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What are the basic functions of education?

December 4, 2016



While different nations may have different interpretation to its education system that suits its particular political, economic, social and ideological uniqueness, this article sought to explore the basic functions of education through establishing an assessment framework, which would be deemed necessary evaluating the education system for our reflections.


According to the United Nations’ Universal Declaration of Human Rights Article 26[1]:


  1. Everyone has the right to education. Education shall be free, at least in the elementary and fundamental stages. Elementary education shall be compulsory. Technical and professional education shall be made generally available and higher education shall be equally accessible to all on the basis of merit.

  2. Education shall be directed to the full development of the human personality and to the strengthening of respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms.

  3. Parents have a prior right to choose the kind of education that shall be given to their children.

    To Clater[2], education plays a vital role in developing students’ intelligence and rationality. Particularly, the curriculum should nurture students’ with an ability to think critically in differentiating what is right or wrong. Besides, the development of “livelihood skills” should also be stressed so as to enable students to pursuit an independent life. It is also crucial for an education system to “pass on” a culture with a thought of “improving” it to students from generation to generation such as the transmission of common language, geography and norms and values. Apart from cognitive development of individuals, Mincer affirmed the economic value of education. According to his paper “Human Capital and Economic Growth”[3], it is essential to recognize the link between education and the production of human capital in the realm of economic growth –


“Human capital analysis deals with acquired capabilities which are developed through formal and informal education at school and at home, and through training, experience, and mobility in the labor market” and;


“Human capital is a link which enters both the causes and effects of these economic-demographic changes (of a society).”


    With references to findings of the literature review, an ideal education is one that promotes social development, which should carry the follow eight virtues:


  1. Equally and freely accessible to all in primary and secondary education

  2. Equally accessible to all in tertiary education on the basis of merit

  3. Focuses on skill-training that enables people to strive for independent living and become productive members of the society which include socialization trainings and knowledge building

  4. Dissemination of cultural norms of that particular nation

  5. Development of potential of students including their critical thinking and their creativity so as to make reflection to the deficiencies of the society and the government

  6. Instilling the students with the comprehension of fundamental human rights and freedoms.

  7. Different stakeholders, including parents and teachers, should have certain bargaining power vis-à-vis the government in the interplay of the formulation and implementation of educational policies

  8. Carrying socio-economic functions to provide human capital in the labour market for enhancing economic growth

So to what extent has our education facilitated the above purposes? In what role do neo-liberalism and globalisation has shaped the priorities of our education system? Regardless of the stance, the above framework provides different assessment criteria for our evaluation.




[1] The United Nations. “The Universal Declaration of Human Rights”. retrieved on 8th  May 2013, from  https://www.un.org/en/documents/udhr/


[2] Rev. Theodore E. Clater (1994). “What is a good education?”. Keystone Christian Education Association. Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. retrieved on 8th  May 2013, from  http://www.kcea.com/position/good_education/


[3] Jacob Mincer (1981). “Human Capital and Economic Growth”.  Working Paper no. 803. National Bureau of Economic Research. Cambridge. retrieved on 8th  May 2013, from  http://www.nber.org/papers/w0803.pdf?new_window=1


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