There are multiple ways to conceptualize education. Each of them reflects distinctive beliefs, expectations, values, understandings and experiences. These perspectives can be grouped into three broad categories. The first focuses on personal development. The talents, abilities, growth perspectives, potential, desires, ideals, values, and aspirations of each individual are considered. From this point of view, the main goal of education is personal development and individual fulfilment. The second perspective emphasizes the needs of communities, societies and nations.
The tension between the first two perspectives is evident; one focuses on self growth, and the other focuses on assisting the community. The third perspective seeks to bring reconciliation between the two, proposing a mixed approach: using deep personal development for the benefit of the community. The individual can not exist without the community, and the community can not exist without the individuals. The writings of Ellen White support this third position, as shown in her four principles of authentic education.
The first principle declares that authentic education focuses on more than instruction for the present life. It focuses on the eternal destiny of the student. The mixed approach proposes an enhancement of psychological benefits through their use for social purposes, and focusing on eternity brings that perspective to its highest level. When a focus on eternity spreads into all educational actions, the result is monumental. When we are educating students for eternity, we naturally focus on training them for effective community involvement by developing skills and talents that also achieve personal fulfilment. This prepares them for eternity and also allows them to reach others for Christ.
The second and third principles focus on the need for personal development. The second principle affirms that education needs to continue over a lifetime. There will always be new challenges, new callings and new journeys. The end of development heralds the beginning of the decline. Modernism strongly supports the idea of continuous education, but the Christian recommendation for combining human effort with God’s guidance on holistic growth brings a new light to this approach.
Similarly, the third principle leads to a deeper understanding of the general approach to education. Authentic development calls for harmonious involvement in all aspects of the individual. Only a vigorous and trained mind can penetrate the magnificence of the Creator. Therefore, an energetic physique and a clear mind lead to valuable spiritual experiences and are essential for education.
The last principle points to the purpose of development, the reason for the entire process. Serving and sustaining others is a tremendous privilege and the most honourable way to bring glory to the Creator. Education for service is the highest calling of education. Helping our students discover their personal potential and identify where it can best be used for Christ’s glory is the true goal of education.