Injecting New Perspective, Meaning and Relevance into the Philosophy of Education

By Joe Munyoki Mwinzi | December 14, 2020

Abstract: The philosophy of education is both an activity and a process which is envisaged to underpin and evaluate pedagogical events and activities in terms of what is taught, how it is taught, who is taught, and the process of teaching and learning. Educational theory is a compound concept that refers to the purpose of learning in terms of its totality of applying, interpreting, and integrating teaching and learning experiences. The practice of education includes the process of converting ideas into reality within the learning context. The purpose of any philosophy of education is central in education because it envisages examining the significance of that which is taught. This study seeks to assess how current educational theory, policy and practice can correlate with the philosophy of education at all levels of education.
Keywords: philosophy; education; policy; theory; practice

摘要(Joe Munyoki Mwinzi:一种新的观点,意义及对教育哲学的关联性): 教育哲学既是一项活动,也是一个过程,旨在根据所教内容,所教方式,所教对象以及教与学的过程来支持和评估教育的大事记及其活动。教育理论是一个综合概念,涉及学习目的的全部应用,解读以及教与学经验的整合。教育实践包括在学习环境中将思想转变为现实的过程。任何教育哲学的目的都具备教育的中心意义,因为它可以提供所授内容的含义研究。该研究尝试着去评估当前的教育理论,教育政策及教育实践是如何与各级教育的教育哲学相关联。
关键词:哲学; 教育; 政治; 理论; 实践

摘要(Joe Munyoki Mwinzi:一種新的觀點,意義及對教育哲學的關聯性): 教育哲學既是一項活動,也是一個過程,旨在根據所教內容,所教方式,所教對像以及教與學的過程來支持和評估教育的大事記及其活動。教育理論是一個綜合概念,涉及學習目的的全部應用,解讀以及教與學經驗的整合。教育實踐包括在學習環境中將思想轉變為現實的過程。任何教育哲學的目的都具備教育的中心意義,因為它可以提供所授內容的含義研究。該研究嘗試著去評估當前的教育理論,教育政策及教育實踐是如何與各級教育的教育哲學相關聯。
關鍵詞:哲學; 教育; 政治; 理論; 實踐

Zusammenfassung (Joe Munyoki Mwinzi: Eine neue Perspektive, Bedeutung und Relevanz für die Bildungsphilosophie): Die Philosophie der Bildung ist sowohl eine Aktivität als auch ein Prozess, der darauf abzielt, pädagogische Ereignisse und Aktivitäten zu untermauern und zu evaluieren, und zwar in Bezug auf das, was gelehrt wird, wie es gelehrt wird, wer gelehrt wird und den Prozess des Lehrens und Lernens. Die Bildungstheorie ist ein zusammengesetztes Konzept, das sich auf den Zweck des Lernens in seiner Gesamtheit der Anwendung, Interpretation und Integration von Lehr- und Lernerfahrungen bezieht. Die Praxis der Bildung umfasst den Prozess der Umsetzung von Ideen in die Realität innerhalb des Lernkontextes. Der Zweck jeder Bildungsphilosophie ist in der Bildung von zentraler Bedeutung, weil sie die Untersuchung der Bedeutung dessen, was gelehrt wird, vorsieht. Diese Studie versucht zu beurteilen, wie die gegenwärtige Bildungstheorie, -politik und -praxis mit der Bildungsphilosophie auf allen Bildungsebenen korrelieren kann.
Schlüsselwörter: Philosophie; Bildung; Politik; Theorie; Praxis

Резюме (Джо Муниоки Мвинци (Новая перспектива, значение и роль для философии образования): Философия образования – это и деятельность, и процесс, который направлен на то, чтобы обосновывать педагогические события, факты и явления, давать им оценку, прежде всего в отношении того, что должно быть предметом обучения, как должно реализовываться обучение, кто в процессе обучения является целевой группой. Теория образования представляет собой многоуровневую концепцию, которая ставит во главу угла цель обучения со всей совокупностью использования, интерпретации и интеграции опыта субъектов и объектов образовательного дискурса. Практическая составляющая образования направлена на перенос идей в реальность, формируемую в рамках учебного контекста. Целеполагание, определяемое для философии образования, имеет в образовательном дискурсе центральное значение, поскольку здесь предусматривается исследование степени релевантности того, что является предметом обучения и изучения. В нашем исследовании предпринимается попытка дать оценку тому, как современная теория образования, образовательная политика и практическая сфера способны коррелировать на разных образовательных уровнях с философией образования
Ключевые слова: философия, образование, политика, теория, практическая деятельность

1. Introduction

The global community is currently characterized by change whose repercussions have a critical impact on societal enterprises and engagements. This change is more pronounced in education as it appears in the sustainable development goals or global goals particularly, e.g. goal number four, entitled ‘quality education’. The question of ‘quality’ in education is still debatable, and, as such, current failures emanate from a mismatch between philosophy of education and educational theory, policy and practice such that the purpose of education as reflected in theory, policy and practice is not informed by philosophy. It is palpable that from its inception, education has been designed to transmit core knowledge and cultural values, provide custodial care, and prepare learners for self-actualization.

Instead, a worrying percentage of learners has failed to achieve the best out of education and lapsed into self-alienation. It is probable that that alienation is occasioned by disharmony in educational theory, policy, practice and societal aspirations which is subsumed under and technically referred to as the philosophy of education. A philosophy of education is a property of the society because it is derived from societal aspirations (Mwinzi, 2012, p. 28). Further, philosophy of education has an imperative aspect of enabling learners to cultivate critical and creative thinking for problem solving and decision making. A philosophy of education which is derived from societal aspirations is an imperative aspect of education because it helps learners to cultivate critical and creative thinking for problem solving and decision making. Therefore, educational theory, policy and practice have not been so effective. This article avers that this disparity in educational theory, policy and practice emanates from inadequate integrative forces in the philosophy of education.

The consequence is that educational theory, policy and practice that is devoid of a guiding philosophy fails to meet the aspirations of society and is exposed to a continuous pattern of maintenance to catch-up in order to align with society. As a pattern maintenance facility, educational theory, policy and practice encounter failure in matching changing societal expectations, especially in Africa. Therefore, the existing struggle in many African nations is defined by learning institutions embracing catch-up tactics due to being left behind schedule in terms of responding to evolving needs of the societies.

An evidential question is; are the teaching-learning institutions aligned to the national philosophy of education? A piecemeal commitment and rerouting from any philosophy of education poses a threat to the efforts at scrutinizing what is taught, how it is taught, who is taught, and the process of teaching and learning. The activity of integrating teaching and learning experiences, interpreting, and applying by converting ideas into reality within the learning context is therefore marginal.

It is evident that the environment within which education is embedded has been changing at an increasing rate. However, the current theories, policies and practices applied to solve problems in education are the same ones used to generate the problems and are stoutly defended as having worked in the past. It is blatant that the magnitude of change has become apparent as a societal concern and stimulated a series of reforms, which have had ostensibly superficial impact. This mismatch keeps us from learning a valuable lesson about the role of philosophy of education in the teaching and learning process and activity: an inherent allegiance to seek improvement through integrating philosophy of education is inevitable.

Stabley (2010, p. 44) argues that the zeal for objectivity and reliability has often emphasized precision at the expense of relevancy, value, and most importantly, understanding and application. Currently, the call for serious integration of the philosophy of education in educational theory, policy and practice is becoming increasingly strident. On the contrary, philosophy, education, theory, and practice are popularized terms in teaching-learning institutions without a fundamental understanding and apt implications, to the point where everything is assumed to be ‘philosophy’ and by extension ‘philosophy of education’ but nothing really is treated as one. Thus, many people say they have a ‘philosophy or philosophy of education’ but almost no-one really has. The implication is that popular interpretations of the philosophy of education are inappropriate, and therefore decision and policy makers need to fully understand why the current systems of education will not work because they are devoid of a crucial component, i.e. the philosophy of education.

2. Objectives

  1. to ascertain whether the philosophy of education is known in learning institutions
  2. to establish the role of philosophy of education in educational theory and practice
  3. to propose a paradigm of integrating philosophy of education into educational theory, policy and practice

3. The Concepts of Philosophy and Education

3.1 Philosophy

According to Bim-Bad and Egorova (2016, p. 3386), philosophy is perceived to designate both a system of ideas and a method of inquiry. Philosophy is derived from two Greek words i.e. ‘philein’ (love/lover of) and ‘sophias’ (wisdom/knowledge). Hence, φιλοσοφία (philosophía) is a compound of φίλος (phílos: friend, or lover) and σοφία (sophía: wisdom). An etymological definition of philosophy is the ‘love of wisdom or knowledge’. Stabley (2010, p. 45) defines philosophy as an ongoing questioning process, the juxtapositioning of ideas not only identifying contradictions and ambiguities requiring further clarification, but also exposing underlying assumptions and raising questions about the validity and value of those assumptions.

Audi (2006, p. xxvii) underlines that philosophy evaluates extraordinary things with ordinary terms – ‘believe’ and ‘know’, ‘cause’ and ‘effect’, ‘explain’ and ‘substantiate’, ‘space’ and ‘time’, ‘language’ and ‘meaning’, ‘truth’ ‘art’, ‘religion’, ‘science’, ‘mind’, ‘perception’, ‘reason’ etc. It follows necessarily that philosophy must comprise of reflection on the nature of reality as it is radiated from experience (Bhatt, 2011, p. 39). Therefore, as an activity of reflection on the nature of reality, philosophy can be defined as an intellectual enterprise that attempts to understand, interpret, and unify reality. Hence, as a process and activity, the value of philosophy is to seek, identify and evaluate the lenses through which experiences are constructed (Stabley, 2010, p. 44).

3.2 Concept of Education

The concept of ‘education’ has myriad connotations including instruction, training, role-learning, formation, drilling, indoctrination, conditioning, moulding etc. (Zavaley, 2014, p. 4; Ellis, & Fouts, 1996). Diverse connotations of education may imply that anyone who pursues education has prior knowledge, prior experience and prejudices, while the task of educating is to mobilize, expand, differentiate, specify, and correct such delusions. Further, diverse perspectives of education depend on three reasons. First, education is a general term that refers to a whole range of meanings. Second, education is a complex word which has compound meanings. Third, education is a relational concept whereby it is often used in relation or in conjunction to other terms or realities, and experience such as academic discipline, performance, or going to school. This is why Zavaley (ibid.) underscores that education as described above is generalized and raises questions about the nature of rational thinking and creative skills, the essence of, autonomy of learners, methods of upbringing, ontological and deontological orientations.

Apart from these three reasons, education has diverse interpretations and definitions because of the complex nature of human personality i.e. education is the development of an individual, who is complex in nature based on social, physical, moral, intellectual, spiritual and aesthetic aspects that influence definition, interpretation, and meaning of education. Secondly, diversity of interpretations and definitions of education emanate from the complexity of human environment i.e. education enables a person to adjust to the environment whilst environmental aspects such as physical, cultural, economic factors affect an individual e.g. an economist sees education as a process of societal creativity. Thirdly, diverse interpretations and definitions of education are derived from the different philosophies of life i.e. different thinkers design different philosophies according to places of origin and their own general perception of the world. Quite naturally, any definition of “education” depends largely on which school of philosophy an author is more inclined to (ibid.) Finally, divergent interpretations and definitions are caused by varied educational theories and practices i.e. diverse educational theories account for different definitions of education such that empiricism and rationalism theories have distinct interpretations and definitions.

Based on its origin, education is derived from Latin terms educere and educare. Therefore, educere means ‘to lead out’, or ‘to launch, beget or give birth to’. On the other hand, the verb ‘educare’ refers to the physical process of rearing or bringing up. It is possible to deduce that education, in this case, is synonymous with ‘instrucio’ which implies a specific process of formal and systematic learning. Education is the process of realising the potential of a person – a process of being, and becoming. It is a rational movement from ignorance to knowledge, from foolishness to wisdom, from darkness to light. R.S. Peters (1966) said that, education is the process of initiation. Bueton (1988) argued that education is an experimental science whose purpose is to secure an exact knowledge of facts. It is a process of initiating people into knowledge, skills, values and attitudes acceptable by society. A cogent definition of Lawrence Cretin is that education is “the deliberate, systematic, and sustained effort to transmit, evoke, or acquire knowledge, attitudes, values and skills.” Julius Nyerere (1963) averred that education is the transmission of knowledge from one generation to the next. Wolfgang Brezinka (1928-2020) understands education as social action by which people try to improve the structure of other people’s mental dispositions in one way or another or to preserve the components of these dispositions that are considered valuable (Brezinka, 1974, p. 95 [translated from German]).

The above definitions and interpretations of education can convince someone to infer that education is sometimes used to signify the activity, the process, an enterprise of initiating, or being initiated and sometimes to signify the discipline taught in institutions of learning whose attention may be on the activity, process, or enterprise (Zavaley, 2014, p. 4). As an activity or process, education may be formal or informal, private or public, individual or social, but it always consists in cultivating dispositions (abilities, skills, knowledges, beliefs, attitudes, values, and character traits) by certain methods. As a discipline, education studies or reflects on the activity or enterprise by asking questions about its aims, methods, effects, forms, history, costs, value, and relations to society. However, the relevance of education to society is overriding in every institution of teaching and learning.

For Plato, education was necessary to create and sustain the Republic (Siegel, 2010, p. 5). The process of teaching and learning was to identify the learners’ abilities and differentiate their suitability in serving the republic. Here, Plato focused his discussion on an analysis of societal needs and the varieties of human talent, culminating in the functionalism facet of education (Noddings, 1998, p. 9). The most gifted should be trained by the state to rule, teach and be responsible for the lives of others. Thus, a system of selective public education premised on the assumption that an educated minority of the population are, by virtue of their education (and inborn educability), envisaged to undertake high profile responsibility in society (ibid.). This minority population ought to be familiar with the aspirations of society and be positioned to adjust accordingly when necessary. An apt education must be holistic, including facts, skills, creative, imaginative and physical discipline as forms of human enterprise. Therefore, the aims of education focus on the epistemic ends, moral principles, and social objectives relevant to contemporary society (Siegel, 2010, p. 5). This is the initial base of philosophical perspectives in education. Hence, education that is informed by reason to achieve its purposive ends is indispensable in society. Thus, the curriculum has the object of explaining human activity, enlarging social connections, or solving social problems (Noddings, 1998, p. 31).

Similarly, Aristotle considered human nature, habit and reason to be crucial forces behind the concept of education (Barrow, & Woods, 2006, p. 85). It is the role of the teacher to lead the learner in a systematic manner. An inherent perspective of Aristotle is that there should be an indispensable harmony between the theoretical and practical aspects, abstract and empirical or pragmatic realm components in the teaching and learning process. The implication is that the fate of society depends on the nature of its education. This basic idea is taken up by other classics of pedagogy and developed in different ways. To be mentioned here above all are Johann Heinrich Pestalozzi (1746-1827), and later also William Kilpatrick (1871-1965) and John Dewey (1859-1952). Dewey, for example, emphasized that education is the means of ‘social continuity’ and therefore a necessity for societal stability. The implication is that education should be reformed to match societal aspirations and prospects. In addition, societal aspirations and prospects focus on the need for a holistic educational impulse founded on developing a balance between the intellect (mind), the feeling and artistic life (heart), and practical skills (hands). This is where education has its basis in creative and critical thinking. Only those persons who are critical and creative should become teachers, consequently shaping the curriculum and the classroom activities into a rational integration (Allen, & Wright, 2015, p. 147). Kilpatrick and Dewey have significantly influenced the progressive education movement since the beginning of the 20th century, e.g. also in Germany (Retter, 2018; Retter, 2019). It became clear that the shortcomings of society and education are closely and inherently intertwined.

It is the view of Jerome Bruner (1915-2016) that aims and methods in education are decisive. As a decisive enterprise, education is an act or experience comprising of formative effect on the mind, character or physical ability of an individual (Ogwora, Kuria, Nyamwaka, & Nyakan, 2013, p. 95). Methods and aims in education are the landmarks in conceptualizing learning and the curriculum. A clear perception of the method and purpose of education is a crucial notion for underpinning the essential feature of prolific thinking (Mwinzi, 2016, p. 381). This is why education whose focus is in the material being of what is learned is superlative to the external motivation of grades. It is from this backdrop that pragmatic education generates a process of constructing new ideas based on current or past knowledge (see also: Ellis, & Bond, 2016). However, pragmatic upshot can only be achieved if there is coherence of pedagogical activities and societal aspirations (Mwinzi, 2017, p. 49092). Coherence of pedagogical activities and societal aspirations profile education into a process by which society deliberately transmits its accumulated ideas, attitudes, expertise and values from one generation to another through institutions (Ogwora, et al., 2013, p. 95).

Accordingly, Paulo Freire (1921-1997) attributes liberating character to the activity of education. However, such education ought to be relative to the existential aspirations within society. Otherwise, the transmission of mere facts, the ‘banking concept’, as the goal of education, is perilous on critical and creative thinking in education. It is the task of philosophy to inform educational theory, policy, and practice. In this case, philosophy is perceived as the summary of essentials that make up society and thus constitute the meaning of education theory, policy, and practice. It points at what society ought to aspire to be achieved through education (Ogwora,, 2013, p. 95). Therefore, it is necessary that societal aspirations ought to be properly blended into education to enhance its relevance. Society has designed terrific objectives that are either ignored or minimally pursued in learning institutions. The implication is that learning institutions fail to become a replica of what society wants them to be. In this case, what kills the processes in learning institutions is unnecessary interference attempting to regulate or control them and thus, a serious re-examination is inevitable. Education ought to be informed and driven by the inquiry technique which is necessary to facilitate understanding to match societal aspiration instead of mere knowing.

3.3 Education Theory

The term ‘theory’ refers to a coherent collection of underpinned judgments or predictions concerning a phenomenon (Mwinzi, 2017, p. 49095; Ozmon, & Craver, 2008 p. 264; Cahn, 2009, p. 179). An education theory is the outcome of pedagogical appraisal, construct and activity upon significant aspects of learning. In this education theory, pedagogical activities and processes within specified subject matter are analyzed. A theory analyzes a wide reflection of reality, thoughts, and ideas (Mwinzi, 2015, p. 677). The term ‘educational theory’ refers to premises that explain the application, interpretation and purpose of learning and education in order to arrive at a better understanding of education practice based on a deliberate focus of an intellectual notion of a pedagogical situation (Mwinzi, 2015, p. 680). The task of education theory is to spot a comprehensive perception of pedagogy, identify inherent pedagogic objectives, and ascertain the relevance of pedagogy to the societal aspirations. Therefore, it is necessary to scrutinize probable assumptions, examine the concepts, and evaluate the methods to obtain a decisive and comprehensive premise of education (ibid., p. 679).

In principle, education theory generates a thesis, postulates a synthesis, and constructs an antithesis which projects an integral, and a comprehensive foundation which is necessary to substantiate the functional in the nature of education in terms of elemental principles, irrefutable values, and decisive conclusions. In this treatise, the elemental principles are the ideas approved by society, irrefutable values are societal ideals, and decisive conclusions refer to the end desired by society. Therefore, educational theory draws attention to all aspects of a human person; ranging from social features, cultural traits, economic character and political frame. It focuses on learning in its totality (Mwinzi, 2015, p. 681).

3.4 Education Practice

In practice, teaching and learning are crucial forces for improving society. The process of effecting educational activities in the learning institution plays a critical role in the development of society; however, such activities are derived from societal aspirations. In this discourse, the concept of the practice of education is defined as an outline of the totality of activities and processes that take place in a learning institution. It is the direct implementation of theoretical events of pedagogy in teaching-learning institutions particularly in the classroom or the lecture theatre (Bim-Bad, & Egorova, 2016, p. 3385).

Majoni and Chinyanganya (2014, p. 64) maintain that education has a universal character, that is, it must be acquired by all people without exception and is inseparable from the recognition of human dignity. The aspect of humanity dignity implies that education should not be perceived as limiting and potentially inhibitive of the communal, social, and cultural responsibilities (ibid.). The authors allude that the empirical bases in society are the major determinants of pedagogical practice. On the contrary, society has diverted attention from its inspirations under the influence of a science-aversive culture endorsed by education policymakers and teacher education faculties, while governments insert their foot in education using the trial and error method of reviewing the curriculum etc. (ibid.). However, once education practice is not derived from the experiential basis, societal aspirations, then it can fail to meet its purpose, and such disparities are already daunting education practice in society.

Societal aspirations are central and fundamental attributes of human existence, and thus, the essence of education practice itself without societal aspirations is debatable (Bim-Bad, & Egorova, 2016, p. 3386). The harmony between aspirations and education practice creates a stance of coherence and positivity in the whole society, reducing negative trends and improving the quality of educational theory and practice in an entire society (Mwinzi, 2017, p. 49094; Zavaley, 2014, p. 5). However, contemporary systems of education are problematic because of the discrepancy in terms of reason devolving from error and illusion, and liberation from fault and wrong thinking (Shouler, 2008, p. 269). This gap can easily be correlated to the disparity between educational practice, policy, and societal aspirations.

An educational practice that is designed on a philosophy of education has the capacity to identify the effectiveness and risks of different pedagogical interventions. An effective educational practice is reliable, replicable, objective, and valid; such that it: (a) meets the measurements established on standards of reliability and validity; (c) assesses competing theories, where multiple theories exist; (b) endorses the general conclusions drawn from applied inferences. Hence, educational practice comprises of effective functionality.

4. Comprehension of Philosophy of Education in Learning Institutions

An understanding of philosophy of education is fundamental in a pedagogical process and activity. Noddings (1998, p. 7) defines philosophy of education as the philosophical study of education and its problems….whereby its central subject matter is education, and its methods are those of philosophy. Philosophy of education is an academic discipline concerned with every aspect of the educational enterprise (Audi, 2006, p. 670). Similarly, an insight ensuing from Semel (2010, p. 188) is that philosophy of education is an enterprise which shapes education practice to prepare the learner for future responsibilities in the society. Hence, it is a process and activity in the learning process. It is implicit that a process and an activity of inquiry into the ideas that dominate educational theory, policy and practice originate from society to serve that society.

Bim-Bad and Egorova (2016, p. 3389) underscore that the volume of societal knowledge is constantly increasing and the content continues updating, and this leads to a constant update of nomenclature and content of professional activity. Thus, pedagogical institutions should derive their essence from society and for the same society. Once such parallelism has any discrepancy, the implications of the anomaly are reflected in educational theory, policy, and practice. Institutions are obliged to understand their mandate as part of the teaching-learning process and activity for society. This is because society has an undertaking of devising the philosophy that guides education theory, policy, and practice. According to Bim-Bad and Egorova, (2016, p. 3389) the systematic socio-cultural changes in the development of humanity in contemporary society are characterized as a society of knowledge.

Some of the fundamental questions necessary to promote an understanding about the task of philosophy of education are; what it is worthwhile or necessary to teach, and what the best ways of doing it are (Mwinzi, 2017, p. 49098). Further questions that may aid an understanding of philosophy of education are; the nature of learning, the purpose of education (imparting ideas, infusing proficiency, initiating rational autonomy, or suffusing values), the nature of education-related concepts, such as the concept of education itself, and the conduct of educational processes and activities remain pertinent. Mwinzi emphasizes that the activity and the process of educational theory, policy and practice are necessary facets for the greater society, while the teaching-learning institutions are obliged to align to the ideals of the society. This can be achieved by endorsing the trends of reason and rationality in order to establish the essence of creating and perpetuating societal aspirations (ibid.).

Comprehension of the philosophy of education as a property of society enables teaching-learning institutions to respond to the deficit of suitable processes necessary for solving problems facing diverse societal systems (Semel, 2010, p. 209). Siegel (2010, p. 4) concurs that a variety of issues involving thinking, reasoning, teaching and learning that is endorsed by society resides at enhancing coherence and positivity. It is by clarification derived from the philosophy of education that educational experiences are properly described, while the concepts, ideas, and assumptions underlying constructions are divulged. Mwinzi (2015, p. 679) notes that the philosophy of education remains as a critical and oppositional discourse for understanding, challenging, and responding to issues in education systems using theoretical acuity. A critical evaluation poses questions on the relevance and value behind education theory, policy or practice, and opens prospects of generating new perspectives that can formulate better outcomes and augment an inclusive understanding.

One of the leading programs in the philosophy of education in the world is that philosophy is viewed as a critical and reflective activity which is central to sound educational theory, policy, practice, and research. Drawing on diverse philosophical traditions, learners explore educational aims, concepts, and practices across a range of settings, including the nature of knowledge, the possibilities and limitations of education, diverse forms of education (liberal, aesthetic), the ethics of teaching, critical thinking, etc. However, in many instances, exceptional and elegant philosophies of education are properly crafted in paper. It follows necessarily that an efficient education theory, policy and practice originate from specific cultural and national/societal contexts (Kraft, 2011, p. 383). A study carried out by Mwinzi (2012) revealed that various countries use the philosophy of education to display what education is envisaged to do. It also portrays how teaching and learning ought to be conducted and finally what the end results should be.

The study went further to divulge that many countries display their philosophy of education on paper, but there is little to show in the actual activities of teaching-learning in the entire process. The implication is that though education should be pegged to the philosophy of education, such philosophy of education is estranged in learning institutions. Here, the philosophy of education submits a two-frame-model, situated between ‘philosophy’ on the one hand and ‘education’ on the other (Kraft, 2011, p. 384).

Figure: (adapted from Kraft, 2011:384)

Figure: (adapted from Kraft, 2011:384)

A pertinent question is; why are philosophies of education alienated from the pedagogical institutions? And yet, it is overt that philosophy involves logical consistency and abstractive reasoning (Pring, 2012, p. 28). This is the realm and primacy of thinking, where there is minimal space for imagination. Thinking leads to invention, innovation, breakthroughs, etc. It is through thinking that society is able to articulate its aspirations and insert them in educational theory, policy, and practice. These aspirations are the sources of the philosophy of education, and as such, the same national aspirations describe the purpose of education.

Previously, this treatise highlighted that philosophy of education is an inclusion of philosophical principles and methods into the theory and practice of education. Some of the themes of inquiry in the philosophy of education are the nature of learning, the purpose of education, the nature of educational concepts, relevance education to societal needs, and the authenticity of educational research. Therefore, philosophy of education in its new understanding is not only a theoretical comprehension of foundations and manifestations of educational process, but also practice and direct implementation of theoretical educational groundwork (Bim-Bad, & Egorova, 2016, p. 3392). On the contrary, though philosophy of education is so crucial in pedagogy, it is still alien in the teaching-learning institutions.

5. The Purpose of Philosophy of Education in the Learning Process

An intrinsic deficit in education systems rotates around the issue of coherence between philosophy of education and education practice in the curricula. This treatise endorses Boyles’ recognition (2009, p. 134) that worthwhile learning experiences are realized when philosophy of education is integrated into the teaching-learning situation. It is deduced from the insight of Boyles (2009) that an education practice which does not revolve within the margins of a philosophy of education contradicts its capacity to realize its decisive objective. A conflict facing education practice in many countries is modeled within the context of snubbing the basis, tenets and practices that are inherent as societal aspirations in the country. In this erstwhile argument, Mwinzi (2012) suggests that an academic philosophy of education must evaluate the nature and the purpose of education against the process of learning based on special reference to the needs of the society. This argument is protracted in Gutek (2011, p. 56) who describes philosophy of education as an enterprise which defines the purpose of pedagogy for human beings.

It is imperative that philosophy of education has the task of raising questions about the relevance and value of the structures necessary for consistent education theory, policy and practice. Philosophy of education analyzes theories and arguments such that sometimes it enhances previous arguments or raises powerful objections that lead to the revision or abandonment of theories and lines of arguments (Noddings, 1998, p. 7). In educational theory, policy and practice, science itself is not able to change the reality of existence, more the philosophical trajectory of influencing the future generation (Bim-Bad, & Egorova, 2016, p. 3387). In educational processes and activities, philosophy of education has a task of fusing education theory, policy and practice, in order to realize a more comprehensive account of pedagogy, one which is informed by the societal aspirations that are often ignored or excluded.

In the process of teaching and learning, philosophy of education appraises the purpose, process, nature and ideals of education. This appraisal is applied within the context of education as a societal institution or more broadly as the process of human existential growth. The essence of philosophy of education is to establish how changes in society tend to constantly transform educational theory, policy and practice using a systematic approach and its reliance on reasoned argument. The implication is that philosophy of education is a practical strategy of detecting probable harm to education practice in the process of learning. Since philosophy of education is derived from societal aspirations, it serves as the substratum and reliable benchmark of estimating the benefits of implementing pedagogical activities. In education, common philosophical underpinnings and practices within contemporary education theory, policy and practice draws attention to the access, efficiency, equity, identity, quality and relevance (Heyneman, 2016, p. 378). The process of learning requires the discipline of philosophy of education to infuse a unique and precise undertaking of measuring proficiency and liable theory, policy and practice in education (Bim-Bad, & Egorova, 2016, p. 3386). Thus, effective educational theory, policy and practice should be based on philosophical principles such that the whole of educational thought and practice is pegged and informed by the philosophy of education.

Mwinzi (2012, p. 42) argues that an extensive history of the philosophy of education contains a fundamental discourse about educational theory, policy and practice which underlines what is practical (Semel, 2010, p. 12). Accordingly, philosophy of education has an integral description of the purpose of education in society in terms of its aspirations, identity and complexity. The role of philosophy of education is to provide an inquiry about education as a social activity and as such, to assess the issues affecting educational practice.

As such, philosophy provides a platform of theoretical thinking to make education more germane and accurately practical. Philosophy of education is considered to be a process and activity of teaching, provision of educational thought, rational reflection, theoretical pedagogics, diversity of coherent disciplines, which has a pluralistic essence (Bim-Bad, & Egorova, 2016, p. 3385). In the process of teaching and learning, philosophy of education (Siegel, 2010) contains a broad range of analysis such as appraisal of the epistemic and moral aims of education, liberal and conventional education, thinking and reasoning, indoctrination and authenticity, development of rationality, educating the imagination, limits of moral education, multicultural values and character in education, curriculum and knowledge, education and democracy, art and science education, religion and toleration, constructivism and scientific methods in education. These diverse facets in educational practice originate from society, hence abandoning philosophy of education in educational theory, policy and the practice of education not only deprives the learners of a huge understanding of societal aspirations, identity and complexity, but deters the learners from the prospect of aligning to the aspirations of society (Siegel, 2010, p. 3).

6. Methodology

The aforegone sections reveal that the philosophy of education is a fundamental discourse about educational theory and educational practice because it underlines what is practical (Semel, 2010, p. 12). According to Semel (2010), philosophy of education is an integral component that describes the purpose of education in the society in terms of its aspirations, identity and complexity. In order to expose the task of the philosophy of education, critical and analytical methods of philosophy and interviews were employed. Central to the methodology was the philosophical toolkit which comprised of careful analysis of arguments, rooting out of ambiguity, and drawing of clarifying distinctions (Bim-Bad, & Egorova, 2016, p. 3386).

This treatise adopted an interpretive approach strategy because of the view that all human practices are developed and transmitted in a social context and that meaning is constructed. Since education and its issues are relational, diversity of meanings arise in relation to the same trend (Mwinzi, 2012, p. 233). In this critique, an ideographic method was used to report and interpret the narratives obtained from interviews. An ideogram according to Audi (2006, p. 976) is the replication of the actual views and perceptions obtained from the respondents using content analysis and interviews as the primary methods. Further, interaction with respondents provided a mechanism to uncover the meanings aligned to societal aspirations and their relevance in educational theory, policy and practice as a social reality embedded in the lived experiences of that social reality (Allen, & Wright, 2014, p. 138). An understanding of educational theory, policy, and practice derives from definitions upheld by human beings about their experience of reality. This understanding of the education enterprise is a continuous process and activity.

Educational events occur in a social context. It is palpable that the meanings regarding educational theory, policy and practice are assigned and adapted through an interpretive process that is incessantly changing to meet societal aspirations. Thus, the education enterprise is subject to redefinition, relocation and realignments to serve its purposive ends. Therefore, the views of respondents in terms of their own understandings, based on their own experience of educational theory, policy and practice as social reality played a central role in this subject matter of situating the philosophy of education in teaching and learning institutions (Zeichner, 2010, p. 91). In this article, the ideograms were further structured into narratives to augment the readers’ understanding.

7. Findings

Society designs its philosophy of education within the context of social cohesion, fiscal utility, and individual or personal progress. All societal aspirations including the ones drawn from the cultural framework have been replaced by economic utility and consumerism. Thus, the focus of institutions on the education enterprise has resolved to prepare learners to cherish individualism as the sole intention of learning. Learners are being motivated by the concept of shortcut, but not coerced by guilt, shame, dispense labels, duty, obligation, rational evaluations, fear of punishment, moralistic judgments, or hope of extrinsic rewards. Therefore, this treatise found that all the means of evaluation generated the same conclusion that philosophy of education is alien to institutions of learning and as such culminates in their decline.

In consequence, any connections are channeled towards feelings and relativity with no space for moral judgments on issues of social connectivity, national cohesion, and genuine personal growth. The implication is that although people are aware of the interdependent nature of their relationships and the value of fulfilling others’ needs, there is more effort to meet personal needs at the expense of someone else (Pring, 2012, p. 26).

7.1 Knowledge of Philosophy of Education

In its fundamental role, philosophy of education provides an outlook for educational enterprise (Brightone, Nasongo, & Wamocha, 2009, p. 525). The researcher construes from Brightone et al. (2009) that a meaningful and prolific education is modelled within the margins of aspirations ratified as a philosophy of education. In contemporary society, these aspirations are derived from illustrations of potentials, prospects and involvements of what is valuable to the people. It is from these potentials, prospects, and involvements that are wrought and adopted as statements of the philosophy of education to guide education activities in the learning institutions.

In the case of the aforegone discussion, it is deducible that any existence of philosophy of education is foreign in contemporary society. A significant outcome of this treatise is that philosophy of education is not known, but such ignorance does not eliminate its implication in educational practice (Mwinzi, 2012, p. 41). Having in mind that the significance of philosophy of education cannot be underrated in educational practice, it is eccentric that statements of the philosophy of education are formulated and abandoned as a policy manuscript.

7.2 The Task of Philosophy of Education in Education

In support of the significance of philosophy of education, Kraft (2011, p. 384) avers that “the importance of philosophy of education is to define the purpose and the focus of an education system”. It is possible to infer from Kraft (2011) that philosophy of education is a summary of the aspirations used to describe the purpose and the ends of education espoused by an individual, an institution or a country. But this study divulges a critical defect in which philosophy of education is abrogated in educational enterprise. Further, the study reveals that educational theory, policy, and practice are implemented in isolation from the national aspirations. As a result of isolated educational practice, it implies that the reality of philosophy of education has no substantial measure in reshaping the structure of teaching and learning events at the institutions of education.

Thus, neglect of responsibility from the fields of educational theory, policy and practice is the cause of ignorance of the world (Pring, 2012, p. 26). Rational abstraction which is the primacy of philosophy is about truth, justice, fairness, morality etc. According to Noddings (2007, p. 107), philosophy of education explains the essence of synthesizing learning experiences and also vindicates an apt pedagogy, the content and the strategies to be utilized to facilitate the process of learning based on the purpose and the meaning of educational practice.

Hence, educational theory, policy, and practice which have obscured the task of philosophy cannot realize societal aspirations as the basis of a philosophy of education. This regenerates a historical view of educational systems as socializing and normative, as opposed to the stated goal as a vehicle for individual or personal progress. A dichotomy wedged between philosophy of education and education policy, theory and practice is accountable for the crisis being experienced in the learning institutions (Mwinzi, 2012, p. 38). The same idea of dichotomy in education occurs in Oketch and Rolleston (2007:338) who argue that there is a dichotomy obstructing the link which connects educational practice and the aspirations of society. It emanates from Oketch and Rolleston (2007) that education practice snubs the purpose of philosophy of education.

A further insight deduced from Noddings (2007) is that a purposive and meaningful education cannot transpire if it has a deficit of an exact philosophy of education. Ozmon and Craver (2008, p. 1) concur that philosophy of education cannot be abrogated in education practice because pedagogy is confronted by a critical era of transition, and once it is devoid of philosophy of education, it acquires the prospect of lapsing into the debatable past or inclining into the undefined future with little consideration of the consequences in society. It is within this insight held by Ozmon and Craver (2008) that the synthesis proposed by philosophy of education suggests potential solutions through its methods to canvass the relationship between indefinite changes and the reality of persistency of education.

7.3 A Paradigm of Integrating Philosophy of Education in Education

The essence of philosophy of education is to eliminate frequent issues of incoherent, contradiction, inconsistent, nominal and superficial appraisal of educational enterprise. The cause of the disparity in education policy, theory, and practice is attributed to the control from the center defined by allegiance to a diversity of borrowed aspirations to devise an inherited framework. The rationale is to make a radical shift from static aspirations to dynamic ones defined by alienation from the old paradigms and models. However, dynamic aspirations cannot replace excellence emitted by an understanding of educational history (Heyneman, 2016, p. 377). This is why there is a need for a universal philosophical base of education theory, policy and practice (ibid., p. 379).

In this case, developments around education theory, policy and practice are surrounded by tangible overlaps, educational dilemmas, and indecisive ends. The current paradigm of education which is founded on dilemmas and indecisive ends is illustrated in the figure below adapted from the internet. Mwinzi (2017, p. 49093), argues that controversies occur in the systems of education due to integral deficits in bracketing educational practice and societal aspirations. An education theory, policy and practice that is informed by the philosophy of education comprises of a network of consistency where education concepts are clearly defined. Philosophy creates a link enlightened by societal aspirations. This formulates a continuum of theoretical-practical-outcome. Therefore, the functionality and effectiveness of education theory, policy, and practice depends on its allegiance to the societal aspirations. This connectivity of educational enterprises needs to be restored.

Analytical functionality in philosophy of education provides a phase for quality and relevance in educational practice which is defined by philosophy of education. This is because a meaningful educational practice cannot be accomplished without putting philosophy of education in its suitable place in the process of learning.

8. Conclusion

As a conclusion, this discourse divulges that the purpose, the means and the end of education enterprise resides in societal aspirations. These aspirations are the fundamental sources of philosophy of education. However, society has flouted the task of philosophy of education in education theory, policy and practice. A synthesis of education enterprise and philosophy of education serves as an essential factor to combat the obstacles that prevent education enterprise from bringing forth quality and relevance in contemporary society (Makori, 2005, p. 6). According to Makori (2005), the problem facing educational activity and process is induced by an educational practice which has abandoned its very philosophy of education. A further perception derived from Makori (2005) is that philosophy of education can make a difference in the teaching and learning institutions when ideas, insights and patterns of thoughts are shaped to serve societal aspirations. In this paper, the gaps affecting a consequential integration of philosophy of education in the teaching-learning situation were exhibited. These gaps are related to ignorance of philosophy of education, negation of philosophy in teaching and learning institutions, and ambiguous paradigms guiding education enterprise.

It is within the dimensions of this article that the significance of philosophy of education will be revived as a meaningful component in the systems of education in contemporary society. This is because an integration of philosophy of education is a crucial enterprise and a fundamental factor which is significant in shaping education policy, theory, and practice to serve society according to its aspirations. An integration of philosophy of education can and will enable society to formulate and define its aspirations based on its history. Thus, society becomes the master of its destiny in shaping an educational theory and practice that is suitable to its societal necessities and prospects (Mwinzi, 2016, p. 385). What is required is a grand theory of education that unites diversity of thought and variant perspectives on its delivery.


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About the Author

Dr. Joseph Munyoki Mwinzi: Senior Lecturer, Department of Educational Foundations at University of Nairobi (Kenya); e-mail: