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What is education for?

A discussion with the IoI Education Forum and the Education Policy Network.

7:15pm, Tuesday 8 March 2016, Hackney Pirates, 138 Kingsland High Street, London E8 2NS

In a single week in January, arguments raged over league tables, teaching to the test, free speech in universities, even what parents wear at the school gate. Only one thing seems clear: education is a hotly contested arena. But is there any common ground beneath the screaming headlines? Does society have a mutual understanding of the point of education anymore? Did it ever?

Some argue education is the key to building citizenship; others that it is the key to enhancing the economy; more that it is a key ingredient of social mobility. Perhaps its importance lies in personal autonomy, such as allowing pupils to develop individual financial stability or equipping them with relevant skills for the twenty-first-century job market?  Maybe it is a project in its own terms, education as self-actualisation, knowledge for its own sake?  Or is that aim of the intergenerational - passing on of “the best that’s thought and known” - just old-fashioned, sentimental nonsense?

In a special event jointly organized by the Education Policy Network and the IoI Education Forum, four speakers from different disciplines will attempt to answer the question ‘what is education for?’ exploring these ideas both in their own terms but also implications for how they might be implemented at a policy level, before handing over the debate to the floor. It’s all set to be an evening of lively intellectual exchange which we hope to continue in a local pub after the more formal part of the evening.

What do you think? More importantly, what is to be done?

If you haven’t been to an Education Forum discussion before, check out this podcast of our most recent discussion, Frank Furedi discussing his latest book, Power of Reading.


Professor Angela McFarlane
CEO, College of Teachers

James Townsend
Project Development Manager, Church of England Schools

Geraldine Davies
Principal, UCL Academy, Camden

Kevin Rooney
Convenor, IoI Education Forum, and Head of Social Science, Queen’s School, Bushey


What is a good education in the twenty-first century?,
speech by schools minister Nick Gibb, February 2016

Should schools teach ‘British values’?
debate at the Battle of Ideas, November 2015

Towards a subject-based curriculum
Education Forum’s response to the National Curriculum Review, April 2012


How to find the venue

events archive