What should educational institutions be for?

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In this article I respond to the work of Gert Biesta regarding the question of what education should be for. He maintains education ought to be oriented towards the ‘good’ rather than measurement, accountability and efficiency. While sympathetic to such claims, I nonetheless question his avowal that discussion of the purposes of education ‘needs’ to entail reflection upon tripartite processes of qualification, socialization and subjectification. I also argue that the concept of subjectification presented by Biesta is elusive. He says educators cannot plan to produce it in students. He also suggests there is an unhelpful surplus of reason in education that constrains possibilities for subjectification. According to Biesta, education partly reproduces ‘rational communities’ that stifle the emergence of human uniqueness and inhibit persons from challenging accepted social orders. In response to this, I argue there is currently a deficit rather than a surplus of reason in education concerning the common good. Following MacIntyre, I claim that educational institutions should support students to learn how to think for themselves and act for the common good. I conclude that such utopian thinking about the purposes of education may be needed, now, more than ever.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)375-391
JournalBritish Journal of Educational Studies
Issue number3
Early online date20 Jan 2016
Publication statusPublished - 2 Jul 2016


  • Biesta
  • MacIntyre
  • philosophy
  • purposes of education
  • measurement
  • common good


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