Meaning, Nature and Aims of 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.

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

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

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

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

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.”


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

4. Swami Vivekananda – “Education is the manifestation of divine perfection already existing in man.”

5. Aristotle - “Education is the creation of sound mind in a sound body.”

6. Rousseau - “Education is the child’s development from within.”

7. Herbert Spencer- “Education is complete living.”

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

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

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

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

12. T.P. Nunn - “Education is the complete development of the individuality of the child.”

13. John Dewey – “Education is the process of living through a continuous reconstruction of experiences.”

14. 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.”

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 multisided 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.

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62 thoughts on “Meaning, Nature and Aims of Education”

  1. excellent, such notes facilitate so many people online, please keep it up and our good wishes are with you

  2. Excellent form of expression. one of the most authentic source of information. the article is developed in a most perfect way to impart maximum knowledge.

  3. while articulated and very educative and inspiring. I love the inclusion of spiritual development as aspect of educational development

    1. Thank you very much for giving me an opportunity to have a word with you on a topic such as education . I appreciate your views given here and acknowledge that I maintain the same views . Recently I have posted two blogs on this topics on Speaking Tree , Times of India . I am giving their URL link , you can have a look at them . You will find that our views are same .

      I will feel honored to remain in touch with your forthcoming views .
      Dr. Vijai Shanker

  4. I am very happy with this articule. it has given me a clear understanding of the meaning of education. Thatnks alot and God bless you.
    From Angela James.

  5. I love this lessons on education especially the teacher ,is good teacher indeed.I now have balance undst on education most especially the origin of the word education

  6. I am writing my project work on plato.An evaluation on plato’s philosophy of education. Am still confuse how to write philosophers position on education and how to put down ancient medieval modern and contemporary philosophers on education. Your contribution will greatly be appreciated tank you

  7. Good, but it is a pity that it has missed out some important school of thoughts in Ancient Chinese philosophy of education.

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