Is education an art or a science?

Societal influences

To me, art is something that represents the culture and the society within which it occurs. In very much the same way, education reflects the cultural values of the society within which it evolves. Any society’s values and ideas about how to educate its young people in preparation for adult life will be rooted in a sociocultural context. Hence, education in developed western societies is different from education in other parts of the world.

Scientific method

However, there exists within education in Western societies, a very scientific frame around which the delivery of formal education develops. Much education is underpinned by psychological theory, and psychological theorising happens within a scientific framework. The political influences upon education, such as the National Curriculum in the UK, are underpinned by research and data collected and analysed using the scientific method. Teachers are also required to follow pre-defined procedures (IEPs, Portfolios, IBPs, etc.) behind all of which lies a largely scientific rationale for why and how they are to be used.

Artistic delivery

So the delivery of education is prescribed based upon findings from scientific enquiries. But this does not mean that teachers deliver education in a scientific manner. In fact, I would argue, the most effective teachers are those that use flair, creativity, and spontaneity in their delivery. These are all very ‘artistic’ traits.

The scientific art of education

art of teaching?Education and psychology are interdependent. Psychology offers solutions to the practical problems thrown up by education. In this sense, the delivery of education is informed by science – or at least by the scientific methodology employed by psychologists. So psychology enables the effective delivery of education. Education is not however, a science. Education involves passing from one generation to the next the skills and abilities which that society values in its adults. Passing on those features, even if aided by science, is in my opinion, definitely an art.


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