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Philosophy of Education

Course Code: PHIL 2220
Faculty: Humanities & Social Sciences
Department: Philosophy
Credits: 3.0
Semester: 15
Learning Format: Lecture, Seminar
Typically Offered: TBD. Contact Department Chair for more info.
course overview

This course will provide students with an opportunity to consider a variety of educational issues from a philosophical perspective. The course will explore general questions such as: What is the ultimate goal of education? How is education different from social indoctrination? Should education aim at making good citizens? What should be taught and what is the most effective way to teach it? What are the roles of reason and autonomy in learning? Should education limit itself to imparting literacy, numeracy, and various kinds of skill and information, or should teachers also strive to influence the character and values of their students? In addition to these, various specific topics of current interest in the philosophy of education may be explored, such as: academic freedom; access to education; educational testing and measurement; fairness in education; academic standards; the ethics of special education; religious education; propaganda in education; sex education; education and career training.

Course Content

The course content may be structured in one of two ways, although these approaches need not be mutually exclusive, but could be combined in various proportions:

  1. A survey of some of the major historical figures and movements in the philosophy of education such as:
    • Selections from Plato's Meno, Protagoras and Republic; from Aristotle's Nichomachean Ethics and Politics; from Locke's Some Thoughts Concerning Education; from Rousseau's Emile; from Kant's Thoughts on Education; from Dewey's Democracy and Education; from Whitehead's The Aims of Education; from Russell's On Education; from Maritain's Education at the Crossroads; and from Hook's Education for Modern Man;


  2. An exploration of some of the central and controversial topics of interest in the philosophy of education such as:
    • Should education involve socialization, or should it focus solely upon intellectual development? Should there be one standardized curriculum for all students, or should curricula be tailored to the differing abilities of individuals? Should education emphasize acquired objective behavioural skills, or should it emphasize subjective discovery and creativity? Should education teach value-free and objective facts and information, or should education include the advocation of specific moral and educational values? Should education adopt a posture of tolerance towards multi-culturalism and ethical pluralism, or should education critique religious and ideological beliefs and values? Should education teach socially and culturally accepted beliefs and norms, or should education emphasize autonomous reasoning and freedom of opinion? Should education be oriented towards meeting the economic goals of society through applied skills and career training, or should education emphasize liberal arts and notions of self-development and self-realization? Should education provide equality of opportunity, or should education be class structured through privatization and tuition? Should teachers be held to public standards of accountability based upon student performance, or should professional educators determine the adequacy of academic standards and outcomes?

Methods of Instruction

A combination of lecture and seminar. Some classes may involve formal lectures for the entire time (allowing time for questions), in which case a later session will allow discussion of the lecture and reading material. Other class sessions may involve a combination of informal lecture and structured discussion.

Means of Assessment

Evaluation will be based upon course objectives and will be carried out in accordance with Douglas College policy.  The instructor will provide a written course outline with specific criteria for assessment during the first week of classes.

Any combination of the following totalling 100%:


Essays  20% - 80%
Tests  20% - 50%
Instructor's general evaluation
(participation, improvements,
quizzes, short assignments, etc.)      
 10% - 20%

Learning Outcomes

The general objectives of the course are:

  1. To introduce students to some of the central concepts in the philosophy of education, such as training, socialization, indoctrination, facts and values, and fostering autonomy;
  2. To promote a greater awareness of the numerous philosophical and controversial aspects of educational theory and practice;
  3. To develop a capacity for philosophical analysis and critical reflection in the context of understanding the foundations of education, its main purpose and its essential components.

Specific learning outcomes: by the end of the course, successful students should be able to:

  1. Demonstrate an understanding of the several different senses of education, including education as experience, education as upbringing, education as character building, education as intellectual development, education as personal discovery, education as institutional achievement, education as social praxis;
  2. Explain and analyse competing theories of education, especially education as an instrument for the achievement of societal ends; education as an intrinsic good; education as harmonization with community values; and education as the development and empowering of individual autonomy;
  3. Distinguish between the theoretical aspects of education and the practice of teaching, as well as demonstrate an ability to provide resolutions for specific problems that arise in the practice of teaching, such as promoting curiosity, fostering self-discipline, and distinguishing learned behaviour from subjective insight;
  4. Develop an ability to employ aspects of philosophical analysis and reasoning, as well as critical thinking skills, in the context of writing about the philosophy of education;
  5. Recognize and explain some of the basic philosophical concepts which underlie any analysis of education, including concepts such as knowledge, learning, rationality, emotions, experience, personhood, objectivity, morality, autonomy, society, value and transformation.

curriculum guidelines

Course Guidelines for previous years are viewable by selecting the version desired. If you took this course and do not see a listing for the starting semester/year of the course, consider the previous version as the applicable version.

course schedule and availability
course transferability

Below shows how this course and its credits transfer within the BC transfer system. 

A course is considered university-transferable (UT) if it transfers to at least one of the five research universities in British Columbia: University of British Columbia; University of British Columbia-Okanagan; Simon Fraser University; University of Victoria; and the University of Northern British Columbia.

For more information on transfer visit the BC Transfer Guide and BCCAT websites.


If your course prerequisites indicate that you need an assessment, please see our Assessment page for more information.