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Education is the transmission of

mental states
and qualities of educated individuals and the academic field studying educational phenomena.

The precise definition of education is disputed, and there are disagreements about the

aims of education and the extent to which education differs from indoctrination by fostering critical thinking. These disagreements impact how to identify, measure, and enhance various forms of education. Essentially, education socializes children into society by instilling cultural values and norms, equipping them with the skills necessary to become productive members of society. In doing so, it stimulates economic growth and raises awareness of local and global problems. Organized institutions play a significant role in education. For instance, governments establish education policies to determine the timing of school classes, the curriculum, and attendance requirements. International organizations, such as UNESCO, have been influential in promoting primary education for all children

Many factors influence the success of education. Psychological factors include motivation, intelligence, and personality. Social factors, such as socioeconomic status, ethnicity, and gender, are often associated with discrimination. Other factors encompass access to educational technology, teacher quality, and parental involvement.

The primary academic field examining education is known as

economics of education. Additionally, it explores topics such as comparative education, pedagogy, and the history of education


civilizations, the invention of writing led to an expansion of knowledge, prompting a transition from informal to formal education. Initially, formal education was largely accessible to elites and religious groups. The advent of the printing press in the 15th century facilitated widespread access to books, thus increasing general literacy. In the 18th and 19th centuries, public education gained significance, paving the way for the global movement to provide primary education to all, free of charge, and compulsory
up to a certain age. Presently, over 90% of primary-school-age children worldwide attend primary school.


The term "education" originates from the Latin words educare, meaning "to bring up," and educere, meaning "to bring forth."[1] The definition of education has been explored by theorists from various fields.[2] Many agree that education is a purposeful activity aimed at achieving goals like the transmission of knowledge, skills, and character traits.[3] However, extensive debate surrounds its precise nature beyond these general features. One approach views education as a process occurring during events such as schooling, teaching, and learning.[4] Another perspective perceives education not as a process but as the mental states and dispositions of educated individuals resulting from this process.[5] Furthermore, the term may also refer to the academic field that studies the methods, processes, and social institutions involved in teaching and learning.[6] Having a clear understanding of the term is crucial when attempting to identify educational phenomena, measure educational success, and improve educational practices.[7]

Some theorists provide precise definitions by identifying specific features exclusive to all forms of education. Education theorist

R. S. Peters, for instance, outlines three essential features of education, including imparting knowledge and understanding to the student, ensuring the process is beneficial, and conducting it in a morally appropriate manner.[8] While such precise definitions often characterize the most typical forms of education effectively, they face criticism because less common types of education may occasionally fall outside their parameters.[9] Dealing with counterexamples not covered by precise definitions can be challenging, which is why some theorists prefer offering less exact definitions based on family resemblance instead. This approach suggests that all forms of education are similar to each other but need not share a set of essential features common to all.[10] Some education theorists, such as Keira Sewell and Stephen Newman, argue that the term "education" is context-dependent.[a][11]

objectives,[15] which may encompass acquiring knowledge, learning to think rationally, and cultivating character traits such as kindness and honesty.[16]

Various scholars emphasize the importance of critical thinking in distinguishing education from indoctrination.[17] They argue that indoctrination focuses solely on instilling beliefs in students, regardless of their rationality;[18] whereas education also encourages the rational ability to critically examine and question those beliefs.[19] However, it is not universally accepted that these two phenomena can be clearly distinguished, as some forms of indoctrination may be necessary in the early stages of education when the child's mind is not yet fully developed. This is particularly relevant in cases where young children must learn certain things without comprehending the underlying reasons, such as specific safety rules and hygiene practices.[20]

Education can be characterized from both the teacher's and the student's perspectives. Teacher-centered definitions emphasize the perspective and role of the teacher in transmitting knowledge and skills in a

morally appropriate manner.[21] On the other hand, student-centered definitions analyze education based on the student's involvement in the learning process, suggesting that this process transforms and enriches their subsequent experiences.[22] It's also possible to consider definitions that incorporate both perspectives. In this approach, education is seen as a process of shared experience, involving the discovery of a common world and the collaborative solving of problems.[23]


There are several classifications of education. One classification depends on the institutional framework, distinguishing between formal, non-formal, and informal education. Another classification involves different levels of education based on factors such as the student's age and the complexity of the content. Further categories focus on the topic, teaching method, medium used, and funding.[24]

Formal, non-formal, and informal

Photo of a man tutoring two children
Photo of father and daughter cooking
Tutoring exemplifies non-formal education, whereas learning how to cook from one's parents falls under informal education.

The most common division is between

non-formal, and informal education.[25][c] Formal education occurs within a structured institutional framework, typically with a chronological and hierarchical order. The modern schooling system organizes classes based on the student's age and progress, ranging from primary school to university. Formal education is usually overseen and regulated by the government and often mandated up to a certain age.[27]

Non-formal and informal education occur outside the formal schooling system, with non-formal education serving as a middle ground. Like formal education, non-formal education is organized, systematic, and pursued with a clear purpose, as seen in activities such as tutoring, fitness classes, and participation in the scouting movement.[28] Informal education, on the other hand, occurs in an unsystematic manner through daily experiences and exposure to the environment. Unlike formal and non-formal education, there is typically no designated authority figure responsible for teaching.[29] Informal education unfolds in various settings and situations throughout one's life, often spontaneously, such as children learning their first language from their parents or individuals mastering cooking skills by preparing a dish together.[30]

Some theorists differentiate between the three types based on the learning environment: formal education occurs within schools, non-formal education takes place in settings not regularly frequented, such as museums, and informal education unfolds in the context of everyday routines.[31] Additionally, there are disparities in the source of motivation. Formal education tends to be propelled by extrinsic motivation, driven by external rewards. Conversely, in non-formal and informal education, intrinsic motivation, stemming from the enjoyment of the learning process, typically prevails.[32] While the differentiation among the three types is generally clear, certain forms of education may not neatly fit into a single category.[33]

In primitive cultures, education predominantly occurred informally, with little distinction between educational activities and other daily endeavors. Instead, the entire environment served as a classroom, and adults commonly assumed the role of educators. However, informal education often proves insufficient for imparting large quantities of knowledge. To address this limitation, formal educational settings and trained instructors are typically necessary. This necessity contributed to the increasing significance of formal education throughout history. Over time, formal education led to a shift towards more abstract learning experiences and topics, distancing itself from daily life. There was a greater emphasis on understanding general principles and concepts rather than simply observing and imitating specific behaviors.[34]


Photo of a kindergarten lesson in Japan
Children in a Japanese kindergarten

Types of education are often categorized into different levels or stages. One influential framework is the

United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO). This classification encompasses both formal and non-formal education and distinguishes levels based on factors such as the student's age, the duration of learning, and the complexity of the content covered. Additional criteria include entry requirements, teacher qualifications, and the intended outcome of successful completion. The levels are grouped into early childhood education (level 0), primary education (level 1), secondary education (levels 2–3), post-secondary non-tertiary education (level 4), and tertiary education (levels 5–8).[35]

Early childhood education, also referred to as

preschool education or nursery education, encompasses the period from birth until the commencement of primary school. It is designed to facilitate holistic child development, addressing physical, mental, and social aspects. Early childhood education is pivotal in fostering socialization and personality development, while also imparting fundamental skills in communication, learning, and problem-solving. Its overarching goal is to prepare children for the transition to primary education.[36] While preschool education is typically optional, in certain countries such as Brazil, it is mandatory starting from the age of four.[37]

Photo of early childhood education in Ethiopia
Primary school classroom in Ethiopia

Primary (or elementary) education usually begins between the ages of five and seven and spans four to seven years. It has no additional entry requirements and aims to impart fundamental skills in reading, writing, and mathematics. Additionally, it provides essential knowledge in subjects such as

sciences, music, and art. Another objective is to facilitate personal development.[38] Presently, primary education is compulsory in nearly all nations, with over 90% of primary-school-age children worldwide attending such schools.[39]

Secondary education succeeds primary education and typically spans the ages of 12 to 18 years. It is normally divided into lower secondary education (such as

vocational training.[40] Lower secondary education is compulsory in numerous countries across Central and East Asia, Europe, and the Americas. In some nations, it represents the final phase of compulsory education. However, mandatory lower secondary education is less common in Arab states, sub-Saharan Africa, and South and West Asia.[41]

A high school senior (twelfth grade) classroom in the United States

Upper secondary education typically commences around the age of 15, aiming to equip students with the necessary skills and knowledge for employment or tertiary education. Completion of lower secondary education is normally a prerequisite. The curriculum encompasses a broader range of subjects, often affording students the opportunity to select from various options. Attainment of a formal qualification, such as a high school diploma, is frequently linked to successful completion of upper secondary education.[42] Education beyond the secondary level may fall under the category of post-secondary non-tertiary education, which is akin to secondary education in complexity but places greater emphasis on vocational training to ready students for the workforce.[43]

Saint Petersburg State Polytechnical University
, Russia

In some countries, tertiary education is synonymous with

dissertation. More advanced levels include post-doctoral studies and habilitation.[49]

Successful completion of formal education typically leads to certification, a prerequisite for advancing to higher levels of education and entering certain professions. Undetected cheating during exams, such as utilizing a cheat sheet, poses a threat to this system by potentially certifying unqualified students.[50]

In most countries, primary and secondary education is provided free of charge. However, there are significant global disparities in the cost of tertiary education. Some countries, such as Sweden, Finland, Poland, and Mexico, offer tertiary education for free or at a low cost. Conversely, in nations like the United States and Singapore, tertiary education often comes with high

developing countries, as their families may struggle to cover school fees, purchase uniforms, and buy textbooks.[52]


The academic literature explores various types of education, including traditional and alternative approaches. Traditional education encompasses long-standing and conventional schooling methods, characterized by teacher-centered instruction within a structured school environment. Regulations govern various aspects, such as the curriculum and class schedules.[53]

Image of a homeschooling lesson
Homeschooling represents one form of alternative education.

Alternative education serves as an umbrella term for schooling methods that diverge from the conventional traditional approach. These variances might encompass differences in the learning environment, curriculum content, or the dynamics of the teacher-student relationship. Characteristics of alternative schooling include voluntary enrollment, relatively modest class and school sizes, and customized instruction, fostering a more inclusive and emotionally supportive environment. This category encompasses various forms, such as

Montessori schools, Waldorf education, Round Square schools, Escuela Nueva schools, free schools, and democratic schools.[54] Alternative education encompasses indigenous education, which emphasizes the preservation and transmission of knowledge and skills rooted in indigenous heritage. This approach often employs traditional methods such as oral narration and storytelling.[55] Other forms of alternative schooling include gurukul schools in India,[56] madrasa schools in the Middle East,[57] and yeshivas in Jewish tradition.[58]

Some distinctions revolve around the recipients of education. Categories based on the age of the learner are childhood education, adolescent education, adult education, and elderly education.

disabilities, addressing various impairments on intellectual, social, communicative, and physical levels. Its goal is to overcome the challenges posed by these impairments, providing affected students with access to an appropriate educational structure. In the broadest sense, special education also encompasses education for intellectually gifted children, who require adjusted curricula to reach their fullest potential.[61]

Classifications based on the teaching method include teacher-centered education, where the teacher plays a central role in imparting information to students, and student-centered education, where students take on a more active and responsible role in shaping classroom activities.[62] In conscious education, learning and teaching occur with a clear purpose in mind. Unconscious education unfolds spontaneously without conscious planning or guidance.[63] This may occur, in part, through the influence of teachers' and adults' personalities, which can indirectly impact the development of students' personalities.[64] Evidence-based education employs scientific studies to determine the most effective educational methods. Its aim is to optimize the effectiveness of educational practices and policies by ensuring they are grounded in the best available empirical evidence. This encompasses evidence-based teaching, evidence-based learning, and school effectiveness research.[65]

lifelong education, which entails continuous learning throughout one's life.[67]

Categories of education based on the subject encompass

art education, religious education, physical education, and sex education.[68] Special mediums such as radio or websites are utilized in distance education, including e-learning (use of computers), m-learning (use of mobile devices), and online education. Often, these take the form of open education, wherein courses and materials are accessible with minimal barriers, contrasting with traditional classroom or onsite education. However, not all forms of online education are open; for instance, some universities offer full online degree programs that are not part of open education initiatives.[69]

State education, also known as

private education is funded and managed by private institutions. Private schools often have a more selective admission process and offer paid education by charging tuition fees.[71] A more detailed classification focuses on the social institutions responsible for education, such as family, school, civil society, state, and church.[72]

Compulsory education refers to education that individuals are legally mandated to receive, primarily affecting children who must attend school up to a certain age. This stands in contrast to voluntary education, which individuals pursue based on personal choice rather than legal obligation.[73]

Role in society

Photo of a medical researcher
Highly specialized professionals, such as medical researchers, often undergo extensive education to master their fields and make significant contributions to society.

Education serves various roles in

civic participation through voting and organizing, while also promoting equal opportunities for all.[74]

On an economic level, individuals become productive members of society through education, acquiring the technical and analytical skills necessary for their professions, as well as for producing goods and providing services to others. In early societies, there was minimal specialization, with children typically learning a broad range of skills essential for community functioning. However, modern societies are increasingly complex, with many professions requiring specialized training alongside general education. Consequently, only a relatively small number of individuals master certain professions. Additionally, skills and tendencies acquired for societal functioning may sometimes conflict, with their value dependent on context. For instance, fostering curiosity and questioning established teachings promotes critical thinking and innovation, while at times, obedience to authority is necessary to maintain social stability.[75]

By facilitating individuals' integration into society, education fosters

delayed marriage.[79]

Education plays a pivotal role in equipping a country to adapt to changes and effectively confront new challenges. It raises awareness and contributes to addressing

massive open online courses to prepare individuals for emerging challenges and opportunities.[85]

On a more individual level, education fosters

healthcare services.[87] The social significance of education is underscored by the annual International Day of Education on January 24, established by the United Nations, which designated 1970 as the International Education Year.[88]

Role of institutions

Chinese Ministry of Education
influence numerous aspects of public education.

Organized institutions play a pivotal role in multiple facets of education. Entities such as schools, universities,

healthcare professionals, law enforcement agencies, media platforms, and political leaders. Numerous individuals are directly engaged in the education sector, such as students, teachers, school principals, as well as school nurses and curriculum developers.[89]

Various aspects of formal education are regulated by the

Photo of the headquarters of UNESCO
International organizations, such as UNESCO, have wielded significant influence in shaping educational standards and policies worldwide.

Education for All initiative aimed to provide basic education to all children, adolescents, and adults by 2015, later succeeded by the Sustainable Development Goals initiative, particularly goal 4.[94] Related policies include the Convention against Discrimination in Education and the Futures of Education initiative.[95]

Some influential organizations are non-governmental rather than intergovernmental. For instance, the International Association of Universities promotes collaboration and knowledge exchange among colleges and universities worldwide, while the International Baccalaureate offers international diploma programs.[96] Institutions like the Erasmus Programme facilitate student exchanges between countries,[97] while initiatives such as the Fulbright Program provide similar services for teachers.[98]

Factors of educational success

Educational success, also referred to as student and academic achievement, pertains to the extent to which educational objectives are met, such as the acquisition of knowledge and skills by students. For practical purposes, it is often primarily measured in terms of official exam scores, but numerous additional indicators exist, including

incarceration rates.[99] Several factors influence educational achievement, such as psychological factors related to the individual student, and sociological factors associated with the student's social environment. Additional factors encompass access to educational technology, teacher quality, and parental involvement. Many of these factors overlap and mutually influence each other.[100]


On a psychological level, relevant factors include motivation, intelligence, and personality.[101] Motivation is the internal force propelling people to engage in learning.[102] Motivated students are more likely to interact with the content to be learned by participating in classroom activities like discussions, resulting in a deeper understanding of the subject. Motivation can also help students overcome difficulties and setbacks. An important distinction lies between intrinsic and extrinsic motivation. Intrinsically motivated students are driven by an interest in the subject and the learning experience itself. Extrinsically motivated students seek external rewards such as good grades and recognition from peers. Intrinsic motivation tends to be more beneficial, leading to increased creativity, engagement, and long-term commitment.[103] Educational psychologists aim to discover methods to increase motivation, such as encouraging healthy competition among students while maintaining a balance of positive and negative feedback through praise and constructive criticism.[104]

Intelligence significantly influences individuals' responses to education. It is a cognitive trait associated with the capacity to learn from experience, comprehend, and apply knowledge and skills to solve problems. Individuals with higher scores in intelligence metrics typically perform better academically and pursue higher levels of education.

IQ, a standardized numerical measure assessing intelligence based on mathematical-logical and verbal abilities. However, it has been argued that intelligence encompasses various types beyond IQ. Psychologist Howard Gardner posited distinct forms of intelligence in domains such as mathematics, logic, spatial cognition, language, and music. Additional types of intelligence influence interpersonal and intrapersonal interactions. These intelligences are largely autonomous, meaning that an individual may excel in one type while performing less well in another.[106]

A closely related factor concerns


Sociological factors center not on the psychological attributes of learners but on their environment and societal position. These factors encompass

cultural background, and gender, drawing significant interest from researchers due to their association with inequality and discrimination. Consequently, they play a pivotal role in policy-making endeavors aimed at mitigating their impact.[110]

Socioeconomic status is influenced by factors beyond just

student loans further exacerbate the situation. Low socioeconomic status is also associated with poorer physical and mental health, contributing to a cycle of social inequality that persists across generations.[111]

Ethnic background correlates with cultural distinctions and language barriers, which can pose challenges for students in adapting to the school environment and comprehending classes. Moreover, explicit and implicit biases and discrimination against

racist, leading to differential grading of comparable performances based on a child's ethnicity.[112]

Historically, gender has played a pivotal role in education as societal norms dictated distinct roles for men and women. Education traditionally favored men, who were tasked with providing for the family, while women were expected to manage households and care for children, often limiting their access to education. Although these disparities have improved in many modern societies,

gender differences persist in education. This includes biases and stereotypes related to gender roles in various academic domains, notably in fields such as science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM), which are often portrayed as male-dominated. Such perceptions can deter female students from pursuing these subjects.[113] In various instances, discrimination based on gender and social factors occurs openly as part of official educational policies, such as the severe restrictions imposed on female education by the Taliban in Afghanistan,[114] and the school segregation of migrants and locals in urban China under the hukou system.[115]

One facet of several social factors is characterized by the expectations linked to stereotypes. These expectations operate externally, influenced by how others respond to individuals belonging to specific groups, and internally, shaped by how individuals internalize and conform to them. In this regard, these expectations can manifest as

self-fulfilling prophecies by affecting the educational outcomes they predict. Such outcomes may be influenced by both positive and negative stereotypes.[116]

Technology and others

Technology plays a crucial role in educational success. While educational technology is often linked with modern digital devices such as computers, its scope extends far beyond that. It encompasses a diverse array of resources and tools for learning, including traditional aids like books and worksheets, in addition to digital devices.[117]

Photo of a group of children being introduced to a laptop
Introducing children in Haiti to a One Laptop per Child device.

Educational technology can enhance learning in various ways. In the form of media, it often serves as the primary source of information in the classroom, allowing teachers to allocate their time and energy to other tasks such as lesson planning, student guidance, and performance assessment.

data privacy, misinformation, and manipulation.[120] Various organizations advocate for student access to educational technologies, including initiatives such as the One Laptop per Child initiative, the African Library Project, and Pratham.[121]

School infrastructure also plays a crucial role in educational success. It encompasses physical aspects such as the school's location, size, and available facilities and equipment. A healthy and safe environment, well-maintained classrooms, appropriate classroom furniture, as well as access to a library and a canteen, all contribute to fostering educational success.[122] Additionally, the quality of teachers significantly impacts student achievement. Skilled teachers possess the ability to motivate and inspire students, and tailor instructions to individual abilities and needs. Their skills depend on their own education, training, and teaching experience.[123] A meta-analysis by Engin Karadağ et al. concludes that, compared to other influences, factors related to the school and the teacher have the greatest impact on educational success.[124]

Parent involvement also enhances achievement and can increase children's motivation and commitment when they know their parents are invested in their educational endeavors. This often results in heightened self-esteem, improved attendance rates, and more positive behavior at school. Parent involvement covers communication with teachers and other school staff to raise awareness of current issues and explore potential resolutions.[125] Other relevant factors, occasionally addressed in academic literature, encompass historical, political, demographic, religious, and legal aspects.[126]

Education studies

Photo of the cover of the title page of John Locke's 1693 book "Some Thoughts Concerning Education"
John Locke's book Some Thoughts Concerning Education from 1693 is a foundational work in education studies.[127]

The primary field exploring education is known as education studies, also termed education sciences. It seeks to understand how knowledge is transmitted and acquired by examining various methods and forms of education. This discipline delves into the goals, impacts, and significance of education, along with the cultural, societal, governmental, and historical contexts that influence it.[128] Education theorists draw insights from various disciplines, including philosophy, psychology, sociology, economics, history, politics, and international relations. Consequently, some argue that education studies lacks the clear methodological and subject delineations found in disciplines like physics or history.[129] Education studies focuses on academic analysis and critical reflection and differs in this respect from teacher training programs, which show participants how to become effective teachers. Furthermore, it encompasses not only formal education but also explores all forms and facets of educational processes.[130]


sample size and seeks to gain a nuanced insight into subjective and personal factors, such as individuals' experiences within the educational process. Mixed-methods research aims to integrate data gathered from both approaches to achieve a balanced and comprehensive understanding. Data collection methods vary and may include direct observation, test scores, interviews, and questionnaires.[131] Research projects may investigate fundamental factors influencing all forms of education or focus on specific applications, seek solutions to particular problems, or evaluate the effectiveness of educational initiatives and policies.[132]


Education studies encompasses various subfields such as

economics, and history of education.[133] The philosophy of education is the branch of applied philosophy that examines many of the fundamental assumptions underlying the theory and practice of education. It explores education both as a process and a discipline while seeking to provide precise definitions of its nature and distinctions from other phenomena. Additionally, it delves into the purpose of education, its various types, and the conceptualization of teachers, students, and their relationship.[134] Furthermore, it encompasses educational ethics, which examines the moral implications of education, such as the ethical principles guiding it and how teachers should apply them to specific situations. The philosophy of education boasts a long history and was a subject of discourse in ancient Greek philosophy.[135]

The term "pedagogy" is sometimes used interchangeably with education studies, but in a more specific sense, it refers to the subfield focused on

character traits, can be achieved.[137] Pedagogy is concerned with the methods and techniques employed in teaching within conventional educational settings. While some definitions confine it to this context, in a broader sense, it encompasses all forms of education, including teaching methods beyond traditional school environments.[138] In this broader context, it explores how teachers can facilitate learning experiences for students to enhance their understanding of the subject matter and how learning itself occurs.[139]

The psychology of education delves into the mental processes underlying learning, focusing on how individuals acquire new knowledge and skills and experience personal development. It investigates the various factors influencing educational outcomes, how these factors vary among individuals, and the extent to which

neuropsychological processes and changes associated with learning.[141]

The field of sociology of education delves into how education shapes socialization, examining how social factors and

conflict theory. Consensus theorists posit that education benefits society by preparing individuals for their societal roles, while conflict theorists view education as a tool employed by the ruling class to perpetuate inequalities.[143]

The field of economics of education investigates the production, distribution, and consumption of education. It seeks to optimize resource allocation to enhance education, such as assessing the impact of increased teacher salaries on teacher quality. Additionally, it explores the effects of smaller class sizes and investments in new educational technologies. By providing insights into resource allocation, the economics of education aids policymakers in making decisions that maximize societal benefits. Furthermore, it examines the long-term economic implications of education, including its role in fostering a highly skilled workforce and enhancing national competitiveness. A related area of interest involves analyzing the economic advantages and disadvantages of different educational systems.[144]

World map showing the Education Index of 2007/2008
Comparative education utilizes tools like the Education Index to compare educational systems across various countries. High-scoring countries are depicted in green, while low-scoring ones are shown in red.

Comparative education is the discipline that examines and contrasts education systems. Comparisons can occur from a general perspective or focus on specific factors like social, political, or economic aspects. Often applied to different countries, comparative education assesses the similarities and differences of their

authoritarian regimes to democracies.[147]

The history of education delves into the evolution of educational practices, systems, and institutions. It explores various key processes, their potential causes and effects, and their interrelations.[148]

Aims and ideologies

Propaganda poster in a primary school in North Korea
Propaganda poster in a primary school in North Korea. Authoritarian regimes frequently employ education as a tool for indoctrinating students.[149][150]

A central topic in education studies revolves around how people should be educated and what goals should guide this process. Various aims have been proposed, including the acquisition of knowledge and skills, personal development, and the cultivation of character traits. Commonly suggested attributes encompass qualities like

religious faith.[151]

Some education theorists concentrate on a single overarching purpose of education, viewing more specific aims as means to this end.[152] At a personal level, this purpose is often equated with assisting the student in leading a good life.[153] Societally, education aims to cultivate individuals into productive members of society.[154] There is debate regarding whether the primary aim of education is to benefit the educated individual or society as a whole.[155]

Educational ideologies encompass systems of fundamental philosophical assumptions and principles utilized to interpret, understand, and assess existing educational practices and policies. They address various aspects beyond the aims of education, including the subjects taught, the structure of learning activities, the role of teachers, methods for assessing educational progress, and the design of institutional frameworks and policies. These ideologies are diverse and often interrelated. Teacher-centered ideologies prioritize the role of teachers in imparting knowledge to students, while student-centered ideologies afford students a more active role in the learning process. Process-based ideologies focus on the methods of teaching and learning, contrasting with product-based ideologies, which consider education in terms of the desired outcomes.

democratic ideologies.[156]

Learning theories

stimulus-response connection. Cognitivism views learning as a transformation in cognitive structures and emphasizes the mental processes involved in encoding, retrieving, and processing information. Constructivism asserts that learning is grounded in the individual's personal experiences and places greater emphasis on social interactions and their interpretation by the learner. These theories carry significant implications for instructional practices. For instance, behaviorists often emphasize repetitive drills, cognitivists may advocate for mnemonic techniques, and constructivists typically employ collaborative learning strategies.[157]

Various theories suggest that learning is more effective when it is based on personal experience. Additionally, aiming for a deeper understanding by connecting new information to pre-existing knowledge is considered more beneficial than simply memorizing a list of unrelated facts.

developmental theory of learning is proposed by psychologist Jean Piaget, who outlines four stages of learning through which children progress on their way to adulthood: the sensorimotor, pre-operational, concrete operational, and formal operational stages. These stages correspond to different levels of abstraction, with early stages focusing more on simple sensory and motor activities, while later stages involve more complex internal representations and information processing, such as logical reasoning.[159]

Teaching methods


methodologies is ensuring that learners remain motivated, either through intrinsic factors like interest and curiosity or through external rewards.[162]

The teaching method also includes the utilization of instructional media, such as books, worksheets, and audio-visual recordings, as well as implementing some form of test or evaluation to gauge learning progress. Educational assessment is the process of documenting the student's knowledge and skills, which can happen formally or informally and may take place before, during, or after the learning activity. Another significant pedagogical element in many modern educational approaches is that each lesson is part of a broader educational framework governed by a syllabus, which often spans several months or years.[163] According to Herbartianism, teaching is broken down into phases. The initial phase involves preparing the student's mind for new information. Subsequently, new ideas are introduced to the learner and then linked to concepts already familiar to them. In later phases, understanding transitions to a more general level beyond specific instances, and the ideas are then applied in practical contexts.[164]


The history of education delves into the processes, methods, and institutions entwined with teaching and learning, aiming to elucidate their interplay and influence on educational practices over time.[165] Education during prehistory primarily facilitated enculturation, emphasizing practical knowledge and skills essential for daily life, such as food production, clothing, shelter, and safety. Formal schools and specialized instructors were absent, with adults in the community assuming teaching roles, and learning transpiring informally through daily activities, including observation and imitation of elders. In oral societies, storytelling served as a pivotal means of transmitting cultural and religious beliefs across generations.[166][e] With the advent of agriculture during the Neolithic Revolution around 9000 BCE, a gradual educational shift toward specialization ensued, driven by the formation of larger communities and the demand for increasingly intricate artisanal and technical skills.[168]

Commencing in the 4th millennium BCE and spanning subsequent eras, a pivotal transformation in educational methodologies unfolded with the

ancient China.[169][f] This breakthrough profoundly influenced the trajectory of education. Writing facilitated the storage, preservation, and dissemination of information, ushering in subsequent advancements such as the creation of educational aids like textbooks and the establishment of institutions such as schools.[171]

Mosaic from Pompeii depicting Plato's Academy
Plato's Academy, depicted in a mosaic from Pompeii, is frequently regarded as the inaugural institution of higher education.

Another significant aspect of ancient education was the establishment of formal education. This became necessary as civilizations evolved and the volume of knowledge expanded, surpassing what informal education could effectively transmit across generations. Teachers assumed specialized roles to impart knowledge, leading to a more abstract educational approach less tied to daily life. Formal education remained relatively rare in ancient societies, primarily accessible to the intellectual elite.

Great Library of Alexandria in Ancient Egypt, renowned as one of the ancient world's premier libraries.[176]

Many facets of education during the medieval period were profoundly influenced by religious traditions. In Europe, the

Al-Qarawiyyin University in Morocco,[183] Al-Azhar University in Egypt,[184] and the House of Wisdom in Iraq.[185] Another significant development was the formation of guilds, associations of skilled craftsmen and merchants who regulated their trades and provided vocational education. Prospective members underwent various stages of training on their journey to mastery.[186]

A woodcut from 1568 showing an old printing press
The invention of the printing press made written media widely available and led to a significant increase in general literacy levels.

Starting in the early modern period, education in Europe during the

Islamic world, the outreach of formal education increased and remained under the influence of religion.[191] A key development in the early modern period was the invention and popularization of the printing press in the middle of the 15th century, which had a profound impact on general education. It significantly reduced the cost of producing books, which were hand-written before, and thereby augmented the dissemination of written documents, including new forms like newspapers and pamphlets. The increased availability of written media had a major influence on the general literacy of the population.[192]

These alterations paved the way for the advancement of public education during the 18th and 19th centuries. This era witnessed the establishment of publicly funded schools with the goal of providing education for all, in contrast to previous periods when formal education was primarily delivered by private schools, religious institutions, and individual tutors.[193] An exception to this trend was the Aztec civilization, where formal education was compulsory for youth across social classes as early as the 14th century.[194] Closely related changes were to make education compulsory and free of charge for all children up to a certain age.[195] The promotion of public education and universal access to education gained momentum in the 20th and 21st centuries, endorsed by intergovernmental organizations such as the UN. Key initiatives included the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the Convention on the Rights of the Child, the Education for All initiative, the Millennium Development Goals, and the Sustainable Development Goals.[196] These endeavors led to a consistent increase in all forms of education, particularly impacting primary education. In 1970, 28% of all primary-school-age children worldwide were not enrolled in school; by 2015, this figure had decreased to 9%.[197]

The establishment of public education was accompanied by the introduction of standardized curricula for public schools as well as standardized tests to assess the progress of students. Contemporary examples are the

non-native English speakers, and the Programme for International Student Assessment, which evaluates education systems across the world based on the performance of 15-year-old students in reading, mathematics, and science. Similar shifts impacted teachers, with the establishment of institutions and norms to regulate and oversee teacher training, including certification mandates for teaching in public schools.[198]

Emerging educational technologies have significantly influenced modern education. The widespread availability of computers and the internet has notably expanded access to educational resources and facilitated new forms of learning, such as online education. This became particularly pertinent during the

video conferencing or pre-recorded video lessons to sustain instruction.[199] Additionally, contemporary education is impacted by the increasing globalization and internationalization of educational practices.[200]

See also



  1. ^ This implies that its meaning varies depending on the situation in which it is used.
  2. ^ A thick concept is a concept that includes both descriptive and evaluative content.[12]
  3. ^ Some theorists only distinguish between formal and informal education.[26]
  4. ^ In some regions, these two terms have different meanings. In the United Kingdom, for example, public schools are run by private institutions and charge fees, while state schools are controlled by the government and provide free education.[70]
  5. ^ Research on prehistoric education often relies on studies of surviving hunting and gathering societies.[167]
  6. ^ There is no consensus on the precise timing of writing's invention, and various forms of proto-writing existed for much longer periods.[170]


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External links