goal of educational institutions 
is to equip people with relevant knowledge and skills.

The main function of educational institutions is Teaching: i.e. guiding students through an arrangement of learning experiences specifically designed for helping students with mastering subjects, acquiring relevant social skills, and feeling good about themselves.
Achieving a success requires doing something, and doing it right, acting, and directing actions toward specific goals; achieving those goals means succeeding. 
It also requires being able to control emotions, especially frustration of making a mistake. That is why "we have to make learning fun" is not the right way to teach.
A person who is capable of achieving various professional goals within a specific profession is called competent. And the set of abilities the competent person has is called professional competence.
No doubt, knowledge is an important part of a professional competence. But knowledge alone is not enough for achieving a professional success.
This understanding of education and its mission leads to a specific view on teaching practice.
Everything a teacher does has to be helping students to obtain abilities needed to succeed in life.
Actions which could impede future student success have to be eliminated from teaching practice.
Of course, the next step in the conversation would be describing various teaching activities and analyzing them in terms of their possible (positive or negative) effect on future success of students.
This conversation, in turn, could stir a discussion about a success, what does it mean, what is required for it, for are the components and indicators of a success.
The common sense, and my own experience, tells us that no single book or a conversation would be enough to cover all important aspects of such matters.
This is one of the reasons why a teacher should never stop learning.
Teacher professional development is a continuous and never-ending process.
Teachers who are consciously involved in a continuous process of professional development are called a “good teacher” (a.k.a. TeachSmith:
Based on many years of my professional experience in the field of teacher professional development, I firmly believe that the quality of public education is directly proportional to the number of “good teachers”. Let’s say, a school district has 14 good teachers, and each good teacher teaches 68 students, in that case the maximum number of students who can count on having good education is 952.
Getting a diploma is just the first step in the long teacher career. Sustainable professional growth requires a systematic self-training. In order to be efficient, that training that needs to be “owned” by a teacher, i.e. the teacher needs to know exactly what he or she needs to get trained.
Currently, the system of teacher professional development for in-service teachers looks like a market place where various groups (providers, tech startups, publishers, etc.) show off their programs or gadgets and teachers choose which to try in order to gain the required amount of PDP. There is no direct correlation between the selected PDP provider and learning outcomes of students of the teachers participated in the professional development activities (PDA).
The absence of this correlation is due to the mostly passive position of teaches toward the PDA (“If I listen to this, I may hear something interesting. Will I use it in my classes? Who knows.”).
Professional development practice based on the Theory of Human Activity overcomes that deficiency. A specific approach called “Professional Designing” ( places at the core of the professional development specific goals of a teacher and builds the professional development process around those goals.
This approach guaranties not only formal professional development, but also advancement in results of teaching due to the achievement of specific (i.e. measurable) professional goals.
We can say, that the mission of a system of teacher professional development is enabling professional success of teachers, and “Professional Designing” is the most efficient approach which fulfills that mission.
If someone preaches “students need fun”, “problems must be world related” just ignore that person – he/she has no idea how learning (hence – teaching) works. Fun and practicality are useless if graduates will lack imagination, cognitive abilities and confidence in themselves. Learning (hence – teaching) has its strict laws, which have to be followed by a teacher who wants to fulfill the mission of K12 education.
The last note is on the subject of such important school subject as mathematics.
STEM education is a topic of many conversations and publications.
Physics, chemistry, biology, and other natural sciences are all bundled together in a single letter, S.
Mathematics has its own designated letter, M, because it is extremely important.
However, as we agreed before, knowledge alone is not enough; students need to be able to use the knowledge they learned. That includes mathematical knowledge.
However, many people do not realize that in order to learn how to use mathematics, students have to step outside of mathematics.
Long story short:
To know mathematics students need to learn mathematics.
To be able to use mathematics students have to learn physics (for starters)!
That is why I have been advocating for teaching physics to all high school students (at least):
Every road has its beginning.
Every evolution has stages and phases.
The birth of a knowledgeable and skillful human follows specific laws, in the same manner like the birth of a human.
Skipping the stages is just impossible.
Alternating the stages will lead to “birth defects”.
For STEM, Computer and Data sciences the road, the evolution, the birth begins with PHYSICS!
Before physics, reading, writing, math, general science leads to a person to be ready to start to study physics.
Then study physics leads to the advanced development of other abilities require to succeed in science.
Because physics is the only science suited as the bridge between abstract matters (math) and real world.
BTW: That is why the NSF needs to have a project with the goal to allow ALL school students to study physics (like it does for computer and data sciences and cyber thinking).
Physics Is the Door into STEM education!
Everyone who pushes for cyber education needs to know, that it only can happen on the top a solid basic education (as described in:
Now I need to disclose a correction.
Every time when I was writing word “education”, I meant K-12 education levels (I did not want to specify this at the time; that could deflect the conversation).
Colleges and universities have a very different mission.
The mission of a higher education is filtering students according to their abilities.
Education is being used as a tool for making that filtering (we may not like it, or even deny it, but that is the truth, that is how it has been designed and is functioning).
This is one of the reasons the spending millions of dollars on “research in higher education”, when the basic public education requires significant reformation, is just not wise (
K-12 education requires intensified research on effective learning and teaching practices, but this research needs to follow a new format (an actual scientific research needs to be separated from programs of social support for students and teachers:

Appendix (added on Feb 10th)
Very often one can read or hear in the media something like this:
“The first job of a teacher is to make students to fall in love with the subject”
“Students have to have fun when learning math”
Those and similar approaches are based on the idea that in order to learn people have to feel good about what they learn.
Those and similar approaches are wrong and basically just primitive.
The mission of a schooling is to help student to succeed in their future life.
Thinking that success does not require struggles, no need to forcing ourselves into doing something we don’t like, that the road to success is always fun and that people only do what they love is – at the least – misleading.
The #1 ability one needs to have in order to succeed in life is ability to propel himself or herself to the goal one wants to achieve. The #1 trait, attribute, “feeling” one needs to have to be able to do that is believing in his or her abilities, or, simple, believing in himself or herself.
Helping students to believe in themselves – this is the #1 job of an actual teacher (or better say, a TeachSmith).
How to do that is also not a mystery – not at all – one can start from following a set of clear and “simple” rules (Laws of TeachOlogy:

Thank you for visiting,
Dr. Valentin Voroshilov
Education Advancement Professionals
To learn more about my professional experience:
Essentials of Teaching Science

The mission (i.e. the reason for existence) of education 
as a human practice is to ensure the progress of humanity.

The mission of education as a social institution
is enabling people to succeed in life.

The goal of educational institutions
is to equip people with relevant knowledge and skills.

The mission (i.e. the reason for existence) of science as a human practice is understanding the world in its entirety (outside and inside human subjects); i.e. developing exact description of the world’s structure and evolution.

The function of a specific science is making reliable predictions in a specific scientific field.

The mission of a scientist as an agent of that practice is discovering truth and presenting it in a testable form.

The mission of a teacher is fostering in students his/her love for learning.

The mission of a science teacher is sharing with students the feeling of pleasure from thinking.

The mission of a mentor is sharing with students the feeling of pleasure from doing the right thing.

The mission of a parent is making children feeling safe, loved, and confident.

The mission of humanity is making world a better place.


P.S. I always include this slide in my first lecture. I believe that students should know the broader vision of what education is about.

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