Ken Robinson: The 4 Basic Purposes of Education

“The” is a definitive word. I could have left it out, and it would have been in character. Part of my motivation is to show my respect for Ken Robinson, whose TED talk was assigned in school and whose book Creative Schools is my reference for this post (and likely more). But mostly, these purposes are highly encompassing and hard to dispute with.

Purpose of Education 1: Economic

“Education should enable students to become economically responsible and independent.”

Just because this is practical does not make it any less (or more) important. As an idealist this is what I neglect most. I find myself lacking a lot in practical knowledge, such as financial and entrepreneurial literacy. Should we work to include more “vocational” courses alongside “academic” ones, perhaps from secondary school level up?

Purpose of Education 2: Cultural

“Education should enable students to understand and appreciate their own cultures and to respect the diversity of others.”

This is, in my mind, what the modern world needs most. Ours is an age of superficial travel. We travel to escape our own cultures and indulge ourselves in tourist spots. We fail to see any culture for what it is. Such self-satisfaction renders us incapable of engaging with reality as it is, setting us up to a failure of empathy for people who look or behave different from what we are used to.

Purpose of Education 3: Social

“Education should enable young people to become active and compassionate citizens.”

Alienated by work and addicted to leisure, we tend to forget that we have roles to play as citizens. Write to your town councils. Talk to your neighbours. Volunteer for causes you believe in. Vote in elections.

Purpose of Education 4: Personal

“Education should enable young people to engage with the world within them as well as the world around them.”

This is what I believe this blog strives to be. Society is a reality we must live through, so it’s imperative that we always find time to work at finding a fit for life’s functions.

Ken Robinson - Creative Schools

[Credit: Flickr]

Moving Forward

How can we go about doing it? We need a critique, a vision, and a theory of change. If these seem like too much work, the least you can do is to follow this blog as I continue to translate ideas from books and academia!


Ken Robinson & Lou Aronica – Creative Schools: The grassroots revolution that’s transforming education. (2016)

Socio Empath

Hi, my name is Eugene. I am a Sociology graduate from the National University of Singapore. This blog is an invitation: To see our selves as colored by cultures, and to brighten the colors of our society. I seek to help you create freedom in everyday life, with empathy and the sociological imagination.

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