The word education is derived from the Latin word ‘Educatum’ composed of ‘E’ and ‘Duco’. ‘E’ implies a progress from inward to outward and ‘Duco’ means developing or progressing. Literally education means “progress from inside to outside or the process of becoming developed”. Thus it is a process of developing inner abilities and powers of an individual.

The term is also often connected with the Latin word ‘Educere’ meaning ‘to rear’ or ‘bring up’. It is thus a process of bringing up to a positive change by practice for the betterment of an individual.

The term Education has a very wide connotation and makes it very difficult to set a precise decision. A scientist, priest, philosopher, teacher and even a vendor may be able to define education according to their perceptions and visions developed from their circumstances and experiences. The reasons that make the different definitions are followed.

  1. Complexity of human nature:

Each human being is unique in social, physical, spiritual, moral, aesthetic, and intellectual aspects. Emphasis on one or several aspects leads to unique definitions. A socialist emphasizes the socialization aspect of education while the moralist defines it as a mean to the character formation.

  1. Complexity of human environment:

Education is a process of enabling the individual to adjust with his social, aesthetic, physical, moral, spiritual and intellectual environment. Depending the level of emphasis on different aspects of the environment, education can be defined differently.


  1. Difference in philosophy of life:

Each person looks differently at life and perceives it differently. The philosophy of life is different to different person. Different philosophers have defined education according to their philosophy of life.


  1. Difference in life experience:

The life experience makes man rich in several ways. It enables the man to perceive things differently, to think and act differently and to solve problems differently. People who have gone through different life experiences may define education differently.


  1. Difference in aim of life:

According to idealists, the aim of life is spiritual development. As such, they regard education as a spiritual process, which aims at bringing together the soul and the creator leading to self realization. Pragmatists think of education as a process of social progress.



Since time immemorial, education has been seen as the right road to progress and prosperity. Different educationists’ thoughts from both eastern and western sides have explained the term ‘education’ according to the need of the hour.

While the Indian thinkers want to street on spiritualism and perennial truth, the Western philosophers differ in their meaning according to the need and convenience of the circumstances.


 Meaning of Education in the West:

  1. Plato: Plato defined education as “a lifelong process starting from the first year of childhood and lasting to the very end of the life”. According to him, education alone makes man eagerly pursue the ideal perfection of citizenship and teaches him how to rule and obey rightly. In The Republic, Plato points out that “true education, whatever that may be, will have the greatest tendency to civilize and humanize them in their relation to one another and to those who are under their protection”- this is the most accepted humanist definition of education. In The Laws, he said “now I mean by education that training which is given by suitable habits to the first instincts of virtue in children.
  2. Aristotle: “Education is the creation of sound mind in a sound body. It develops man’s faculty, specially his mind so that he may be able to enjoy the contemplation of supreme truth, goodness and beauty”.
  3. Rousseau: “Education is the child’s development from within”.
  4. Froebel: “Education is the enfoldment of what is clearly enfolded in the germ. It is the process through which the child makes the internal external.”
  5. Pestalozzi: “Education is the development of good moral character.”
  6. John Dewey: “Education is not preparation for life, rather it is the living. Education is the process of living through a continuous reconstruction of experiences. It is the development of all those capacities in the individual which will enable him to control his environment and fulfil his possibilities.”
  7. Aldous Auxley: “A perfect education is one which trains up every human being to fit into the place he or he is to occupy in the social hierarchy, but without in the process, destroying his or her individuality.”
  8. Ross: “The aim of education is the development of valuable personality and spiritual individuality.”

Meaning of Education in India:

  1. Yanjnavalkya: “only that is the education which gives a sterling character to an individual and render him useful for the world.”
  2. Shankaracharya: “Education is that which leads to salvation. Education is the realization of the self.”
  3. Swami Vivekananda: “ Education is the manifestation of divine perfection already existing in man”
  4. Swami Dayananda: “Education is a means for character formation and righteous living.”
  5. Aurbindo: “the child’s education ought to be an out bringing of all that is the best, most powerful, most intimate and living in his nature, the mould into which the man’s action and development ought to run is that of his innate quality and power. He must acquire new things but he will acquire them best, most wholly on the basis of his own developed type and inborn face.”
  6. Mahatma Gandhi: “by education I mean an all-round drawing out of the best in child and man, body, mind and spirit. Literacy is not the end of education not even the beginning. It is one of the means whereby man and woman can be educated. Literacy in itself is no education.”

Synthetic Definition:

Though the definitions of education in the west and India, ancient and modern, varied in its form, there are several common characteristics in all and that can be synthesized. Let us examine the synthesized meaning of Education.

  1. A lifelong process:

The process of education continues from birth to death. It is the process of development from infancy to maturity. Madam Paul Richard has pointed out “the education of man should begin at his very birth and it is to continue the whole length of his life”.

  1. Modification of behaviour:

Education is the process of enabling the person to react to a situation in an acceptable way. It is a systematic approach of changing the behaviour.

Dr. Johnson says, “Education made the mind; if the mind is the man, it is education which makes the man, a good man or a bad man according to its contact, its nature and its methods.”

  1. Unfolding:

The literal meaning of ‘education;’ itself is ‘to lead out’ or ‘bring forth’ that which lives in the human being. So education is the process of nourishing the unique possibilities of individual by unfolding the hidden abilities in his soul. Aurbindo said “the chief aim of education should be to help the growing soul to draw out that in itself which is best and make it perfect for a noble use”.

  1. An act of training:

Education is the training given to a person for leading a mature life by developing the power of reasoning and judgement. It makes him able to face several problems he may have to face at home, community and the world.

  1. Based on child Psychology:

Education should be formulated according to the individual differences, i.e. based on child psychology. Child psychology deals not only with how children grow physically, but with their mental, emotional and social development as well.

  1. Individual as well as social:

Gandhi said “I value individual freedom, but you must not forget that man is essentially a social being. He has risen to his present status by learning to adjust his individuality to the requirements of social progress”. Thus education has both individual and social aims. If the individual is properly developed, it leads to the prosperity of the society. Greek philosopher Aristotle said “the man who does not live in the society is either a God or Beast”

  1. Overall development:

Education is the overall development, physical, mental, spiritual, individual as well as social. “By education I mean all round drawing out of the best in the child and man- body, mind and spirit” Gandhi says. The overall development is the state of self realization.

  1. 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.

  1. Systematic process:

It refers to the transaction of its activities through a systematic institution and regulation.

  1. Purposive:

Every individual has some goal in his life. Education continues in the attainment of that goal. There is a definite purpose underlined in all educational activities.

  1. Training:

Human senses, mind, behaviour, activities and skills are trained in a constructive and socially desirable way.

  1. Instruction and direction:

It directs and instructs an individual to fulfill his desires and needs of exaltation of his whole personality.


Reference: ‘Education: Philosophy, Sociology and Economics’, Edited by Naseerali M.K., 2nd Edition, 2014.

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