When most people think about school, the first thing that comes to mind is academics.
But what are schools really for? What is its purpose, and what does it intend to achieve?
According to experts, here are reasons why schools exist:
National Director of Academics, Herzing College
Today, we can learn how to replace a faucet, overstuff a chair, or perform complex calculations with little more than an Internet connection. With all this readily available information, it leads to the question of why schools exist when anyone can learn to do things on their own.
It provides a strong foundation for learning
First, where do we start to learn about something new? We don’t know what we don’t know, so most of us wouldn’t even know where to begin.
Formal education always starts with the basics to help build a strong foundation for learning.
It teaches the skills to combat misinformation
The emergence of the global pandemic was succeeded by widespread misinformation. The impact of the interaction of these two events also supports the need for formal institutions.
Critical thinking skills can sort the wheat from the chaff, but it is often a tedious and time-consuming process.
An expert in the field can show, with detailed explanations, what should be kept and what should be discarded.
Schools provide the needed element of interaction
Individual guidance is also essential. We watched the video and followed the instructions, but it didn’t look quite right.
What did we do wrong? Even if it looks good, where could we have improved?
Without someone with experience to look at what we have done and give us some feedback, we may never know. Schools provide that needed element of interaction.
It gives concrete and formal documentation
Finally, how can we prove to anyone else what we know? When we complete a course of studies at a college or university, we achieve a formal document that is concrete proof that we have learned certain things.
Things that an employer, a funder, or a government agency can see value in. We have evidence and documentation that we have achieved a certain understanding of a field of study.
Schools have changed, and are changing, for the better. Learning is becoming:
- More accessible
- More enjoyable
- Faster than ever before
The Internet has broken the constraints of geographical area and allows a diverse population of students to come together and participate in a school’s marketplace of ideas.
These are why schools exist.
Humanity has always flourished when it works together, and schools are a perfect example of this. Individual students often grow better and faster by learning in groups, guided and supported by mentors.
Unguided, solitary research in front of a computer with one’s own thoughts will never replace the power of collaborative thinking and experience in expanding our minds and our world.
Karen Southall Watts
Instructor of Humanities and Success Skills, Bellingham Technical College | Author, “The Solo Workday“
The question of why schools exist is long-standing and complex.
The answer depends on who you are asking. A cranky eight-year-old with a book report due certainly has a different view than a manufacturing CEO considering factory placement.
History has shown that depriving people of education is a favorite tactic of those who abuse power.
It is easier to enslave and exploit those who cannot:
- apply critical thinking and organization skills
to their plight.
Here is my reduced and simplified take on “why do schools exist?”
It fulfills the function of training people that industry needs
Today’s modern school and college systems function primarily as job-training and career preparation organizations.
From the early days when schools were designed to create industrious and obedient factory workers to today’s institutions injecting entrepreneurship training at all levels of education, schools still function to train and prepare people to enter the workforce in some fashion.
In this regard, schools, technical colleges, and universities are still fulfilling a function that industry cannot or will not do.
Few career paths in industrialized countries include an apprenticeship that begins in childhood and lasts through to mastery.
Corporate employers expect job candidates to arrive with abundant hard and soft skills to spare them the time and expense of training new workers.
Though academia is often slow to respond to new trends and needs in the marketplace, formal schooling still fills a gap that no other group has stepped up to address.
Schools provide insight into the human experience beyond the family
Humans are social creatures, and we must be taught to get along in order to survive and thrive in groups. While families provide the initial instruction in this area, schools provide opportunities to learn to work with diversity and collaborate in groups of non-relatives.
From kindergarten to graduate-level courses, schools provide insight into the human experience beyond the nuclear and extended family.
It is through schooling that students understand their individual experiences are not universal and what mysteries and challenges lie beyond their hometown.
It serves as a safe place for children
The structure and support of primary schools also take some of the burdens off of parents—schools provide a safe place for children to be during work hours so that families can earn a living.
Trained professionals at school can spot abuse and neglect or offer guidance and support for struggles that parents may find overwhelming.
These support functions continue into adult education, as colleges and universities provide:
- Mental health support
- Career counseling
- Access to foodbanks
Schools are part of the social network of a healthy society.
Schools are repositories of knowledge
Schools are repositories of knowledge, from the grade school library to the university research lab.
Schools provide an environment dedicated to the:
- Process of seeking information
- Challenging the unknown
- Engaging with others who want to learn
Whether in person or online, a classroom provides the space to doubt and question.
Well-trained educators support and encourage and, at the same time, test students and their assumptions, thereby opening the door to new insights.
It helps define what it is to be human
We need schools, in some form, because they help to define what it is to be human. Perhaps it’s more accurate to say we need organized learning and an attitude of curiosity and ethical inquiry.
The physical classroom may change over time, and textbooks may be replaced with electronic devices, but the need to school ourselves—to learn the why of our existence and to make life better—will not vanish.
Dr. John Leddo
President, MyEdMaster, LLC
Early American schools aimed to protect democracy
The Founding Fathers felt education was important to protect American democracy. The goal was to educate white male voters who would be responsible voters and preserve American democracy.
Over time, free public education began to spread with a major push starting in the 1830s. Still, by the early 1900s, most people had relatively most schooling. Very few graduated high school, and fewer still went to college.
It produced skilled and educated workers
As the United States became more industrialized in the early 1900s, the need for skilled/educated workers increased. More and more people began attending and completing high school.
Ultimately, the high school graduation rate climbed to its current level of 90%, while the number of people enrolled in colleges also increased. As the number of students enrolled in public schools increased, the process of educating students became more standardized.
In general, schools were modeled after factories, where each student received the same instruction, assignments, and tests.
However, as human knowledge and technology advanced, this puts a tremendous strain on the educational system. We need to change our educational priorities from “more” to “more useful.”
One of the main factors that influenced the educational system was the ongoing industrial revolution and the advancement of technology—this created educational requirements beyond the traditional reading, writing, and arithmetic (3 Rs).
The educational community responded in ways that were both positive and negative.
On the positive side:
- Available courses greatly expanded.
- Vocational training programs increased.
- High schools began offering electives in subjects like business and computer science.
On the negative side:
- Schools began packing more and more content into their courses.
Some years ago, I bought an antique algebra textbook from the beginning of the 1900s. It had less than 170 pages in it. Today’s algebra textbooks contain roughly 1000 pages in them.
The human brain has not gotten five times smarter in the past 100 years, but the textbooks have grown five times larger. Perhaps even more importantly, much of the content is of questionable utility.
The need for the content of education to be dramatically overhauled
In the push to ensure that students are “advanced,” they learn things like imaginary numbers or factoring polynomials in math. In my view, these are topics they’ll never use in their everyday lives.
In science, students spend a lot of time learning the facts and formulas of science (e.g., how atoms combine) and relatively less on the general process of the scientific method. This problem-solving process applies to any field of inquiry.
I suspect very few teachers point out that everyday questions like “Does putting an item on sale increase long-term sales?” or “How can I get people to like me more?” can be approached using the scientific method.
In my view, the content of education should be dramatically overhauled. Math should focus on concepts used in everyday life like:
Arguably, the 2008 “Great Recession” directly resulted from people’s lack of understanding of percentages and how they apply to mortgages.
Science should be taught as a process of inquiry and shown how it can be used in everyday decisions. History should be taught from the present backward: showing how the world is today and then explaining how it got that way.
English classes should cover public speaking and verbal communication as much as it covers writing. Required courses in leadership and teamwork would serve people well.
It should teach students to learn independently
As a nod back to the original Founding Fathers, education should focus on:
- Reasoning skills
- Critical thinking
- Moral reasoning
Because knowledge evolves rapidly, schools should teach students how to learn independently (self-directed learning).
This is all the more true in today’s complex world in which there is information overload. People need to understand how to access, learn and reason with information, including how to discard bad information.
Learning needs to be flexible to accommodate a rapidly-changing world. The second major trend in our world is that rapidly evolving knowledge and technology are changing the employment landscape.
It is getting tougher for people to stay in the same career their whole adult lives. New jobs are created, and existing careers dry up, are outsourced, or become automated.
For example, global warming and the war in Ukraine are accelerating the shift from fossil fuels to alternative energy. This will impact skilled and college-educated workers.
Over time, oil rig worker positions will evaporate, but so will PhD-level geologists’ positions. These jobs will be replaced with those for physicists, electrical engineers, and people who can construct solar cells.
Even fields that won’t disappear will still be impacted. Someday, surgeries to remove blocked arteries in the heart will be replaced by injections of nanobots in the bloodstream. Surgical teams will be out of jobs, but nanobot researchers and those who mass produce nanobots will find employment.
The challenge with today’s schools
The challenge that we face with today’s schools is that people get “tracked.” People go to a program for months or, in the case of college, years and come out the other end with a degree or a certification.
However, the degree or certification is for a particular profession. That credential is good only as long as the profession needs people with that credential. When that field dries up or shrinks, people lose jobs.
Unfortunately, they are then in the same position as before: they need to get retrained or re-educated in a “tracked” program. They also incur the expense of obtaining this instruction and spend considerable time un- or underemployed.
The need to adapt to meet the challenges of the ever-changing world
I believe that schools of the future need to adapt to further meet our ever-changing world’s challenges.
The emphasis needs to shift to:
- and learning how to learn.
Technology is needed to continually update content and then teach the latest to all learners. We need to weed out topics that are not useful to most people.
Above all, we can use tools like artificial intelligence and machine learning to adapt education to each learner’s needs, interests, and abilities instead of subjecting students to a “one size fits all” educational model.
Jérôme Le Carrou
Founder and Executive Director, Next Step Connections
It makes good use of time and space to upgrade ourselves
The word “school” originates from the Greek “skholē,” which means “leisure, philosophy, lecture place.” It is essentially how we make good use of time and space to upgrade ourselves.
With this, I have always liked the idea of a holistic model of schooling where we:
- learn from each other about all aspects of life,
- and grow.
On the one hand, we want our schools to teach the necessary skills to ensure students can be a part of our economy and society.
But, on the other hand, schools should also aim to equip our students with more beyond the basics, empowering and inspiring them to go beyond survival and maximize the chances of living their lives to their fullest potential.
Every human has its unique potential, and schools should play a part in unfolding this.
To do this, I believe educational institutions need to always maintain a keen awareness of the changes in society and adapt curriculums, environments, and teaching styles accordingly so that students have the outer and inner resources to thrive beyond school grounds and college campuses.
Education Wellness Expert, UCLA | CEO, First Choice Admissions
There are two things we know for sure about schools.
- First, they are very old—the first formal schools appeared in China and Egypt’s Middle Kingdom at about 2000 B.C.
- Second, they are everywhere. Nearly every culture and nation has embraced the idea of school in one form or another.
Like other very popular ideas that have been around for millenniums (like fire and beer), schools must have something to recommend them. And they do—lots of things.
And beyond the obvious opportunity for parents to get some time away from children going through puberty (although I don’t want to dismiss that one).
It is a place filled with professionals with expertise across a wide range of fields
The first advantage to having schools is that the job of teaching can be given over to professionals.
Teaching tends to be a lot like driving. Everyone thinks they’re good at it but 15 minutes on the 405 freeway through Los Angeles demonstrates that’s simply not true.
And because society and jobs keep getting more complex, “kinda” teaching a kid math, English and science just won’t cut it.
Kids have to be taught a wide array of skills at a pretty high level to function and get along in the world. So it’s crucial not only to have a place filled with people who know how to teach but also a place where there is expertise across a wide range of fields.
Fortunately, we have a place like that—where kids can go every day—school.
It helps children practice hanging out with other people
There’s also tremendous value in getting a bunch of kids together and having them interact with each other five days a week. Anyone who has ever been a human being or has ever talked to a human being for more than five minutes knows that we are challenging.
We’re caring and callous, stingy and generous, kind and bullying—often all at the same time. It’s maddening, really. But that’s who we are. And it takes a lot of practice to get the hang of hanging out with other people.
Schools allow that to happen as well—often in the context of providing really cool stuff for kids to do as a group (sports teams, bands, robotics, and even German Club, if that’s your thing).
School obviously isn’t perfect. And it’s challenging to navigate a lot of things—from curriculum to inappropriate interactions between kids to funding them in a way, so everyone gets an equal education.
But even with their flaws (including my junior high school experience), they work pretty well.
Private Online Teacher and Founder, TPR Teaching
The primary purpose of schools is to provide students with the education they need to be successful in life. In addition to academic instruction, schools also offer social and emotional support to help children develop into well-rounded individuals.
Other reasons why schools exist such as:
- Providing a safe and nurturing environment
- Promoting healthy physical activity
- Fostering a sense of community
Each of these reasons is important in its own way and contributes to the overall success of schools.
It provides a safe and nurturing environment
Schools provide a safe and structured environment for children to learn and grow. The classroom acts as a stable element in a student’s life. For some students, it may be their only secure environment.
Schools also offer support and guidance to help children deal with any challenges they may face. Teachers and staff members are trained to identify signs of trouble and can provide help and resources when needed.
School plays a critical role in educating and dealing with issues such as:
- Bad behavior
- Peer pressure
- Substance abuse
Schools promote healthy physical activity
Physical activity is an integral part of a child’s development, and schools provide opportunities for students to be physically active.
Schools promote healthy physical activity by incorporating it into the curriculum and providing opportunities for extracurricular sports and other activities.
Physical activity is essential for children’s overall health and well-being. It can help them :
- Maintain healthy weight
- Builds strong bones and muscles
- Improve their mental health
- It also helps to improve their focus and concentration.
It fosters a sense of community
Schools can help children feel a sense of belonging and connection to others.
This is important for children’s social and emotional development. When children feel like they are part of a community, they are more likely to succeed in school and life.
Director and Owner, Acuity Training
Schools exist to provide a place to prepare children for the world
Although schools as we know them today date back a few hundred years, education has been around for millions of years as the first humans ever to inhabit Earth relied on passing down valuable knowledge and skills from generation to generation to survive.
Nowadays, schools may not be exactly like that, but in essence, they’re pretty much the same.
Schools are entities meant to provide individuals with the necessary education to access good life opportunities through academic preparation and give them the tools to survive in society.
Therefore, it is safe to say that schools exist to provide a place for children to learn, grow, and simply prepare for the world.
Even in today’s post-pandemic world, where everything can be done remotely, schooling in the traditional way is crucial for the social development of children as well.
So you could say that schools have always existed as a way for society to prepare our kids for the jobs of the future.
Some may argue that home-schooling or virtual classes are more efficient, which is true in terms of how much a child can progress academically in a short period in that context.
However, traditional brick-and-mortar schools are irreplaceable societal mechanisms for a child’s social and emotional development, which is why I think schools will continue to exist for many years to come, even if they can be done virtually over the internet.
Clinical Director, ChoicePoint
Schools exist to instill a sense of development
When a human is born, they are just like a blank paper. By growing day by day, when the brain builds up according to the environment, humans will be shaped in whatever form we try to shape.
Schools exist to instill a sense of development in human beings. Schools teach us how to:
- Socialize with others
- Read emotions
- Respond appropriately
It offers children a chance to explore themselves and be confident in their own skin
Schools give a person self-confidence and make a person able to adjust in social circles and any other place. Being surrounded by children of all races offers children a chance to explore themselves and be confident in their own skin.
Related: Why is Self Confidence Important?
It helps society find and polish gems
Schools help our society find gems and polish them according to their talents. Schools exist so young minds can become great minds that will develop new inventions and technologies.
It gives children a chance to gain knowledge and practice it until they step into the real world.
Psychology Teacher and Family Lifestyle Blogger | Founder, The Inspiration Edit
There are many different reasons why schools exist. Some of the most important reasons include:
To prepare the young for careers and citizenship
Schools exist to give children the education they need to be successful in their future. This includes preparing them for careers and citizenship.
To help children develop new skills and knowledge
Schools help children learn new things and develop new skills. This helps them think critically and make informed decisions.
It provides a place to socialize and interact
Schools provide children with a place to socialize and interact with their peers. This is important for their development and helps them learn how to get along with others. This is the most important reason for schools to exist.
Founder, The Art of Living | Author, “Stop Working Harder“
It helps people know how to think, not what to think
With the advent of technology and fast information sharing, it is very easy to look up and gather information about certain topics.
Some people might say that they can already learn so many things through the internet and don’t need to go to school anymore. Partly, yes, they can learn now so many things on the internet.
However, schools not only teach you about specific topics, but they also teach you how to discern which information is accurate and which information was edited to fit a particular narrative.
Schools exist to help learners decide which “things” to believe as they learn to research and discern the information being given to them. Hence, schools are there so they will know “how” to think.
The fundamental skills in life are learned in school
People need tools to live their lives and make a living. It begins with the obvious (reading and math) at the early stages of a person’s education. But where the education system may need improvement is during the advanced stages.
Before someone enters adulthood, they need to know important lessons—The do’s and don’ts of opening a line of credit, learning the perils of being without health insurance coverage, etc. Some of these topics are covered in school but not emphasized enough for everyone.
Any career that requires specific skills—whether it’s:
- Chemistry for engineers
- Statistics for economists
- Sentence structuring for writers
- Biology for doctors
People get their first taste of what motivates them by learning about it inside a classroom. That’s true for a musician as much as it is for a chemist or a botanist.
Furthermore, students learn responsibility in school. They have to:
- Adhere to deadlines
- Be on time
- Be attentive
- Complete tasks
Anything part of a student’s day-to-day life is often part of any professional’s daily life. So many skills learned in school carry over to work.
Founder and CEO, GrammarHow
It develops the students’ love of learning and the desire to improve their skills
What’s the point of schools?
A school is a place where children can learn and grow, one of the most significant reasons for its existence.
Teachers and administrators work hard to ensure that students have a safe and supportive environment in which they can study and flourish.
The goals of education and schooling are:
- Providing students with the necessary skills to succeed in the world
- An understanding of the world
- A sense of personal responsibility and a love of learning
- Providing students with a love of learning and the desire to improve their skills.
Is it worth it to go to school?
Some people believe that going to school is worthwhile because it helps them learn and grow, but others believe it is a waste of time and effort. For most people, the school exists to make society educational and healthy.
Co-Founder and Career Coach, Management Help LLC
Schools exist as a way for society to give equal opportunities to everyone
It is no secret that the lower class of society, especially when it comes to economic status, are faced with limited opportunities to better their lives.
Since we cannot really choose the family we are born into; schools exist in order to provide more opportunities to these people.
With proper education, more opportunities are available and more job opportunities. With proper education, a person can earn more, so getting out of financial debt and problems becomes a bit easier.
Co-Founder, Parenting Nerd
Schools are the hub of social learning and adaptability
Educational institutes are the best shot at young children finding good connections within the confines of their social boundaries. Schools are a child’s first brush with other people in terms of everyday communication and collaboration.
They make their friends in school, learn from each other and build a respectful bond with teachers.
When we talk about teachers, they act as mentors for young children and teach them the basics of how the world works. The guidance provided is nothing short of immense and valuable, coming in handy in the future on many occasions.
All in all, schools are the hub of social learning and adaptability, inclining kids to find their own path in the world.
Founder, Best Case Parenting
One of the most important functions of schools is to help prepare children for their future careers.
In order to be successful in the workforce, people need to be able to read, write, and do basic math. Schools provide children with the opportunity to learn these important skills.
It is where children learn to interact and get along in society
In addition to preparing children for their future careers, schools also play a role in socializing them. Children learn how to interact with other people and get along in society.
They also learn about different cultures and customs. This is an essential part of growing up and being a well-rounded individual.
It protects children from harm during the day
Finally, schools also provide a safe place for children to go during the day. Children are protected from harm when they are in school. They also have access to adults who can help them if they have problems. This is an important service that schools provide for families.
To improve people’s speech and trust
Schools offer a conducive environment for people from different backgrounds and cultures to interact in almost every way possible. This is particularly vital for young kids and toddlers to improve their speaking skills and make them confident in their speech.
Classrooms typically comprise people in the same age group who easily understand one another and help to sharpen our speaking skills via feedback and support.
It helps conquer the fear of speaking, enhance our speech and improve how we communicate with others.
On the other hand, schools also allow us to meet and make new mates with whom we remain friends throughout our school life. If there is a strong bond and you build enough trust for one another, you could create lifetime friendships.
In school, you get to know the different types of people in this world and better understand humanity. Generally, anyone living in a society’s mental and physical development has their cornerstone shaped in school.
It exists to instill discipline in people
Schools play an irreplaceable role in modeling our lives. You immediately gain personal discipline once you start attending school since you must abide by the rules.
Related: Why Is Self Discipline Important?
Arriving on time and attending all your classes is another critical way schools ensure we become disciplined.
As learning institutions, each school has its timetable and routine that all students must adhere to with consequences for failure.
For example, some schools make it mandatory for students to wear uniforms while at school, and those who don’t get punished. This already instills discipline to ensure students always attend school well dressed in uniform.
We also learn how to balance study and play, which allows us to what is right or wrong to make informed decisions.
In schools, children learn much more than just learning and receiving an education
Along with studying, they learn to communicate, socialize, and respect others. They learn social etiquette and are aware of their societal duties, making them decent citizens.
When it comes to eLearning, students will undoubtedly have a different experience learning and interacting with the book, but they will still require school to learn everything else.
As a result, students must attend school and learn how to be productive and responsible citizens.
Schools help students develop themselves
After some basic instruction, knowledge may also be gained by experience.
Some argue that the objective of schools is to help students develop themselves. This implies that a person’s capabilities and abilities are gradually fostered and developed via information.
This knowledge can subsequently be shared with the family and the general public. Schools exist because every successful student will become a contributing member of the local and global communities.
Schools help in building confidence and personality development
When a child goes to school, they will likely identify the field in which they are good at.
Some may be good at solving maths problems, while others may be good at playing the piano. They’ll acquire the reading and writing skills which will help in good communication with other individuals.
It helps in building a country
As we all know, “the children of today are the adults of tomorrow.”
If most children go through the schooling process, they will acquire knowledge and skills. They will be the skilled human resource of a county which would be helpful later in various fields like:
- Space exploration
- Media and many more
They will also be more successful than their counterparts who didn’t go through the schooling process.
Frequently Asked Questions
Do we really need school?
School plays a vital role in our personal and societal development. Here are a few reasons why:
• Knowledge and Skills: School provides us with the opportunity to learn about various subjects and acquire knowledge and skills that are important for personal and professional growth. Education helps us to develop critical thinking, problem-solving, and communication skills that are essential for success in life.
• Socialization: School is not just about academics; it’s also a place where we can make friends, build relationships, and learn how to interact with people from diverse backgrounds. Socialization is a critical aspect of human development, and school provides a safe and structured environment where children can learn and practice these skills.
• Personal Development: School helps us to develop self-discipline, responsibility, and independence. We learn how to manage our time, set goals, and work towards them. These skills are essential for personal development and will help us to become successful and productive members of society.
• Economic Growth: Education is a key driver of economic growth and development. Educated individuals are more likely to find employment, earn higher wages, and contribute to the economy. Education also leads to innovation and technological advancement, which are essential for economic progress.
Can schools be improved?
Schools can definitely be improved. With advancements in technology and new research on learning, there are many ways to enhance the educational experience for students and teachers alike.
Some potential ways to improve schools include implementing personalized learning plans for students, incorporating more hands-on and project-based learning, and utilizing digital tools and resources to enhance instruction. Additionally, investing in teacher training and support can also greatly improve the quality of education being provided.
It’s important to note that school improvement is an ongoing process and requires collaboration between teachers, administrators, students, and families. By working together and continuously striving to improve, schools can create a positive and effective learning environment for everyone.
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