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Someone recently asked this question on one of the LinkedIn groups I am a member of and it has prompted some thoughts to post in response. This, it turns out, has been in common with a host of other group members (incredible how some discussion threads quickly generate comments on LinkedIn while others flounder). With a few notable exceptions, however, many of those answers seem to me either fail to clarify or succeed in making matters even more muddled. But then, other people might well say the same of mine.

So, with additional embellishment here is my answer:

“1. Education in the specific sense of organised, social process (as opposed to euphemism for a more folksy ‘lessons learnt from whatever life throws at us’) is a categorical term, and therefore is a collective word to characterise a whole set of activities. As such, there is always a wider societal purpose that first frames the category, such as Dewey’s explicit 20th century notions of democracy or the implicit requirement for standardised knowledge and skills to meet a rapidly growing need for labour force in the 19th Century that preceded that.  In other words, the categorisation of education is itself categorised by historical context and reproduced by those taking part in it. The growth of public education has surely enabled many social and technical innovations, but not all frames have been positive ones and the topic, seen this way, will forever be unfinished and contested because society and science are themselves subject to change over time.

The modern purpose of Education is, or should be, emancipation – measured usually in terms of increased levels of freedom from control, or increased levels of freedom to choose. For many reasons, this is not often achieved but is remarkable for what can be achieved when it works. Ideally, as Sir Ken Robinson reminds us, education ought to be tailored to the potential of each individual, and informed by each person’s innate creativity. My own view is that the ultimate goal of emancipation in education should be to achieve “freedom from comparison”. That last part is not so easy to explain, so it may be a thread I need to develop in future blog postings.

2. Training is the term used for another category of activities, this time those designed to facilitate or demonstrate a given change in behaviour. The change may also be the potential for behaviour.

Training can be highly useful as a means of preparing people to undertake particular tasks and highly destructive if the motives behind the required change in behaviour are hidden or perverse. Training, like education (and coaching, for that matter), needs its own set of contexts to make any sense.

3. Coaching is the term used for a category of overt activities, tools, intentions etc. employed by one person to facilitate another person or group of persons in getting ‘unstuck’ by using certain presuppositions, such as that – aside from the presence of the coach – the coachees already have all the resources they need.

People are welcome to throw in their own ‘2 cents’.

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