contemporary issues and trends in education
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Contemporary Issues & Trends in Education 

Diversity of Aims and Approaches in Education.

Education is a systematic process through which a child or an adult acquires knowledge, experience, skill and sound attitude. It makes an individual civilized, refined, cultured and educated. For a civilized and socialized society, education is the only means. Its goal is to make an individual perfect. Every society gives importance to education because it is a panacea for all evils. It is the key to solve the various problems of life.

Education has been described as a process of waking up to life:

  • Waking up to life and its mysteries, its solvable problems and the ways to solve the problems and celebrate the mysteries of life.

  • Waking up to the inter-dependencies of all things, to the threat to our global village, to the power within the human race to create alternatives, to the obstacles entrenched in economic, social and political structures that prevent our waking up.

  • Education in the broadest sense of the term is meant to aid the human being in his/her pursuit of wholeness. Wholeness implies the harmonious development of all the potentialities God has given to a human person.

  • True education is the harmonious development of the physical, mental, moral (spiritual), and social faculties, the four dimensions of life, for a life of dedicated service. 


Etymologically, the word ‘Education’ has been derived from different Latin words.

  1. a) ‘educare’which means ‘to bring out’or ‘to nourish’.

  2. b) ‘educere’which means ‘to lead out’or ‘to draw out’.

  3. c) ‘educatum’which means ‘act of teaching’ or ‘training’.

  4. d) ‘educatus’ which means‘to bring up, rear, educate’.

  5. e) ‘ēducātiō’ which means “a breeding, a bringing up, a rearing.”

  • The Greek word ‘pedagogy’is sometimes used for education.

  • The most common Indian word ‘shiksha’is derived from the Sanskrit verbal root ‘shas’which means ‘to discipline’, ‘to control’, ‘to instruct’ and ‘to teach’.

  • Similarly the word ‘vidya’is derived from Sanskrit verbal root ‘vid’ which means ‘to know’. Vidya is thus the subject matter of knowledge. This shows that disciplining the mind and imparting knowledge where the foremost considerations in India.

Back in the 1500s, the word education meant “the raising of children,” but it also meant “the training of animals.” While there are probably a few teachers who feel like animal trainers, education these days has come to mean either “teaching” or “the process of acquiring knowledge.”

Definitions of Education

Since time immemorial, education is estimated as the right road to progress and prosperity. Different educationists’ thoughts from both Eastern and Western side have explained the term ‘education’ according to the need of the hour. Various educationists have given their views on education. Some important definitions are:

  1. Mahatma Gandhi– “By education I mean an all-round drawing out of the best in man – body, mind and spirit.”
  2. Rabindranath Tagore– “Education enables the mind to find out the ultimate truth, which gives us the wealth of inner light and love and gives significance to life.”

  3. Zakir Husain– “Education is the process of the individual mind, getting to its full possible development.”

  4. Aristotle –“Education is the creation of sound mind in a sound body.”

  5. Rousseau –“Education is the child’s development from within.”

  6. Herbert Spencer– “Education is complete living.”

  7. Plato– “Education is the capacity to feel pleasure and pain at the right moment.”

  8. Aristotle– “Education is the creation of a sound mind in a sound body.”

  9. Pestalozzi– “Education is natural, harmonious and progressive development of man’s innate powers.”

  10. Froebel -“Education is enfoldment of what is already enfolded in the germ.”

  11. P. Nunn – “Education is the complete development of the individuality of the child.”
  12. John Dewey– “Education is the process of living through a continuous reconstruction of experiences.”

  13. Indira Gandhi– “Education is a liberating force and in our age it is also a democratizing force, cutting across the barriers of caste and class, smoothing out inequalities imposed by birth and other circumstances.”

  14. John Locke said, “Plants are developed by cultivation and men by education”. This world would have been enveloped in intellectual darkness if it had not been illuminated by the light of education. It is right to say that the story of civilization is the story of education. Thus, education is an integral part of human life. It is the basic condition for a development of a whole man and vital instrument For accelerating the wellbeing and prosperity by the light of education.


As is the meaning of education, so is its nature. It is very complex. Let us now discuss the nature of education:

  1. Education is a life-long process-Education is a continuous and lifelong process. It starts from the womb of the mother and continues till death. It is the process of development from infancy to maturity. It includes the effect of everything which influences human personality.

  2. Education is a systematic process-It refers to transact its activities through a systematic institution and regulation.

  3. Education is development of individual and the society-It is called a force for social development, which brings improvement in every aspect in the society.

  4. Education is modification of behaviour-Human behaviour is modified and improved through educational process.

  5. Education is purposive: every individual has some goal in his life. Education contributes in attainment of that goal. There is a definite purpose underlined all educational activities.

  6. Education is a training-Human senses, mind, behaviour, activities; skills are trained in a constructive and socially desirable way.

  7. Education is instruction and direction-It directs and instructs an individual to fulfill his desires and needs for exaltation of his whole personality.

  8. Education is life-Life without education is meaningless and like the life of a beast. Every aspect and incident needs education for its sound development.

  9. Education is continuous reconstruction of our experiences-As per the definition of John Dewey education reconstructs and remodels our experiences towards socially desirable way.

  10. Education helps in individual adjustment:a man is a social being. If he is not able to adjust himself in different aspects of life his personality can’t remain balanced. Through the medium of education he learns to adjust himself with the friends, class fellows, parents, relations, neighbours and teachers etc.

  11. Education is balanced development:Education is concerned with the development of all faculties of the child. it performs the functions of the physical, mental, aesthetic, moral, economic, spiritual development of the individual so that the individual may get rid of his animal instincts by sublimating the same so that he becomes a civilized person.

  12. Education is a dynamic process:Education is not a static but a dynamic process which develops the child according to changing situations and times. It always induces the individual towards progress. It reconstructs the society according to the changing needs of the time and place of the society.

  13. Education is a bipolar process:According to Adams, education is a bipolar process in which one personality acts on another to modify the development of other person. The process is not only conscious but deliberate.

  14. Education is a three dimensional process:John Dewey has rightly remarked, “All educations proceeds by participation of the individual in the social consciousness of the race.” Thus it is the society which will determine the aims, contents and methods of teachings. In this way the process of education consists of 3 poles – the teacher, the child and the society.

  15. Education as growth:The end of growth is more growth and the end of education is more education. According to John Dewey, “an individual is a changing and growing personality.” The purpose of education is to facilitate the process of his/her growth.

Therefore, the role of education is countless for a perfect society and man. It is necessary for every society and nation to bring holistic happiness and prosperity to its individuals.


Aims give direction to activities. Aims of education are formulated keeping in view the needs of situation. Human nature is multi sided with multiple needs, which are related to life. Educational aims are correlated to ideals of life.

The goal of education should be the full flowering of the human on this earth. According to a UNESCO study, “the physical, intellectual, emotional and ethical integration of the individual into a complete man/woman is the fundamental aim of education.”

The goal of education is also to form children into human persons committed to work for the creation of human communities of love, fellowship, freedom, justice and harmony. Students are to be moulded only by making them experience the significance of these values in the school itself. Teachers could achieve this only by the lived example of their lives manifested in hundreds of small and big transactions with students in word and deed.

Individual and Social Aims

Individual aims and social aims are the most important aims of education. They are opposed to each other individual aims gives importance for the development of the individuality. Social aim gives importance to the development of society through individual not fulfilling his desire. But it will be seen that development of individuality assumes meaning only in a social environment.

Individual Aims – Sir Percy Nunn observes, “Nothing goods enters into the human world except in and through the free activities of individual men and women and that educational practice must be shaped the individual. Education should give scope to develop the inborn potentialities through maximum freedom.”


(1) Biologists believe that every individual is different from others. Every child is a new and unique product and a new experiment with life. Thompson says, “Education is for the individual”. Individual should be the centre of all educational efforts and activities.

(2) Naturalists believe that central aim of education is the autonomous development of the individual. Rousseau said, “Everything is good as it comes from the hands of the Author of Nature, but everything degenerates in the hands of man.” God makes all things good, man meddles with them and they become evil. God creates everything good man makes it evil. So individual should be given maximum freedom for its own development.

(3) Psychologists believe that education is an individual process because of individual differences. No two individuals are alike. So education should be according to the interest of the individual.

Criticism of Individual Aim:

Individual aim is not desirable because man is a social animal. Society’s interest should be protected.

(1) Individual aim makes individual selfish.

(2) Maximum freedom may go against the society.

(3) Individuality cannot develop from a vacuum; it develops in a social atmosphere.

(4) Unless society develops, individual cannot develop.

(5) Who will recognize society- where individual is selfish?

Social Aim

The supporters believe that society or state is supreme or real. The individual is only a means. The progress of the society is the aim of education. Education is for the society and of the society. The function of education is for the welfare of the state. The state will make the individual as it desires. It prepares the individual to play different roles in society. Individuality has no value, and personality is meaningless apart from society. If society will develop individual will develop automatically. Here society plays an important role.

Criticism of Social Aim

(1) It makes individual only a tool of government.

(2) It reduces individual to a mere non-entity.

(3) Society ignores the legitimate needs, desires and interests of the individual.

(4) It is against the development of individuality of the individual.

Synthesis between Individual and Social aims of Education

Individual aim and social aim of education go independently. Both are opposing to each other. It is not in reality. Neither the individual nor the society can exist. The individual is the product of the society while society finds its advancement in the development of its individual member.

Individual cannot develop in vacuum. According to John Adams, “Individuality requires a social medium to grow.” And T.P. Nunn says,” Individuality develops in social environment.”

Conclusion: According to James Ross, “The aim of education is the development of valuable personality and spiritual individuality.” The true aim of education cannot be other than the highest development of the individual as a member of society. Let education burn the individual flame, feeding it with the oil of society.

What Does Diversity Mean in Education?

Diversity refers to the range of identities that exist in a group of people. Common identity categories referenced when discussing diversity include race, class, gender, religion and sexual orientation. Diversity in education represents a broad range of ideas and initiatives to create learning environments that are safe, inclusive and equitable for as many identities as possible. Recognizing, fostering and developing sensitivity to the needs of people in various identity categories are primary aims of educational diversity.

Diversity and Education Today

Today's diversity initiatives in education encompass an even wider range of categories and practices. Initially, affirmative action and equal opportunity policies recognized race, religion, gender, color, ethnicity and national origin. Since the 1980s, concerns have expanded to include such categories as ability, sexual orientation and learning styles. Educational practice has gone beyond providing access to minority groups. Now, many educators are discussing ways to revise teaching strategies so methods are more inclusive. Diversity practices are also responding to new developments in education, such as research about students with learning challenges. As an example, the movement toward differentiated instructional strategies aims to cater to the diversity of learning styles in the classroom.

How Diversity Affects the Classroom

Much discussion about diversity focuses on the following forms of marginalization: race, class, gender, and sexual orientation — and rightfully so, given the importance of these forms of difference. In fact, students come to the university classroom with different backgrounds, sets of experiences, cultural contexts, and world views.

Additionally, issues of diversity play a role in how students and teachers view the importance of the classroom and what should happen there. For example, assumptions about what a typical student should know, the resources they have and their prior knowledge are extremely important.

Students may perceive that they do not “belong” in the classroom setting — a feeling that can lead to decreased participation, feelings of inadequacy, and other distractions. Teachers may make flawed assumptions of students’ capabilities or assume a uniform standard of student performance. Teachers may themselves feel out of place based on their own ascriptive traits (i.e. differences based on class, privilege, etc.).

Identifying and thinking through notions of difference and how they affect the classroom allow both students and teachers to see the classroom as an inclusive place. 

So what can teachers do?

These results are intriguing. They make us think, if we prepare our children with different cultural values and socialization practices, what happens when they enter school, a time of rapid change in social expectations for children?

Reports show that teachers consider children’s ability to regulate their emotions effectively to be even more important than their skills using pen and pencil upon entry to school. Despite this, teachers often say that they do not feel well enough trained to deal with children’s emotional needs. Most of their training has focused on particular school tasks that children must perform.

Teachers’ lack of confidence in dealing with children’s emotional needs can be even more dramatic when considering the cultural differences among children. If teachers and schools are unaware of and unprepared for accepting and understanding socio-cultural diversity, children’s behaviour can easily be misunderstood. Consequently, it can become an emotional and social burden.

A good example is the issue of “closing the gap” in Australia, which has been discussed for over 50 years now. Yet research still shows that children from Aboriginal and Torres Islander backgrounds feel isolated, not understood and not valued at schools. While education systems are trying hard to enrich the experience of schooling for all children, there is a long way to go.

It is important that policy makers, educators, teachers and parents pay more attention to the diversity in children’s social and emotional development. We need to more rigorously integrate research, specifically investigations of the development of socially and culturally diverse children (including Aboriginal and Torres islander children) in teachers’ pre-service education and in education policies in Australia.

In the meantime, it is important for teachers to acknowledge this lack of training and try to avoid making conclusions based on their knowledge or assumptions of how children should perform, especially children from diverse social and cultural backgrounds and during early years. It would be helpful to keep in mind that what we don’t value much in one culture might be crucial in another.

Approaches to Education

Teaching and learning is a complex process. To ensure that a learner truly benefits from a programme of learning, numerous different factors must be taken into consideration.  Depending on the learner, different techniques should be implemented to maximize the impact of the instruction. While there are many elements to consider, one of the most important is in the way the teacher approaches the process of teaching. It has long since been established that simply reading to a silent class through the traditional "chalk and talk" method is not the most effective way to learn. Teachers must utilize their knowledge and experience to create an interactive and valuable learning experience, but it is equally important that they utilize the knowledge and experience of others. This is where embedding educational theory into teaching practice becomes relevant. 

This module explores some of the central theories which have been used to shape the current conception of best practice in Education. Several classical theories of learning will be discussed in depth: we will outline what they are in simple terms before breaking down the components and discussing exactly how each theory relates to educational practice.   These learning theories will be compared and contrasted, and similarities and differences will be explored. Students will be given some background to the development of the theory to understand the context in which it evolved and the issue that it was designed to overcome.

Educational theory, or "pedagogy", is typically broken up into 'schools of thought', which consist of collections of theorists whose ideas overlap to some extent. Additionally, some approaches are refinements or adaptions of existing theories, or which incorporate additional elements.  Pedagogy also overlaps with other disciplines, such as psychology, politics and philosophy. The main 'schools' are:

  • Constructivism: the theory that people "construct" their own understanding of the world based on their experiences and reflection on these experiences.  Key theorists in this area include Piaget, Vygotsky and Bruner.

  • Behaviourism: the theory that people can be "conditioned" to behave in desired ways through a system of punishments and rewards.  Key theorists include Skinner and Bandura.

  • Critical theory / critical pedagogy: the theory that learning is shaped within power relations and that learners should shape their own learning agendas, with the teacher as guide.  Key theorists include Freire, Montessori and Steiner.

  • Pragmatism: Championed by Dewey, pragmatic pedagogy focuses on the relationship between the learner, teacher and wider society with a view to promoting democracy and positive social relations.

Variety of Philosophical Approaches to Education.

These educational philosophical approaches are currently used in classrooms the world over. They are Perennialism, Essentialism, Progressivism, and Reconstructionism. These educational philosophies focus heavily on WHAT we should teach, the curriculum aspect.

Four General or World Philosophies

The term metaphysics literally means "beyond the physical." This area of philosophy focuses on the nature of reality. Metaphysics attempts to find unity across the domains of experience and thought. At the metaphysical level, there are four* broad philosophical schools of thought that apply to education today. They are idealism, realism, pragmatism (sometimes called experientialism), and existentialism. Each will be explained shortly. These four general frameworks provide the root or base from which the various educational philosophies are derived.

Two of these general or world philosophies, idealism and realism, are derived from the ancient Greek philosophers, Plato and Aristotle. Two are more contemporary, pragmatism and existentialism. However, educators who share one of these distinct sets of beliefs about the nature of reality presently apply each of these world philosophies in successful classrooms. Let us explore each of these metaphysical schools of thought.


Idealism is a philosophical approach that has as its central tenet that ideas are the only true reality, the only thing worth knowing. In a search for truth, beauty, and justice that is enduring and everlasting, the focus is on conscious reasoning in the mind. Plato, father of Idealism, espoused this view about 400 years BC, in his famous book, The Republic. Plato believed that there are two worlds. The first is the spiritual or mental world, which is eternal, permanent, orderly, regular, and universal. There is also the world of appearance, the world experienced through sight, touch, smell, taste, and sound, that is changing, imperfect, and disorderly. This division is often referred to as the duality of mind and body. Reacting against what he perceived as too much of a focus on the immediacy of the physical and sensory world, Plato described a utopian society in which "education to body and soul all the beauty and perfection of which they are capable" as an ideal. In his allegory of the cave, the shadows of the sensory world must be overcome with the light of reason or universal truth. To understand truth, one must pursue knowledge and identify with the Absolute Mind. Plato also believed that the soul is fully formed prior to birth and is perfect and at one with the Universal Being. The birth process checks this perfection, so education requires bringing latent ideas (fully formed concepts) to consciousness.

In idealism, the aim of education is to discover and develop each individual's abilities and full moral excellence in order to better serve society. The curricular emphasis is subject matter of mind: literature, history, philosophy, and religion. Teaching methods focus on handling ideas through lecture, discussion, and Socratic dialogue (a method of teaching that uses questioning to help students discover and clarify knowledge). Introspection, intuition, insight, and whole-part logic are used to bring to consciousness the forms or concepts which are latent in the mind. Character is developed through imitating examples and heroes.


Realists believe that reality exists independent of the human mind. The ultimate reality is the world of physical objects. The focus is on the body/objects. Truth is objective-what can be observed. Aristotle, a student of Plato who broke with his mentor's idealist philosophy, is called the father of both Realism and the scientific method. In this metaphysical view, the aim is to understand objective reality through "the diligent and unsparing scrutiny of all observable data." Aristotle believed that to understand an object, its ultimate form had to be understood, which does not change. For example, a rose exists whether or not a person is aware of it. A rose can exist in the mind without being physically present, but ultimately, the rose shares properties with all other roses and flowers (its form), although one rose may be red and another peach colored. Aristotle also was the first to teach logic as a formal discipline in order to be able to reason about physical events and aspects. The exercise of rational thought is viewed as the ultimate purpose for humankind. The Realist curriculum emphasizes the subject matter of the physical world, particularly science and mathematics. The teacher organizes and presents content systematically within a discipline, demonstrating use of criteria in making decisions. Teaching methods focus on mastery of facts and basic skills through demonstration and recitation. Students must also demonstrate the ability to think critically and scientifically, using observation and experimentation. Curriculum should be scientifically approached, standardized, and distinct-discipline based. Character is developed through training in the rules of conduct.

Pragmatism (Experientialism)

For pragmatists, only those things that are experienced or observed are real. In this late 19th century American philosophy, the focus is on the reality of experience. Unlike the Realists and Rationalists, Pragmatists believe that reality is constantly changing and that we learn best through applying our experiences and thoughts to problems, as they arise. The universe is dynamic and evolving, a "becoming" view of the world. There is no absolute and unchanging truth, but rather, truth is what works. Pragmatism is derived from the teaching of Charles Sanders Peirce (1839-1914), who believed that thought must produce action, rather than linger in the mind and lead to indecisiveness.

John Dewey (1859-1952) applied pragmatist philosophy in his progressive approaches. He believed that learners must adapt to each other and to their environment. Schools should emphasize the subject matter of social experience. All learning is dependent on the context of place, time, and circumstance. Different cultural and ethnic groups learn to work cooperatively and contribute to a democratic society. The ultimate purpose is the creation of a new social order. Character development is based on making group decisions in light of consequences.

For Pragmatists, teaching methods focus on hands-on problem solving, experimenting, and projects, often having students work in groups. Curriculum should bring the disciplines together to focus on solving problems in an interdisciplinary way. Rather than passing down organized bodies of knowledge to new learners, Pragmatists believe that learners should apply their knowledge to real situations through experimental inquiry. This prepares students for citizenship, daily living, and future careers.


The nature of reality for Existentialists is subjective, and lies within the individual. The physical world has no inherent meaning outside of human existence. Individual choice and individual standards rather than external standards are central. Existence comes before any definition of what we are. We define ourselves in relationship to that existence by the choices we make. We should not accept anyone else's predetermined philosophical system; rather, we must take responsibility for deciding who we are. The focus is on freedom, the development of authentic individuals, as we make meaning of our lives.

There are several different orientations within the existentialist philosophy. Soren Kierkegaard (1813-1855), a Danish minister and philosopher, is considered to be the founder of existentialism. His was a Christian orientation. Another group of existentialists, largely European, believes that we must recognize the finiteness of our lives on this small and fragile planet, rather than believing in salvation through God. Our existence is not guaranteed in an after life, so there is tension about life and the certainty of death, of hope or despair. Unlike the more austere European approaches where the universe is seen as meaningless when faced with the certainty of the end of existence, American existentialists have focused more on human potential and the quest for personal meaning. Values clarification is an outgrowth of this movement. Following the bleak period of World War II, the French philosopher, Jean Paul Sartre, suggested that for youth, the existential moment arises when young persons realize for the first time that choice is theirs, that they are responsible for themselves. Their question becomes "Who am I and what should I do?

Related to education, the subject matter of existentialist classrooms should be a matter of personal choice. Teachers view the individual as an entity within a social context in which the learner must confront others' views to clarify his or her own. Character development emphasizes individual responsibility for decisions. Real answers come from within the individual, not from outside authority. Examining life through authentic thinking involves students in genuine learning experiences. Existentialists are opposed to thinking about students as objects to be measured, tracked, or standardized. Such educators want the educational experience to focus on creating opportunities for self-direction and self actualization. They start with the student, rather than on curriculum content.


Education in Ancient Egypt

Most children in Egypt did not go to school. Instead boys learned farming or other trades from their fathers. Girls learned sewing, cooking and other skills from their mothers. Boys from wealthy families sometimes learned to be scribes. They learned by copying and memorizing and discipline was strict. Teachers beat naughty boys. The boys learned reading and writing and also mathematics. Some girls were taught to read and write at home.

Education in Ancient Greece

In ancient Greece girls learned skills like weaving from their mothers. Many girls also learned to read and write at home. Boys from better off families started school when they were seven. Boys from a rich family were escorted to school by a slave.

The boys learned reading, writing and arithmetic as well as poetry and music. The Greeks also believed that physical education was very important so boys did dancing and athletics. Discipline was severe in Ancient Greek schools and children were often beaten.

In Sparta children were treated very harshly. At the age of 7 boys were removed from their families and sent to live in barracks. They were treated severely to turn them into brave soldiers. They were deliberately kept short of food so they would have to steal - teaching them stealth and cunning. They were whipped for any offence.

Spartan girls learned athletics and dancing - so they would become fit and healthy mothers of more soldiers.

Education in Rome

In rich Roman families children were educated at home by a tutor. Other boys and girls went to a primary school called a ludus at the age of 7 to learn to read and write and do simple arithmetic. Boys went to secondary school where they would learn geometry, history, literature and oratory (the art of public speaking).

Teachers were often Greek slaves. The teachers were very strict and they frequently beat the pupils.

Children wrote on wax tablets with a pointed bone stylus. (Adults wrote on a form of paper called papyrus, which was made from the papyrus plant).

Education in the Middle Ages

In the Middle Ages many people were illiterate but not all. Upper class children were educated. Among the Medieval poor the better-educated priests might teach some children to read and write - a little. In many towns there were grammar schools where middle class boys were educated. (They got their name because they taught Latin grammar). Boys worked long hours in the grammar schools and discipline was severe. Boys were beaten with rods or birch twigs.

There were also chantry schools. Some men left money in their wills to pay for a priest to chant prayers for their soul after their death. When he was not praying the priest would educate local children.

During the Middle Ages education gradually became more common. By the 15th century perhaps a third of the population of England could read and write.

From the early 13th century England had two universities at Oxford and Cambridge. At them students learned seven subjects, grammar, rhetoric (the art of public speaking), logic, astronomy, arithmetic, music and geometry.

Education in 16th Century England

Education flourished in the 16th century. Many rich men founded grammar schools. Boys usually went to a kind of nursery school called a 'petty school' first then moved onto grammar school when they were about seven. The school day began at 6 am in summer and 7 am in winter (people went to bed early and got up early in those days). Lunch was from 11am to 1pm. School finished at about 5 pm. Boys went to school 6 days a week and there were few holidays.

In the 16th century many children learned to read and write with something called a hornbook. It was not a book in the modern sense. Instead it was a wooden board with a handle. Fixed to the board was a sheet of paper with the alphabet and the Lord's prayer (the Our Father) written on it. The paper was usually protected by a thin slice of animal horn.

Discipline in Tudor schools was savage. The teacher often had a stick with birch twigs attached to it. Boys were hit with the birch twigs on their bare buttocks.

At about 15 or 16 the brightest boys might go to one of England's two universities, Oxford and Cambridge.

Of course many Tudor boys did not go to school at all. If they were lucky they might get a 7-year apprenticeship and learn a trade. Some craftsmen could read and write but few laborers could. As for girls, in a rich family a tutor usually taught them at home. In a middle class family their mother might teach them.

Education in the 17th Century

There was little change in education in the 17th century. In well off families both boys and girls went to a form of infant school called a petty school. However only boys went to grammar school. Upper class girls (and sometimes boys) were taught by tutors. Middle glass girls might be taught by their mothers. There were also dame schools, usually run by a woman where young girls were taught skills like reading and writing. During the 17th century boarding schools for girls were founded in many towns. In them girls were taught subjects like writing, music and needlework.

Education in the 18th Century

In the 18th century young boys and girls continued to go to dame schools. In the early 18th century charity schools were founded in many English towns. They were sometimes called Blue Coat Schools because of the color of the children's uniforms.

Boys from well off families went to grammar schools. Girls from well off families also went to school but it was felt important for them to learn 'accomplishments' like embroidery and music rather than academic subjects.

Meanwhile non-conformists or dissenters (Protestants who did not belong to the Church of England) were not allowed to attend most public schools. Instead they went to their own dissenting academies.

Education in 19th Century England

In the 19th century education greatly improved for both boys and girls. In the early 19th century there were still dame schools for very young children. They were run by women who taught a little reading, writing, and arithmetic. However many dame schools were really a child minding service.

Nevertheless in the 19th century Friedrich Froebel (1782-1852) and Maria Montessori (1870-1952) invented more progressive methods of educating infants.

Girls from upper class families were taught by a governess. Boys were often sent to public schools like Eton. In Victorian public schools, boys were taught the classics like Latin but little else. Science and technical subjects were neglected. Public schools also placed great emphasis on character building through sports and games.

Middle class boys went to grammar schools. Middle class girls went to private schools where they were taught 'accomplishments' such as music and sewing.

At the beginning of the 19th century a man named Joseph Lancaster (1778-1838) invented a new method of educating the working class. In the Lancaster system, the ablest pupils were made monitors and they were put in charge of other pupils. The monitors were taught early in the day before the other children arrived. When they did the monitors taught them.

In 1811 the National Society for Promoting the Education of the Poor in the Principle of the Established Church (The Church of England) was formed. Its schools were called National Schools. In 1814 non-conformists (Protestants who did not belong to the Church of England) formed the British and Foreign Schools Society.

In Britain the state did not take responsibility for education until 1870. Forsters Education Act laid down that schools should be provided for all children. If there were not enough places in existing schools then board schools were built. In 1880 school was made compulsory for 5 to 10 year olds. However, school was not free, except for the poorest children until 1891 when fees were abolished. From 1899 children were required to go to school until they were 12.

Meanwhile in the USA three women gained bachelor degrees from Oberlin College in 1841. They were the first American women to gain bachelor degrees. The first woman in the USA to gain a PhD was Helen Magill White in 1877. In Britain women were first awarded degrees in 1880.

Education in the 20th Century

Education vastly improved during the 20th century. In 1900 children sometimes left school when they were only 12 years old. However in 1918 the minimum school leaving age was raised to 14. Between the wars working class children went to elementary schools. Middle class children went to grammar schools and upper class children went to public schools.

In 1948 the school leaving age was raised to 15 and in 1973 it was raised to 16.

Following the 1944 Education Act all children had to sit an exam called the 11 plus. Those who passed went to grammar schools while those who failed went to secondary modern schools. However in the late 1950s public opinion began to turn against the system and in the 1960s and early 1970s most schools became comprehensives.

Until the late 20th century teachers were allowed to hit children. However corporal punishment was phased out in most primary schools in the 1970s. The cane was abolished in state secondary schools in 1987. It was finally abolished in private schools in 1999.

There was a huge expansion of higher education in the 1960s and many new universities were founded. In 1992 polytechnics were changed to universities. Meanwhile the Open University began in 1969. In the late 20th century people had far more opportunities for education and training than ever before. However student grants were ended in 1998 and most students now have to take loans.

Madrassah: Origin, Aims and Objectives

Defining madrasas The term ‘madrasa’ (transliterated variously as madrassah, madaris, etc.) has been used in many different ways. In general, madrasas refer to a traditional form of Islamic education consisting of a core curriculum of a variety of Islamic subjects – in short, a religious seminary. In Arabic, madrasa simply means ‘school’. In Pakistan, religious schools are therefore typically referred to as ‘deeni madaris’, where ‘deeni’ translates as religious while madaris is plural of madrasa in Arabic. The 2015-2016 Pakistan Education Statistics, for example, define ‘deeni madaris’ as “educational institutions in which formal religious education is provided.” In this book, the transliteration ‘madrasa’ has been chosen since it seems to be the one most commonly used. Furthermore, when referring to madrasas it is implied that these institutions are private in nature and not part of the public school system in terms of financing, while oversight and registration from the public system may or may not take place. Finally, it is important to stress that the expression is used interchangeably with the term ‘religious seminary’.

The historical evolution of madrasas

Madrasa as a concept and as an institution has changed over time, both in its contents and contours. The first known madrasa is said to have been established in 1005 AD by the Fatimid caliphs in Egypt. This madrasa taught the Shiite minority’s version of Islam. However, an inventory catalogue of the madrasa has shown that the madrasa also had thousands of volumes on other subjects, including astronomy, architecture and philosophy. When the Sunni Muslims conquered Egypt in the tenth century, they replaced the Shiite version of Islam in this madrasa with the Sunni version.  A huge number of books were then taken to Baghdad where Nizam-ul-Mulk Hassan Bin Al-Tusi, a Seljuk Vizier, established the first organized and formal madrasa education system in the Muslim world in 1067 AD.5 From the twelfth century, a madrasa system also emerged in India, which was consolidated under the Mughal Empire. The madrasas were largely informal in their method of teaching with the curriculum being rather flexible in a combination of rationalist (such as mathematics and logics) and religious subjects. The establishment of British colonial rule in India dramatically changed the role of madrasa education in South Asia, making it irrelevant to the state and economy by introducing Western institutions and English as the official language. This led to a major shift in the curriculum in madrasas toward a strict focus on religious aspects. In this period, the first institutionalized madrasa was established in Deoband in 1867 running on donations from internal Muslim communities. Thus, the foundation for madrasa funding based on public donations was laid and it continues until this day. The Deobandi movement introduced an institutionalized delivery of Islamic education characterized by paid staff, a full library, a set curriculum, formal examinations, and certification upon graduation. The Islamic scholars of the Deoband madrasa emphasized a puritanical school of Islamic thought, which soon led to the emergence of sister madrasas and today this school of thought has the largest number of madrasas in South Asia.

Under British colonial rule, a process of exclusion of the madrasas from the formal economy and society in Pakistan began and it continued in the independence period. Reforms of the madrasa system in Pakistan were discussed soon after independence and under the political leadership of General Ayub Khan, who by a coup d’état gained power in 1958. He was very vocal in his criticism of the madrasa system and wanted the religious establishment to meet the demands of modernity. In the 1980s, the national government in Pakistan attempted a reform program, but it was not until 2001 that a formal reform program was launched with assistance from the US under the banner of the ‘war on terror.’ These reforms have met severe resistance from the religious elite in Pakistan, and to date the traditional religious establishment, the so-called ulama, still exercise full control over the interpretation of Islamic texts.

As in Pakistan, the madrasas in Afghanistan have also been a central institution of learning for centuries. Various Afghan regimes have attempted to transform the influential religious landscape in line with their interpretations of Afghanistan. In the 1920s, the modernization program initiated by King Ghazi Amir Amanullah Khan sought to transform the country into a modern nation state through wide-ranging reforms – among them major educational reforms. King Amanullah’s reforms were mindful of the ulama commanding authority over education, and were cast as complementing rather than competing with the traditional madrasa system. However, in September 1928, Amanullah proposed a number of reforms to the Afghan Loya Jirga (grand assembly) that targeted the religious establishment, and thereby the madrasa system. The ulama considered these reform proposals an act of aggression, leading to civil war and the overthrow of Amanullah in 1929. Taking into account what happened to King Amanullah, the subsequent regimes - King Nadir Shah’s four-year reign (1929-1933) and his successor King Zahir Shah’s reign (1933-1970s) – arguably attempted a more cautious approach in relation to introducing new educational reforms paving the way for general education to gradually take root in Afghanistan.Many of the educational reforms instituted during this period did not trigger the same reaction as against Amanullah’s reforms. In 1936, Zahir Shah established the first regime-financed (official) madrasa in Afghanistan named Abu Hanifah to serve as a bridge between the government and the religious scholars in the country. During the 1930s and ‘40s official madrasas in Kabul, Herat, Mazar-i Sharif, Takhar, Faryab, Kandahar, Jalalabad, and Paktia were established by the government to formalize higher religious education and to train judges of Sharia. The gradually introduced reforms and regulations of the madrasas were non-coercive and also implemented with cooperation from Islamic religious scholars. The progress, however, was hindered with the advent of communism in the 1960s and ‘70s in Afghan society and the efforts of different communist leaders to transform the education system based entirely on communist principles. Furthermore, the still increasing number of Afghans employed in the central administration in Kabul were educated in the West and in the Soviet Union, and upon their return they pursued an aggressive reform agenda that decoupled the traditionally minded majority of the population. In the 1960s and ‘70s, both general and religious education became politicized and new and more radical ideologies began to develop in the country. Afghan ruling and political elites viewed madrasas and religious scholars with suspicion. In contrast religious scholars, rejecting and discrediting liberal democratic and communist values, began to put themselves at the center of what they called a movement to defend Islam against un-Islamic forces.


The precise number of madrasas in Pakistan is unknown. The Pakistan Education Statistics 2015-2016 estimated that there are more than 32,000 formal degree-providing madrasas in Pakistan, out of which 97 percent are in the private sector. It is estimated that the total enrolment for the period 2015-2016 was 2.26 million. The estimated number of madrasas for the 2013-2014 period was about 13,000.22 Prima facie, this looks like asignificant increase in number of madrasas but in reality this was due to increase in efficiency of relevant government departments to count the number of madrasas in addition to their geo-tagging. This was done by provincial governments under the National Action Plan that was devised in early 2015 as a comprehensive counter-terrorism and counter-extremism strategy. There are mainly five religious schools of thought that run madrasas in Pakistan: Deobandi, Brailvi, Shia, Ahl-e-Hadith and Jamat-e-Islami. These five schools of thought have established their own separate madrasa boards, approved by the government and recognized by the Higher Education Commission. These boards are responsible for coordinating and running the affairs of the respective madrasas with regards to their examinations in such a way that these boards set syllabus, conduct exams, and regulate madrasas (to a varying extent) in their respective schools of thought. These five boards are:

  1. Wafaq-ul-Madaris Al-Arabia (Deobandi)

  2. Tanzeem-ul-Madaris Ahl-e-Sunnat (Brailvi)

  3. Wafaq-ul-Madaris Al-Salafia (Ahl-e-Hadith)

  4. Wafaq-ul-Madaris Al-Shia (Shia)

  5. Rabita-ul-Madaris Al Islamia (Jamat-e-Islami/Neutral)

In addition, the Higher Education Commission also recognizes some independent degree-awarding institutions that are not affiliated with any of the above-mentioned boards.These include:

  1. Jamia Islamia Minhaj-ul-Quran, 366 Model Town, Lahore.

  2. Jamia Taleemat-e-Islamia, Sargodha Road, Faisalabad.

  3. Jamia Ashrafia, Feroz Pura Road, Lahore.

  4. Darul Uloom Mohammadia Ghousia Bhera Distt, Sargodha.

  5. Darual Uloom, Korangi Greek, Karachi.

According to the Higher Education Commission, the approved mode of education for recognition of final degrees in religious education (Deeni Sanad) is a Middle School Certificate (eight years of education) as entrance requirement for:

  • Shahadatul Sanvia Aama: two years of study (equivalent to secondary school certificate or 10th grade)

  • Shahadatul Sanvia Khasa: two years of study (equivalent to intermediate, 12-year education)

  • Shahadatul Alia: two years of study (equivalent to graduation, 14-year education)

  • Shahadatul Almiya: two years of study (equivalent to MA Arabic/Islamic Studies, 16-year education)

There are four levels of madrasas working in Pakistan, which are:

  1. Nazira: These madrasas impart preliminary knowledge and are restricted to teaching their students recitation of the Quran. Such madrasas could be found attached to almost all mosques and require the comparatively least amount of financial resources. Usually the Imam Masjid (prayer leader) teaches students early in the morning or in the evening how to read Arabic and properly recite the Quran. At this level, students remain in the madrasas for only about an hour a day

  2. Hifz: In addition to basic reading of the Quran, memorization or rote learning of the Quran is undertaken in the Hifz madrasas. These madrasas are also most common within mosques, either with or without accommodation facilities. There are two types of Hifz madrasas:

  1. Iqamti (boarding schools): Students stay in madrasas for as long as they memorize the Quran. The students get one day off per week to see their parents and one and a half months’ vacation during Ramadan and Eid. Usually a student becomes Hafiz (the one who memorizes the complete Quran) in 2.5 to 3 years. Such madrasas require more financial resources, as dining and living expenses for students are provided by the madrasa, in addition to other miscellaneous expenses.

  1. Ghair Iqamti (day schools): Students spend eight to ten hours per day in these madrasas and then go back home. Hence, no stay in the madrasa is required, and therefore, comparatively fewer financial resources are required to establish and run such madrasas, especially when such madrasas are established within a mosque.

  1. Dars-e-Nizami: Generally provide eight years of education in which the Quran, its translation, Tafseer (explanation of Quran), books of sayings of the Prophet Muhammad, Islamic jurisprudence, Arabic and Persian languages, and supporting subjects are taught.

  1. Takhassas: This level offers specialization courses including Mufti (who can issue a Fatwa) and Qazi (a judge in Islamic Sharia Justice System).

Role of Madrassah in 21st Century

Madaris in Pakistan became the focus of the world’s attention after the catastrophic 9/11 incident. Despite the fact that none of the alleged attackers of the twin towers belonged to Pakistan or studied in madaris, these traditional institutions of learning became the focus of the world’s attention as ‘ centers of religious militancy and radicalism’. Many studies were carried out by the Western as well as the local academics, journalists and government officials to establish links between the growing religious militancy and madrasa education in Pakistan. Many reports, articles and opinions were published in academic journals and print media. Initially, all pointed out the role of madrasa education in propagating religious violence and anti West sentiment among the Muslim youth. These studies issued warnings, alarmed the public about the ‘menace of madrasas’ in their society and demanded reform of madrasa education.

Social bonding and obedience

Providing free room and board to impoverished students, and shelter from the privations of poverty, the primarily Deobandi madrassas had a powerful esprit de corps. After many years in "conditions of intense intimacy" with little or no contact with the outside world, Madrassa students tended to be "extremely devoted" to their teachers. The strict doctrinaire teaching based on memorization discouraged even "the smallest expression of free thought or individual will", and gave root to fanaticism and a willingness to fight "anyone designated" an unbeliever by the master -- whether a Shiite neighbor, Indian soldiers, even other Sunni Muslims.

Social mobility

The madrassas have been called "the only realistic option" for the majority of Pakistani families to provide education for their sons. Another source (Sadakat Kadri) has stated that "absent an educational Marshall Plan, the hope of educating a literate breadwinner is about as bright a future as millions of families will ever get," and that the schools offer "shelter from the social storm ... camaraderie instead of chaos," for lower middle class Pakistanis.In some areas of Pakistan they outnumber the underfunded public schools.

Jihadi recruitment

A 2008 US diplomatic cable expressed alarm that Saudi Arabian-financed madrassas were fostering "religious radicalism" in "previously moderate regions of Pakistan" as children from impoverished families were sent to isolated madrassas, and once there often recruited for "martyrdom operations".

“Graduates” of the madrassas are supposedly either retained as teachers for the next generation of recruits, or are sent to a sort-of postgraduate school for jihadi training. “Teachers at the madrassa appear to make the decision,” of where the students go next, “based on their read of the child’s willingness to engage in violence and acceptance of jihadi culture versus his utility as an effective proponent of Deobandi or Ahl-e-Hadith ideology/recruiter.”


The tens of thousands of pupils and graduates of Deobandi madrassas gave that school of Islam the ability to "intervene directly" in Pakistani political life and "to contest everything that appeared to compromise their view of the Islamic world order," according to political scientist Gilles Kepel


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