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  • Charles Farrugia

9. Educating the Whole Person

When I started teaching in a remote village in 1959, the vast majority of my 28 pupils –and their parents- did not value education. They regarded school as an obstacle to working on the family farm, at the family shop, with their father and brothers on one or another feature of the construction industry. Many absconded school as often as possible. They waited eagerly for their fourteenth birthday –the end of compulsory school age- to join the blue-collar workforce and contribute to the family’s meagre income.




Fortunately, attitudes have changes radically since then. The vast majority of parents (regrettably not all) consider the provision of education through schooling as the vital key to their offsprings’ job prospects, happiness, prosperity and the good life. We rightly demand that our children should have better schooling than we did, in order to improve our daughters’ and sons’ quality of life.


As a result, governments contribute substantially to the provision of a schooling service through the national budget. In addition, many parents devote hard earned money to their children’s education through private schooling and private lessons.



The Aims of Education

But what do we expect from schools and the education service? The English educator Cardinal John Newman (1801-1890) provided an answer to this question when he said to develop the whole man.” Numerous educators have expanded on the Cardinal’s generic ideal by identifying as few as two main aims of education, others as many as seventeen.



I expand this ideal into six Aims of Education, namely helping people to:

1. refine their communication skills,

2. develop their intellectual and physical potential,

3. earn a living and contribute to the world of work,

4. enhance their moral and social wellbeing,

5. understand and appreciate their national and world heritage,

6. safeguard the environment for future generations.



To many, these aims are still too broad and we shall explore each in greater detail with examples in future blogs. (N.B. These aims are revised versions of the five I presented and discussed in my Principles of Education lectures at the University of Malta from 1978 to 1996 and developed in a chapter “Schools and Their Curricula” in the book entitled Themes in Education: a Maltese Reader edited by Professor Ronald Sultana.)


In the meantime, you may consider the following subjects on the school curriculum and see where they primarily belong on the six aims of education identified above. I say ‘primarily’ because each subject often contributes to more than one aim.


Mathematics, Drama, Religion, Physical Education, Commerce, Geography, Computing, Ethics, Sciences, Home Economics, Languages, Social Studies, Art, Personal & Social Development, Design & Technology, Accounts, History, Literature, Hospitality, Music, Environmental Studies.

Note that The National Minimum Curriculum of Malta published in 1991, identified the following five aims, which are quite similar to mine above:

1. the promotion of good behaviour and character formation;

2. the acquisition of literacy and numeracy;

3. an introduction into the culture of contemporary Malta;

4. an introduction to scientific knowledge;

5. the training of activity, creativity in thought and action.



The village’s current classrooms are a vast improvement from the days I started teaching. (siggiewiprimary.wordpress.com)


How about some more home-work: Compare the aims of the Maltese Educational system above with those of other countries and cultures.


The aim of China's socialist education is to 'enable everyone who receives an education to develop morally, intellectually, and physically and to become a worker with both a socialist consciousness and culture.’ The School Curriculum published by the British education authorities in 1981 identifies the following aims: 1. to help pupils to develop lively, inquiring minds, the ability to question and argue rationally and to apply themselves to tasks and physical skills; 2. to help pupils to acquire knowledge and skill relevant to adult life and employment in a fast-changing world; 3. to help pupils to use language and numbers effectively; 4. to instil respect for religious and moral values, and tolerance for other races, religions and ways of life; 5. to help pupils to understand the world in which they live, and the interdependence of individuals, groups and nations; 6. to help pupils to appreciate human achievements and aspirations.

In 1944, the US Education Policies Commission enumerated Ten Imperative Needs for Youths and instructed schools to promote activities that enhance: 1. productive work experiences and occupational success; 2. good health and physical fitness; 3. the rights and duties of a democratic citizenry; 4. conditions for a successful family life; 5. wise consumer behaviour; 6. the understanding of science and the nature of man; 7. the appreciation of arts, music, and literature 8. the wise use of leisure time; 9. respect for ethical values; 10. the ability to think rationally and communicate thoughts clearly.

Education in Egypt has political, social, and economic objectives, namely: education for strengthening democracy and comprehensive development as a continuous process, within the framework of Arab culture.The social focus dominant in the later 1960s led schools to instruct strong Islamic values and democratic ideals.

Italy: The main aims of primary education are to: foster pupils’ personal development and the acquisition of basic knowledge; develop the pupils’ cognitive skills; set the basis for ICT literacy; develop the pupils’ capacities of expressing themselves in Italian and a foreign language (English); set the bases for the use of scientific methods in the study of the natural world, its phenomena and laws; and teach the fundamental principles of civil coexistence.

The purpose of compulsory secondary education is getting students to: acquire basic cultural elements, especially humanistic, artistic, scientific and technological aspects. develop and strengthen their study and work habits. prepare them for further studies and/or access to the labour market. Jan 21, 2020

Russian general education is aimed at the intellectual, emotional, moral and physical development of the individual. It aims to develop the abilities that will allow a student to adapt to life in society as well as helping individuals to make conscious choices concerning professional education. Apr 22, 2020



Next blog: Improved Communications.

If you wish to get in touch, email me at education.backtobasics@gmail.com . To know more about the author and the aims of these blogs, double click on ABOUT at the top of the page.




ERRATA: In blog 2 The DeSchoolers, I wrote that John Holt wrote “How Children Learn”, which he did as a follow up to his more famous book “How Children Fail”, the title I wanted to refer to.


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