Short essay on the Social aim of education


Society or State alone is real.

The supporters of social aim of education believe that society or state alone is real, and the individual is only a means, and therefore, must always work for the welfare and progress of the society or the state. They, therefore, hold that an individual should be educated for the good of society.

The interests of society are supreme; and the position of the individual is always subordinated to that of the state, the supporters of social aim cannot think of an individual living and developing in isolation from society. As Raymont says, “An isolated individual is only a figment of the imagination.” As long as human beings are living in society, there will be some subordination of individuality to public or social needs of society.



(a) Extreme Form

(i) State-an idealized metaphysical entity.

(ii) Education for willing acceptance of authority.


(iii) The example of Ancient Greece.

(iv) Examples of Germany and Italy. Criticism of Extreme Form

(i) Individual, a non-entity.

(ii) No scope for the free will of individual.


(iii) Individual to work only for the good of the state.

(iv) Narrow citizenship.

(b) Liberal View

(i) Making individual socially efficient.


(ii) Recent democratic trends.

State-Idealised Super-human Entity:

The social aim, in its extreme form, regards the state as “idealized super-human entity, over and above the individual.” The state or society alone is the reality, and the individual is only “a throb in the social pulse.”

They believe that “Individuality is of no value, and personality a meaningless term apart from the social environment in which they are developed and made manifest.” Therefore, the function of education, according to the social aim, is to work consistently for the welfare of the state, subordinating the welfare of the individual to that of the state. Hence, the state is to control and direct every affair in life including education


which is but a means of shaping its citizens into a certain mould. The state has the right to mould and shape the individual, so as to suit its own purposes and progress. It uses education as the most convenient means for preparing individuals to play different roles in society.

The curriculum as well as the methods of education is also the complete monopoly of the state and the individual has no choice to develop his powers and capacities in his own way. He is only to obey what the authorities dictate. His needs, urges and nature are completely ignored.

Education through Social Control

The exponents of this school of thought believe in imparting education through social control and their emphasis in the educational process is on strict discipline and obedience. In the end, it is the state which determines the field where the services of the individual are most needed, and not where he can do his best according to his own ability and aptitude. The state is supreme to dictate what shall be taught and how shall be taught. Discipline is its watchword, willing acceptance of authority is the method, and obedience is the rule.

Criticism of the Social Aim of Education

This is certainly very one-sided view. First, Social aim in its extreme form can never be accepted, as it reduces the individual to a mere non-entity. Secondly, the extreme notion of the all-powerful state or society ignores the legitimate needs, desires and interests of the individual, and suppresses his creative power.

Thirdly, it tries to make the individual only a tool of the government, and demands unquestioning, obedience and loyalty from the individual. Fourthly, this is against all concepts of education and individual development. Therefore, social aim in its extreme form can never be justified and therefore, can never be accepted.

Synthesis of Individual and Social Aims.

The above discussion about the individual and social aims of education is likely to give the impression that the individual aim is opposed to the social aim. But, in reality it is not so. These two types of aims may be opposed to each other if stressed in their extreme form. But, if their sharp edges are rounded off, they become rather complimentary to each other.

The individual aim, if stressed greatly, will produce egoists, while extreme emphasis on social aim will create suppressed personalities. Therefore, the extreme form of either of the two should be avoided.


(i) Synthesis possible.

(ii) Individual and Society Complementary.

(iii) Rousseau’s view not acceptable.

(iv) Ross’s View

(v) Conclusion-the true aim of education cannot be other than the highest development of the individual as a member of the society.

Individual and Society Complementary

If we examine both the aims dispassionately, we shall find that neither the individual nor the society can exist without each other. The individual is the product of society, while the society finds its advancement in the development of its individual members. It must be admitted that the individual cannot develop in vacuum. He is a social animal.

In all walks of life, he is influenced by all who surround him. He cannot escape the cultural influences of the society. These influences -shape the personality make up of man. His potentialities are stimulated by the environmental forces. Therefore, individuality cannot and should not be emphasised by neglecting general human ideals.

In the words of Sir John Adam, “Individuality requires a social medium to grow, without social contacts we are not human.” Thus, both the schools of thought have made valuable contribution to the art and science of education.

Synthesis-an Ideal Condition

A synthesis of the two aims will be the ideal condition. The school should try to develop the individuality of each child through social contacts and social control, with maximum possible freedom for each individual. “Individuality is not a private possession, but is the means through which real good can enter the world. The good of all is the good of each.” So, the real aim of education may be defined as “the highest development of the individual as member of the society.”

Individual and Society-Functionally Related.

Therefore, we may add that the individual and the society may both be regarded as equally important, neither of the two being absolutely independent of the other. “Instead of being regarded as isolated entities, the individual and the society should be considered as functionally related to each other; the individual acting on the individual.” The personality of the individual has to be developed, but, this cannot be done in isolation. The individual personality is essentially a product of the interaction between the individual and society.

Individual Freedom has its Limits.

The claims of the individual as well as the society are usually important. The individual has the right to live life of its own, according to one’s needs and desires. He must have the freedom to develop himself according to its potentialities and capacities. But, his freedom must have its limits. Freedom cannot be allowed to degenerate into licence; because, the right to freedom of everybody has to be protected.

It is here that the society or the state has to intervene. The function of the society and the state should be to see that the freedom of every individual is safe-guarded. But, the state should not go beyond this. The state or the society should not curb this freedom of the individual to such an extent that his very growth and development is thwarted.

On the other hand the state should do everything possible to promote the happiness and welfare of each and every member of the society. The individual should think it as his sacred duty to work for the welfare and progress of the whole of the society. Both individual and the society should work for a common objective. Both have their own spheres of action and work; and they should not try to cross the boundaries of their own jurisdiction. In this way, their role will be complementary to each other, and the individuals as well as the society will grow and develop simultaneously.


In the end, we say that in a truly democratic society, the true aim of education cannot be other than the highest development of the individual as a member of the society. The most practical approach would be to let education burn the individual flame, feeding it with the oil of society. Let the light of this flame illumine the social horizon, shedding away all the prevailing darkness.

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