Etymological Meaning of Education

Sun, 10/20/2013 - 11:38 -- Umar Farooq

Etymological Meaning of Education

The word education is derived from the Latin word “educare” which means to bring up. Another Latin word “educere”, means to bring forth. Therefore education to bring forth as well as bring up. According to Varro “Educit obstertrix, educate, nutrix, institute, pedagogues, docet, magister” i.e. “the mid-wife brings forth, the nurse brings up, the tutor trains, and the master teaches”. Accordingly education does not mean only the acquisition of knowledge but it is the development of attitudes and skills.

Some theorists give a different explanation of the word “educate”. They say ‘e’ means out of and duco means to lead’ i.e. to educate means to lead forth or “to extract out” the best in man. This explanation presumes that all knowledge is inherent in children. Only methods are to be found out to tap their brains and the knowledge will automatically flow. Addison supports this view believing that education, “when it works upon a noble mind draws out to view every latent virtue and perfection”. We also support this theory, I mean an all round sketch of the best in the child and man -- body, mind and spirit”. These two views of education can be accepted with a pinch of salt. We cannot ‘draw out’ anything unless we put in something before. The child is not like an artesian well, where we put a funnel and water will gush out. He is like a bank, where something must be put before, we expect to draw out. It may be that once or twice a bright and quick child may give a promise of talents, but is not always true. “Unless knowledge and experience is given to the child we cannot draw out the best in him.”

Historically, Philosophers have, from ancient times, given their views on education. Socrates (470-399 B.C.) was one of the first to do so. Socrates preferred to describe education by comparing it with his mother’s profession. Education is Midwifery. A teacher, like a midwife, only helps the mother to give birth. The teacher is not the mother. So also, the pupil himself “conceives” the idea, (Called concept”) and the teacher only helps.

But a teacher is not like a Sculptor, who carves out a block of stone entirely by himself, leaving the stone passive. The student is not passive, like a stone, so teacher cannot be compared to a sculptor.

This idea was repeated by Aquinas (1225-1274 A.D.) who, in reply to famous question: ‘Can one man teach another?” answered: yes, provided that the student goes through a process of thought which is similar (analogical) to that of his teacher.

Other thinkers are divided over the problem of whether the mind contains “Innate ideas” which the teacher must help to bring out, or whether the mind is a blank Slate (“Tabula Rasa”) upon which the teacher writes, while the student remains passive. Or, in other words (as Socrates would say) whether a Teacher is a Midwife or a Sculptor.

The truth is in the middle: there must be, in Education, an internal element (Mind) and an external element (data form the senses) and both play an indispensable part in education.