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Blog Special Issues

What are we educating for?

Although it has always been significant, the question of what we are educating for is now particularly important. There is growing consensus that the educational challenges we face require long-term solutions, while political imperatives tend to be focused on short-term priorities. The challenges facing the world are changing dramatically, including the climate and nature emergency, the development of generative artificial intelligence, and the changing nature of work. This has highlighted clear tensions between whether we are educating for employment, for credentials, for engagement in further studies, or for engagement with society more broadly.

This BERA Blog special issue started out as a seminar series in which policymakers, educational practitioners and researchers came together to discuss what we are educating for across the English educational system. The series examined this question in relation to the education system as a whole and then in relation to early years, primary, secondary, further and vocational, and higher education. By taking a fine-grained perspective on the different educational stages within a single educational system, the blog special issue builds on the seminar series and offers UK and international readers the opportunity to consider how these issues play out in their own setting.

The contributions to this special issue explore:

  • how educational researchers might engage in the policymaking process
  • whose views are prioritised in educational policymaking
  • the tension between childcare and education in early years education
  • an ethic of mutual care in early years education
  • what we could be educating for in primary education
  • who should determine what we are educating for in primary education
  • the political priorities for post-14 secondary education
  • how secondary education can help young people to develop agency and hope in the face of the climate emergency
  • further education for extraordinary people
  • what vocational education is for
  • higher education for the benefit of students and the public good
  • the tension between transactional and educative higher education.


Profile picture of Paul Ashwin
Paul Ashwin, Professor

Professor of Higher Education at Lancaster University

Paul Ashwin is Professor of Higher Education in the Department of Educational Research, Lancaster University. He is Deputy Director of the Centre for Global Higher Education (CGHE) and leads the Centre’s Graduate Experiences of Employability...

Profile picture of Charles Clarke
Charles Clarke, Rt Hon

Visiting Professor in Social and Educational Futures at Lancaster University

Charles Clarke was Member of Parliament for Norwich South from 1997 to 2010. He served as Education Minister from 1998 and then in the Home Office from 1999 to 2001. He then joined the Cabinet as Minister without Portfolio and Labour Party Chair....

Content in this series