When I was a student, I frequently asked myself, “What is the purpose of my education?” And as my capacity to communicate improved, I began to ask this question out loud to the educators and special education consultants in my life. I’m not sure whether they thought my question was insightful or annoying—maybe a bit of both. What I do know is that no one had an answer for me or seemed to have considered asking this question on my behalf.
Today, I’m sure if I asked 100 people, “What is the purpose of education?”, there would be some common themes but likely no consensus. This shouldn’t come as any real surprise, because in our rapidly changing world the purpose of education is constantly evolving.
I don’t have a definitive answer to what the purpose of eduation is, but I do believe that ensuring equity and inclusion in our educational experiences is at the core of improving the achievements of our students, both while they are in school and after they graduate. With honesty and insight, we need to ask ourselves, “Are our efforts to achieve equity and inclusion truly discovering and supporting students’ learning abilities and enabling them to create and live a purposeful life in their community?”
When I was in high school, I had a modified course load because it took me longer to write my assignments. As a result of this modification, it was sometimes a challenge to create a timetable that included all of the core subjects I needed to get my high school diploma. One year the timetable didn’t work out, and I had only two choices: I could either have a spare or take a grade 12 entrepreneurial studies course. The special education teacher suggested that the spare might be more beneficial, partly, I think, because he could not see how a course in entrepreneurial studies would help shape my future. Out of sheer defiance, I chose the course even though—confession time!—I had no clue what entrepreneurial studies was...
As it turned out, I found this course extremely interesting, and I got an A-plus on my main assignment, which was—I kid you not—on setting up a small business. My teacher was supportive (thanks, Mr. Perron), but some of my educators saw it as a fluke that I did so well, and they were still not envisioning that this course might have any relevance to my future. But fast-forward a couple of decades, and here I am, a small business owner celebrating my 11th year as an entrepreneur, and recently my local chamber of commerce recognized the leadership and excellence of my business.
Which brings me back to my original question: What is the purpose of education? Together, we must continue our journey to answer this question within the context of our changing global world. Together we need to stay focused on whether our collective actions to promote equity and inclusion achieve the purpose of education. The challenges are always worth it. When we come together to create a truly equitable and inclusive educational experience, then Together We Rock!