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Theoretical and Practical Critiques of Conventional Education

Feb 24, 2023 | 0 comments

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Feb 24, 2023 | Essays | 0 comments

Currently, education is highly valued thus prioritized by most societies judging from the numerous establishments of learning institutions and emphasis on the need to educate societal members especially the young. Education is the societal focal aspect largely supported and accepted. However, some ideologists tend to question the relevance of the largely used conventional education system in relation to its aims, adopted teaching process and relevance. This paper discuses the concept of education from the perspective of three theorist, Paulo Freire, Jane Martin and Joel Spring who tend to criticize education based on its failure to attain freedom, being based on theoretical knowledge and human capital ideology, respectively, that have jeopardized the attainment of fundamental aim of education which they believe is enhance the development of a person through critical thinking and practical skills.

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Paulo Freire’s Concept of Education

Freire believes the fundamental role of education to assists people gain freedom from oppressive, assumed societal ideologies that create socioeconomic classes. Education is supposed to help people critically evaluate the concept of reality as they discover their own ways of dealing with it. Freire further argues that education’ aim is to help people fully maximize their potential by creating a conducive, learning environment where they can freely realize ways of actively contributing to the transformation of the world which he maintains that has not been achieved as implied by Freire (2000).
Freire (2000) claims the existing education system ignores the learners’ role in co-creating knowledge in the teaching strategy which he suggests can be achieved through teacher-student dialogue. He claims the system confine students’ scope of knowledge to receiving, memorizing and repeating content. Freire associates the poor learning system that perceive students as objects- void vessels that needs to be filled with knowledge- with the notion that education is to be acquired and accumulated instead of questioned, tested, produced and used.
Freire (2000) argues that the education goals have been jeopardized by an irrelevant system that is inclined towards reproduction and retaining of capitalist notions that focus on preserving inequality and social division of labor thus widening the economic status gap. In addition, he views education as a mechanism of manipulative aimed at shaping people and the society by incorporating individuals into the logic of the existing system in order to validate its existence thus upholding and justifying social oppression.

Jane Martin’s Concept of Education

Jane Martin beliefs education’s major purpose is to arm individuals with practical skills and knowledge that enable them to independently define and pursue their own dreams as well as actively participate in various community activities. She advocates for education to focus on action and caring as she attempts to redefine the conservative definition of the ideal educated person that is based on intellectual development to a person able to defend and practice his/her gained skills. Moreover, Martin argues that education’s role is to aid in the better overall development of an individual, both body and intellect as indicated by Martin (1986).
Martin argues that basing education on academic knowledge which is the existing educational focal strategy disadvantages learners. Relying on theoretical knowledge as the core of learning and a true account of reality has contributed to only intellectual skills development that is inadequate since it creates spectators of democracy thus making democracy an illusion as explained by Martin (1986). Martin further claims that creation of uncaring and idle human beings is contributed over emphasis on curriculum content rather than aims of education as it has resulted to knowledgeable people incapable of action. In response, she suggests the establishment of a strategy that incorporates both the mind and the body in the learning process to aid seal the wedge between thought and action as well as reason and emotion in order to foster a better individual well equipped with practical skills.

Joel Spring’s Concept of Education

The key purpose of education according to Spring (1998) is to promote patriotism, nationalism and active democratic citizenship. He believes in fostering independent, innovative and proactive citizens who respects, values and participates fully in the nation’s growth through education. Spring claims the current education system as been shaped by politics and commerce with concept of education perceived and practiced from human capital point of view. The education policies are constructed based on the attainment of economic development to an extent the stress on school attendance is based on job solution and a better socioeconomic future. With schools flocking with students attracted by the human capital beliefs of education, Spring looks into the relevance of the system in the modern world pointing out the significant decline in the value of education attributed to inappropriate curriculum. The current standardized mode of teachers and students performance evaluation is test oriented; placing emphasis on mastering and repeating content rather than in the actual learning process of critical evaluation content developing of new ideas thus contributing greatly to low quality education as explicated by Spring (1998). He proposes establishment of a teaching model that bases evaluation on an individual’s capabilities.
Education is the means by which students become better productive members of the society. Through education, students are able to discover and exploit their potential for their own benefit and that of the society as they seek to actively participate in transforming the dynamic world. Education offers individuals with the opportunity to improve their world by critically analyzing other people’s ideas instead of accepting their current situation as affirmed by Newton (2007). It is true that education strains other sectors of the economy like vocational as the focus has shifted to attainment of higher education thus emphasis on white color jobs and preservation the inappropriate traditional aim of education.

In conclusion, the three philosophers tend to be in agreement regarding the misconceptions associated with education goals in the existing system with Freire believing that education is an instrument of freedom. Martin on the other hand thinks the purpose of education is to nurture active human beings and Spring claims education’s purpose is helping student discover their potential. They all criticize the education system arguing that it does not fully meets its obligation blaming inappropriate curriculum and poor learning strategies. Freire attributing education ineffectiveness with the learning system that he associates with a bank model suggesting a dialogue mode, Martin condemning the overreliance on theoretical knowledge championing for practical skills and Spring claiming it is test oriented.


Freire, P. (2000). Pedagogy of the oppressed. New York: Continuum.
Martin, J.R. (1986).Redefining the Educated Person: Rethinking the Significance of Gender. Educational Researcher.doi:10.3102/0013189X015006006A
Newton, P.E. (2007). Clarifying the purposes of educational assessment. Assessment in Education: Principles, Policy & Practice.doi:10.1080/09695940701478321
Spring, J.H.(1998). Conflict of interests: The politics of American education. Boston, MA:McGraw-Hill.

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