Good education in an age of measurement: on the need to reconnect with the question of purpose in education

  • Gert BiestaEmail author


In this paper I argue that there is a need to reconnect with the question of purpose in education, particularly in the light of a recent tendency to focus discussions about education almost exclusively on the measurement and comparison of educational outcomes. I first discuss why the question of purpose should always have a place in our educational discussion. I then explore some reasons why this question seems to have disappeared from the educational agenda. The central part of the paper is a proposal for addressing the question of purpose in education—the question as to what constitutes good education—in a systematic manner. I argue that the question of purpose is a composite question and that in deliberating about the purpose of education we should make a distinction between three functions of education to which I refer as qualification, socialisation and subjectification. In the final section of the paper I provide examples of how this proposal can help in asking more precise questions about the purpose and direction of educational processes and practices.


Good education Evaluation Accountability Aims of education Evidence-based 


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© Springer Science + Business Media, LLC 2008

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.The Stirling Institute of EducationUniversity of StirlingStirlingUK

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