What is Good Education

Categories: Education

In my view questions about education always raise normative issues and therefore always require value judgements, i. e. , judgements about what we consider to be desirable. In plural democracies like ours we should not expect that there will only be one answer to the question as to what constitutes good education. It rather is a sign of a healthy democracy that there are ongoing discussions about the purpose and direction of such a crucial common endeavour as education. After all, education is not simply a private good; it is also – and in my view first and foremost – a public good and therefore a matter of public concern.

Education, in its widest sense, is about how we welcome ‘newcomers’1 into our worlds. It therefore raises important questions about how we (re)present our worlds to newcomers – something which involves selection, choice and judgement. One reason why I consider it important to pay attention to the question as to what constitutes good education has to do with recent tendencies in policy, research and practice that seem to suggest that this question no longer matters or, to be more precise, that seem to suggest that this question can be resolved without engaging in discussions about value and purpose.

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One of these tendencies is the rise of an international ‘league-table industry’ which is increasingly influencing education policy at national and local level. Studies such as the Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS), the Progress in International Reading Literacy Study (PIRLS) and, most notoriously, OECD’s Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA), generate a never-ending stream of comparative data that are supposed to tell us which educational systems are better and which are best.

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Although there is nothing against attempts to make such judgements, the problem with league-tables is that they give the impression that the data can speak for themselves. As a result, the deeper question whether such studies indeed measure what we value or create a situation in which we are valuing what is or can be measured, is easily forgotten. Whether a high score on TIMMS, PIRLS or PISA does indeed indicate good education is an entirely open question that crucially depends on what we expect from education.

And even if we were to accept the validity of such measures, there are always further questions about the material and immaterial costs involved in achieving a high score, both for individual students and for the educational system as a whole. I use the term ‘newcomers’ to refer to anyone who is new in a particular situation. The category of ‘newcomer’ therefore includes children, immigrants, but also those who are new in relation to a particular trade or profession, such as student hairdressers, student teachers, and so on. Elsewhere I have made a case for seeing the idea of ‘coming into the world’ as a fundamental education category. see Biesta 2006).

  1. A second tendency that has contributed to the marginalisation of questions about good education can be found in calls for turning education into an evidence-based profession based on research knowledge about ‘what works.
  2. Again, I do think that to a certain extent it can be useful to examine the effectiveness of particular educational practices and procedures, as long as one bears in mind that in the social domain there are at most probabilistic relationships between actions and consequences and never deterministic relationships between causes and effects. After all, if teaching is going to have any impact on students, it is not because of some kind of mysterious force that teachers exert upon their students, but because of the fact that students interpret and make sense of what they are being taught. The links between teaching and learning are, in other words, achieved through processes of interpretation and such links are by definition ‘weak.
  3. But the most important point here is that ‘effectiveness’ in itself is never a ufficient reason for adopting a particular approach or procedure. There is, after all, both effective and ineffective brain washing, just as there is effective and ineffective torturing. ‘Effectiveness,’ to put it differently, is an instrumental value – a value that says something about the ways in which certain ends can be achieved, but which does not say anything about the desirability of the ends in themselves. To address the latter question we need normative judgements about what we consider educationally desirable. To call for effective schools, effective teaching, effective assessment, and so on, is therefore meaningless until one specifies what it is one aims to achieve and why what one aims to achieve is desirable or good. With regard to educational effectiveness we therefore always need to ask: “Effective for what? ” – and also “Effective for whom? ”
  4. These are some of the reasons why I consider it important to put the question of good education back on the agenda of educators, researchers and policy makers.

But my ambition with this lecture is not only to make a case for considering the goodness of education – and in what follows I will say more about the ways in which I think that this question might be addressed. I also want to make a case for the importance of education or, to be more precise, for the need to use the language of education when we discuss educational matters. Putting it this way may sound odd, so let me try to explain why I not only want to make a case for good education but also for good education.

The Problem with ‘Learning’ The simplest way to present my case for an educational language is to contrast it with the language I think we should not be using when discussing educational matters – and this is the language of learning. I am not suggesting that the word ‘learning’ has no place in education. But I do wish to argue that ‘learning’ and ‘education’ are two radically different concepts and that we shouldn’t conflate them. This is not simply a matter of the proper use of language.

The concepts we have available in a particular domain of human action such as education in a very fundamental sense structure what we can say, think, and do and therefore also impact upon what cannot be said, thought and done. This is why language matters, also in education.  For a detailed analysis see Biesta (2007a). For more on this see Vanderstraeten & Biesta (2006); Biesta (in press[a]). 4 See Bogotch, Miron & Biesta (2007).

My concerns about the notion of learning – or, to be more precise, about the conflation of learning and education – should be understood against the background of the remarkable rise of the concept of learning within educational discussions over the past two or three decades; a phenomenon to which I have referred as the rise of the ‘new language of learning’ (see Biesta 2004a; 2006). This rise can, for example, be found in the redefinition of teaching as the facilitation of learning or the provision of learning opportunities or learning experiences.

It can be found in the use of the word ‘learner’ instead of ‘pupil’ or ‘student’ or of the phrase ‘adult learner’ instead of just ‘adult’. And it is manifest in the transformation of the field of adult education into that of lifelong learning. It is also worth noting that the word ‘education’ no longer appears in the name of the two UK government departments that deal with educational matters (they are now known as The Department for Children, Schools and Families and the Department for Innovation, Universities and Skills), unlike in Scotland where there is at least still a Cabinet Secretary for Education and Lifelong Learning.

What perhaps also fits in with this picture is the case of Watercliffe Meadow, an institution that was formed as a merge between three former primary schools in Sheffield and that decided to refer to itself as “a place of learning” rather than a school. The rise of the ‘new language of learning’ can be seen as the expression of a more general trend to which I have referred – with a deliberately ugly term – as the ‘learnification’ of education (see Biesta 2009). By this I mean the translation of everything there is to say about education in terms of learning and learners.

A focus on learning is, of course, not entirely problematic. Although not a new insight, the idea that learning is not determined by teaching but depends on the activities of students can help teachers to rethink what they might do best to support their students. There are even emancipatory opportunities in the new language of learning to the extent to which it can empower individuals to take control of their own educational agendas. Yet there are also problems with the rise of the new language of learning and, more specifically, with the concept of ‘learning’ itself.

One problem with the word ‘learning’ is that it is basically an individualistic concept. It refers to what people do as individuals. This stands in stark contrast to the concept of education which generally denotes a relationship. Whereas one can educate someone and someone can be educated by someone else, one cannot ‘learn’ someone. This already reveals one problem with the language of learning: it makes it difficult to articulate the fact that education is about relationships, and more specifically about relationships between teachers and students.

The language of learning makes it difficult to acknowledge the relational character of education and also makes it difficult to raise questions about the particular role and responsibility of the educator in such relationships. This is one reason why the words ‘education’ and ‘learning’ are not the same and are not interchangeable. This does not mean, of course, that they have nothing to do with each other. One could say that the general aim of educational activities is that people will learn from them.

But that doesn’t make education into learning; it simply says that learning is the intended outcome of educational processes and practices. All this also doesn’t mean that people cannot learn without or outside of education. It simply highlights the fact that when we talk about education we refer to a specific setting in which learning takes place; a setting, moreover, with a specific set of relationships, roles and responsibilities.

A second problem with the word ‘learning’ is that it is basically (but see hereafter) a process term. This means that it is open if not empty with regard to content. Yet in educational situations the aim is never simply that learning will occur; the interest is always in the learning of something and this, in turn, is connected to particular reasons for wanting the student to learn something. In education there is, therefore, always the double question of the learning ‘of what’ and the learning ‘for what. The problem with the language of learning is that it makes questions about content and purpose much more difficult to ask – yet education, unlike learning, is always structured by purpose and content. This is the second reason why education and learning are not the same and why the language of learning is actually quite unhelpful in discussing educational matters. An example of the emptiness of the language of learning can be found in the Scottish Standard for Chartered Teacher which, unlike the Standard for Full Registration, is rather permeated by a language of learning.

In the document one of the four ‘professional values and personal commitments’ is described as ‘effectiveness in promoting learning in the classroom,’ which is further broken down into the requirement to demonstrate the capacity to

  • ‘effect further progress in pupils’ learning and development’:
  • ‘create and sustain a positive climate for learning’; and
  • ‘use strategies which increase pupils’ learning’ (see GTCS 2002).

Very little, if anything, is said about what students should learn and for what they should learn. Even less is said about what would be required from Chartered Teachers in terms of their ability to make informed value judgements about the content and direction of their teaching and wider educational endeavours. 6 When we look more closely at the language used, a phrase such as “increasing pupils’ learning” is actually rather incomprehensible in my view. Before I draw my conclusions about the language of learning and move to a discussion about the question of the goodness of education, there is one more peculiarity of the word ‘learning’ that I wish to address briefly.

Although there are ongoing discussions within the educational literature about definitions of learning, it is generally accepted that learning can at least be defined as “any change that is not the result of maturation” or, in a slightly more precise definition, as “any more or less durable change that is not the result of maturation. ” In addition to this, many definitions specify the kinds of change that are considered to be important, such as changes in skilfulness, in cognition, in mastery and so on. One important point here is that ‘learning’ refers to those changes that are the result of engagement ith our environments, which means that in this regard we can say that all learning is by definition experiential learning, i. e. , learning from experience and experiencing. An important implication of this line of thinking is that when we use the word ‘learning’ – such as in sentences like “Mary has learned how to ride a bicycle” or “Mary has 6 There is a similar problem with regard to the notion of effectiveness which is also used as something that is good in itself, rather than that it is positioned as an instrumental value.

This can, for example, be seen in the following two statements: “the Chartered Teacher should regularly and systematically demonstrate and evaluate his or her effectiveness as a teacher;” and “the Chartered Teacher should demonstrate the capacity to contribute to the professional development of colleagues and to make a fuller contribution to the educational effectiveness of the school and the wider professional community than could be expected of teachers near the outset of their career” (see GTCS 2002). 4 earned the first law of thermodynamics” – we are not so much describing something as that we are making a judgement about changes that have taken place. The point here is that when we look at Mary more carefully we will probably be able to find numerous changes going on all the time. The reason for identifying some of the changes as ‘learning’ and others just as ‘changes’ is because we value these changes and because we have reason to believe that these changes are the result of engagement with the environment, not just effects of maturation. Which isn’t to suggest that this distinction is easy to make and that the difference is always clear-cut. )

This implies that the use of the word ‘learning’ always implies a value judgement. ‘Learning,’ in other words, is not a descriptive term – it is not a noun – but it is an evaluative term. The upshot of this is that we can only use the word learning retrospectively, i. e. , after some change has happened. Whether any current activity will actually result in learning – that is, whether it will actually result in more or less durable changes that we find valuable – is not something we can know when we are engaged in he activity. Whether you will learn anything from listening to this lecture is, in other words, a question that can only be answered in the future – and sometimes it can take a very long time before we can conclude that we have learned something from a particular experience or event, which is an important argument against an exclusive focus on short-time result in education. This implies that the word ‘learning’ does not refer to an activity – and we can summarise this by saying that ‘learning’ is also not a verb.

If we want to be clear and precise in the language we use to talk about education, we shouldn’t therefore refer to the activities of our students as ‘learning’ but rather use such words as ‘studying,’ ‘rehearsing,’ ‘working,’ ‘making an effort,’ etcetera. And for the same reason we shouldn’t refer to our students as ‘learners’ but should either refer to them with terms that specify the particular relationship they are in – which is what the word ‘pupil’ does – or with terms that specify the activities they are engaged in – which is what words like ‘student’ or ‘worker’ do. The Dutch progressive educator Kees Boeke referred to the students in his school as ‘workers’ and referred to the school that he established and which still exists in Bilthoven as a ‘workplace. ’) For all these reasons I therefore wish to argue that the language of learning is rather unhelpful for discussion of educational matters as it tends to obscure the relational dimensions of education – the fact that education is always about teachers and students in relationship – and also because it makes it more difficult to raise questions about content and purpose.

I have also argued that when we use the word ‘learning’ we are actually involved in a judgement about change, a judgement we can only make after the event. For that reason using the word ‘learning’ to describe the activities of students is as imprecise as it is to refer to students as ‘learners. ’ This is also the reason why we cannot ask from students that they take responsibility for their own learning – they can only take responsibility for their studying, their activities, their efforts, etcetera, and it is this that teachers should demand from students.

All this also means that learning can not be the object of any strategy. Despite the many teaching and learning strategies that are being developed in schools, colleges and universities, and despite the fact that many of such institutions make individuals responsible for ‘teaching & learning,’ it is only teaching – and related aspects such as curriculum and assessment – that can be the object of a strategy and thus can be the responsibility of individuals whose task it is to take care of what, with a simple word, we might perhaps best refer to as ‘education. 5 If this suffices as an indication of why we need education – that is, why we need an educational language with proper educational concepts – I now wish to turn to questions about what constitutes good education. Good Education My ambition with raising the question of good education is not to specify what good education, a good school, a good college or a good university should look like. As I said in my introduction, we shouldn’t expect that in plural democracies like ours there will only be one answer to this question.

Yet it is of crucial importance that there is an ongoing discussion about the content, purpose and direction of education first and foremost because education is – and should be – a matter of public concern. I do not only think that it is important to have a plurality of opinions about what constitutes good education. I also believe that it is important to have a plurality of actual educational practices. Here I am partly biased as a result of my upbringing in the Netherlands, a country which over the past century has developed and has managed to maintain an interesting level of plurality within a state-funded system of compulsory education.

Although there are some advantages of educational standardisation – and the main advantage, one that we have to take very seriously from a social justice angle, is that it can bring about an equality of provision – I also believe that there are many disadvantages to the MacDonaldisation (or perhaps we should now call this the ‘Starbuckisation’) of education. One disadvantage of standardisation is that it takes away opportunities for educational professionals to make their own judgements about what is necessary and desirable in the always particular situations they work in.

My experience in England has been that the scope for professional judgement and professional action in education has systematically been eroded as a result of a massive top-down standardisation of education, combined with narrow-minded forms of inspection based on low trust. 7 At this point I can only say that I have encountered a significantly different culture within Scottish education, and here I particularly want to single out the idea of the Chartered Teacher as the expression of a belief in the power of education and as a serious investment in and commitment to the development of professionality and a high trust culture in education.

A second disadvantage of educational standardisation is that it takes away any opportunity for a plurality of opinions about good education. This is often done through the construction of a quasi-consensus around an alleged common sense notion of what good education is. One popular version of such a quasi-consensus is the idea that in order to remain competitive within the global knowledge economy schools need to produce a highly-skilled workforce; hence the most important task for schools is that of raising standards in English, science and mathematics.

While this story may sound appealing – and many policy makers at national and supra-national level (such as the OECD) seem to believe it – it is based on questionable assumptions, for example because it assumes that in the knowledge economy we will all have complex jobs that require a high level of education, whereas in reality those jobs are only available for a happy few and the bulk of jobs in many post-industrial societies is to be found in the low-skilled and low-paid service industry (and here we can, again, refer to MacDonalds, Starbucks, call-centres, and the like).

Yet the problem with such 7 For more on this see Biesta (2004b). 6 constructions about what good education is, is not only that they are based upon questionable assumptions. The problem of stories that express a quasi-consensus about good education is also that they suggest that there is no alternative. It is, however, not too difficult to see that instead of economic competitiveness, we could also argue that as a society we should give priority to care – care for the elderly, care for the environment – or to democracy and peaceful co-existence.

Such priorities suggest a complete different set of educational arrangements and articulate radically different views about what good education might look like. My contribution to the discussion about what constitutes good education is not about suggesting alternative futures for education. Although this is important as well, I wish to confine myself in this lecture to a more modest task, viz. that of presenting a framework that might be helpful in asking more precise questions about what good education is or might be.

My main point in suggesting this framework is to emphasise that educational processes and practices serve a number of different functions and purposes. This not only means that the answer to the question as to what constitutes good education is likely to be different in relation to the different functions. By distinguishing between the different functions it also becomes possible to explore the extent to which emphasising one function might interfere with the quality of education in relation to one of the other functions.

The framework can help, in other words, to think about costs and trade-offs of particular educational arrangements. Although the everyday use of the word ‘education’ often gives the impression that it refers to a single reality, ‘education’ is actually a composite concept. This becomes clear when we ask what education is for. In answering this question I wish to suggest that education serves (at least) three different functions.

One important function of education has to do with qualification, that is, with the ways in which education contributes to the acquisition of knowledge, skills and dispositions that qualify us for doing something – a ‘doing’ which can range from the very specific (such as the training for a particular job) to the very general (such as in the case of liberal education). The qualification function is without doubt one of the major functions of organised education and is an important rationale for having state-funded education in the first place. The argument, as I have mentioned, is often an economic one, i. . , that people need knowledge and skills in order to become employable. But the acquisition of knowledge and skills is also important for other aspects of people’s lives. Here we can think, for example, of political literacy – the knowledge and skills needed to exercise one’s citizenship rights – or cultural literacy – the knowledge and skills considered to be necessary for functioning in society more generally. 8 A second function of education has to do with the ways in which, through education, individuals become part of existing socio-cultural, political and moral ‘orders. This is the socialisation function of education. Schools partly engage in socialisation deliberately, for example, in the form of values education, character education, religious education or citizenship education, or, and this is more explicit at the level of colleges and universities, in relation to professional socialisation. Socialisation also happens in less visible ways, as has been made clear in the literature on the hidden curriculum and the role of education in the reproduction of social inequality. It is, in What kind of knowledge and skills we need to function in society is, of course, a complicated matter.

I do not have the space to go into this here, but see Biesta (2002). 8 7 other words, both an important function and an important ‘effect’ of (engaging in) education. Whereas some would argue that education should only focus on qualification – this is often seen as the justification of the ‘traditional’ school as place for the transmission and acquisition of knowledge – and whereas others defend that education has an important role to play in the socialisation of children and young people, there is a third function of education which is different from both qualification and socialisation.

This function has to do with the ways in which education contributes to the individuation – or, as I prefer to call it for a number of philosophical reasons, the subjectification – of children and young people. The individuation or subjectification function might perhaps best be understood as the opposite of the socialisation function. It is not about the insertion of ‘newcomers’ into existing orders, but about ways of being that hint at independence from such orders; ways of being in which the individual is not simply a ‘specimen’ of a more encompassing order.

It is, to put a big and complex concept against it, about the ways in which education makes a contribution to human freedom. 9 Whether all education actually does contribution to individuation is debatable. Some would argue that this is not necessarily the case and that the actual influence of education can – and should – be confined to qualification and socialisation. Others would argue, however, that education always impacts on individuals and their ‘modes’ and ‘ways’ of being and that, in this sense, education always has an individuating ‘effect. ’ What matters more, however — and here e need to shift the focus of the discussion from questions about the functions of education to questions about the aims and ends of education – is the ‘quality’ of individuation, i. e. , the question what forms of subjectivity are made possible in and through particular educational arrangements. It is in relation to this that some would argue – and actually have argued – that any education worthy of its name should always allow for forms of individuation and subjectification that allow those being educated to become more autonomous and independent in their thinking and acting.

The distinction between the three functions of education, that is, between three areas in which education operates and has ‘effects,’ can be helpful when we engage in discussions about what constitutes good education because it can make us aware of the fact that the question about good education is a ‘composite’ question: it consists of (at least) three different questions. An answer to the question what constitutes good education should therefore always specify its views about qualification, socialisation and individuation – even in the unlikely case that one would wish to argue that only one of them matters.

To say that the question of what constitutes good education is a composite question, is not to suggest that the three dimensions of education can and should be seen as entirely separate. The contrary is the case. When we engage in qualification, we always also impact on socialisation and on individuation. Similarly, when we engage in socialisation, we always do so in relation to particular content – and hence link up with the qualification function – and will have an impact on individuation.

And when we engage in education that puts individuation first, we will 9 I wish to emphasise that the idea of ‘freedom’ can be articulated in a range of different ways, from egocentric, self-obsessed freedom to do anything one wants to responsible, relational and ‘difficult’ freedom – to use a phrase form the philosopher Emmanuel Levinas. 8 usually still do so in relation to particular curricular content and this will always also have socialising effects. The three functions of education an therefore best be represented in the form of a Venn-diagram, i. e. , as three overlapping areas, and the more interesting and important questions are actually about the intersections between the areas rather than the individual areas per se. The distinction between the three functions of education is not only important when we engage in discussions about the aims and purposes of education and the shape and form of good education; it can also be a helpful framework for analysing existing educational practices and policies.

With regard to this I just want to make one brief observation which is that in many recent discussions about the shape and form of education, particularly at the level of education policy, the discussion is shifting more and more towards the socialisation function of education. Increasingly discussions about the aims and ends of education try to describe the kind of person that should be ‘produced’ through education, rather than that the focus is on the things that should be learned as a result of engagement with education.

A ‘good’ example of this can be found in the Scottish Curriculum for Excellence which, although it refers to itself as a document about Curriculum, actually specifies the intended outcomes of education in terms of personal qualities – and many of you in this room will be familiar with the four ‘capacities’ that frame the Scottish Curriculum for Excellence: successful learners, confident individuals, responsible citizens, effective contributors. 0 Although I generally welcome attempts to introduce new languages into the educational discussion as they allow us to see and do things differently, I do think that the shift towards socialisation such as expressed in the Scottish Curriculum for Excellence is worrying for two reasons. One is that by emphasising what students should be or become, questions about what they should know and be able to do become secondary. The danger here is, in other words, that we forget to pay sufficient attention to the qualification function of education and thus might forget that in many cases and for many individuals knowledge is still power.

The other reason why I think that the shift towards socialisation, towards the ‘production’ of a particular kind of individual, is worrying, is that it gets us too far away from the individuation or subjectification function of education. It puts the emphasis too much on ‘moulding’ individuals according to particular templates and provides too little opportunity for ways of being that question and challenge such templates. In my own research I have explored this issue particularly in relation to citizenship 11 .

Here I have argued that the idea of responsible citizenship puts the emphasis too much on a-political forms of citizenship that are mainly confined to doing ‘good deeds’ in the community, and provides too little opportunity for the acquisition of political literacy, the promotion of political activism and the development of political agency. Good education in the domain of citizenship should therefore not be about the production of ‘obedient citizens’ through effective socialisation, but should also operate in the domain of individuation and 10

The National Curriculum for England and Wales has recently adopted a similar language to articulate the aims of education for ‘key stage 3 and 4’. It is interesting to see, however, that they have included three of the four Scottish capacities – viz. , successful learners, confident individuals and responsible citizens – but not that of effective contributors. See, e. g. , Biesta & Lawy (2006); Biesta (2007b); Biesta (2008); Biesta (in press[b]). subjectification by promoting forms of political agency that both contribute to and are able to question the existing social, cultural and political order. From this angle it is perhaps significant that the word ‘critical’ does not appear in any of the four capacities of the Scottish Curriculum for Excellence. This brings me to my concluding remarks. Conclusions In this lecture I have tried to make a case for good education. I have not done this by specifying what I think a good school, college or university should look like.

What I have done instead is first of all to argue for the importance of the question of good education itself. I have argued, in other words, that in our discussions and deliberations about education we should acknowledge openly and explicitly that we are dealing with normative questions, and hence with questions that require value judgements. These are questions, in other words, that can not be resolved simply by having more information, more data, more knowledge or more research.

Secondly I have argued that in order to address the question of good education properly we need to make sure that we have a vocabulary that is appropriate for what we are discussing. It is here that I have argued for the importance of an educational vocabulary rather than a vocabulary of learning. Thirdly, I have introduced a distinction between different functions and purposes of education that might help us to ask more precise questions and have more focused discussions about what good education might look like.

I see the importance of making the distinction between the three functions of education first and foremost in that it can help us to find a balance in our educational endeavours rather than to end up in one of the possible extremes. Just as an exclusive focus on qualification is problematic – and I think that the damaging effects of such a focus are continuing to influence the lives of many students and teachers around the world – I also think that an exclusive focus on socialisation is problematic – and perhaps we are beginning to see some of the problems of such an approach as well.

In all cases it belongs to my definition of good education that there is also sufficient attention to opportunities for individuation and subjectification so that education can continue to contribute to what the philosopher Michel Foucault has so aptly described as “the undefined work of freedom. ” Finally: for me the question of good education does not stand on its own. I do believe that we are living in a time in which the question of goodness is one that we should ask about all our collective human endeavours.

This is first of all important in the economic sphere, which is why I would argue that we urgently need to shift the discussion from questions about profitable banking to questions about good banking. It is also important in the domain of politics and democracy, which means that there is also a need to engage with questions about what constitutes good politics and good democracy. The particular answers we give to these questions are perhaps slightly less important than our commitment to seeing these questions for what they are – viz. ormative questions – and our commitment to a continued engagement with these questions, both in generating answers to the question as to what might constitute good education and by continuing to raise critical questions about such answers as well. Good education should at least enable and empower everyone to engage in such crucial deliberations about the shape, form and direction of our collective endeavours. Thank you.


  1. References Biesta, G. J. J. (2002). How general can Bildung be? Reflections on the future of a modern educational ideal.
  2. British Journal of Philosophy of Education 36(3), 377-390. Biesta, G. J. J. (2004a). Against learning. Reclaiming a language for education in an age of learning. Nordisk Pedagogik 23, 70-82.
  3. Biesta, G. J. J. (2004b). Education, accountability and the ethical demand. Can the democratic potential of accountability be regained? Educational Theory 54 (3), 233250.
  4. Biesta, G. J. J. (2006). Beyond Learning: Democratic Education for a Human Future. Boulder, Co: Paradigm Publishers.
  5. Biesta, G. J. J. (2007a). Why ‘what works’ won’t work. Evidence-based practice and the democratic deficit of educational research. Educational Theory 57(1), 1-22.
  6. Biesta, G. J. J. (2007b). Education and the democratic person: Towards a political understanding of democratic education. Teachers College Record 109(3), 740-769.
  7. Biesta, G. J. J. (2008). What kind of citizen? What kind of democracy? Citizenship education and the Scottish Curriculum for Excellence. Scottish Educational Review 40(2), 38-52.
  8. Biesta, G. J. J. (2009). Good Education in an Age of Measurement. Educational Assessment, Evaluation and Accountability 21(1), 33-46.
  9. Biesta, G. J. J. (in press[a]). On the weakness of education. In D. Kerdeman et al. (eds), Philosophy of Education 2009.
  10. Biesta, G. J. J. (in press[b]). What kind of citizenship for European Higher Education? Beyond the competent active citizen. European Educational Research Journal 8(2).
  11. Biesta, G. J. J. & Lawy, R. S. (2006). From teaching citizenship to learning democracy. Overcoming individualism in research, policy and practice. Cambridge Journal of Education 36(1), 63-79.
  12. Bogotch, I. , Miron, L & Biesta, G. (2007). “Effective for What; Effective for Whom? ” Two Questions SESI Should Not Ignore. In T. Townsend (ed), International Handbook of School Effectiveness and School Improvement (93-110).
  13. Dordrecht/Boston: Springer. GTCS (General Teaching Council for Scotland) (2000). The standard for chartered teacher.
  14. Vanderstraeten, R. & Biesta, G. J. J. (2006). How is education possible? A pragmatist account of communication and the social organisation of education. British Journal of Educational Studies 54(2), 160-174.

Biography Gert Biesta (1957) is Professor of Education at the Stirling Institute of Education and Visiting Professor for Education and Democratic Citizenship at Orebro and Malardalen University, Sweden. He is editor-in-chief of Studies in Philosophy and Education, an international journal published by Springer Science+Business Media. Before joining Stirling in December 2007 he worked at the University of Exeter (from 1999) and before that at several Universities in the Netherlands.

He has a degree in Education from Leiden University, a degree in Philosophy from Erasmus University Rotterdam, and a PhD in Education from Leiden University (1992). From 1995-1997 he was a Spencer Post Doctoral Fellow with the National Academy of Education, USA. A major focus of his research is the relationship between education and democracy. His theoretical work focuses on different ways of understanding democracy, democratisation and democratic education, with particular attention to questions about educational communication both at the micro-level of classroom interaction and the macro-level of intercultural communication.

He has also written about the philosophy and methodology of educational research, and the relationships between educational research, educational policy and educational practice. His empirical research focuses on democratic learning of young people and adults, with a particular emphasis on democratic learning in everyday settings. He has a research interest in vocational education and lifelong learning, democratic conceptions of the learning society, learning theories and theories of education, the professional learning of teachers, and the civic role of Higher Education.

He has published widely in many national and international journals. Recent books include Derrida & Education (Routledge 2001; co-edited with Denise Egea-Kuehne); Pragmatism and Educational Research (Rowman & Littlefield, 2003; co-authored with Nicholas C. Burbules); Beyond learning. Democratic education for a human future (Paradigm Publishers, 2006; a Swedish translation, Bortom larandet: Demokratisk utbildning for en mansklig framtid, was published by Studentlitteratur in 2006; a Danish translation will appear in 2009); Improving learning cultures in Further Education (Routledge; co-authored ith David James); an English and a German version of George Herbert Mead’s Lectures on Philosophy of Education (coedited with Daniel Trohler; Verlag Julius Klinkhardt 2008; Paradigm Publishers 2008); Education, democracy and the moral life (Springer 2009; co-edited with Michael Katz ande Susan Verducci); Derrida, Deconstruction and the politics of pedagogy (Peter Lang 2009; co-authored with Michael A. Peters); Rethinking contexts for teaching and learning.

Communities, activities and networks (Routledge 2009; coedited with Richard Edwards and Mary Thorpe). In 2008 his book Beyond Learning won the American Educational Studies Association Critics’ Choice Book Award.

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What is Good Education. (2018, Aug 31). Retrieved from https://studymoose.com/what-is-good-education-essay

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