What is education?
Education is the study of the process of receiving and giving systematic instruction. As a degree, it mixes a theoretical grounding in the history, anthropology, sociology and economics of education, psychology and human development, and applied courses on teaching methods.
Different degrees may specialise in areas such as early childhood education, health and physical education, primary teaching, secondary teaching or secondary teaching/vocational education. They can also allow you to specialise in teaching a specific subject matter.
An education degree will give you a set of key, transferable skills such as an ability to work and communicate with children, effective oral and written communication, information and communication technology savviness, research and analytical skills, problem-solving skills, teamwork ability, self-management, organisation and time management skills.
In addition, the course will help you design curricula, plan lessons, target the learning capability of students and create healthy and dynamic learning environments.
What might you find on an education degree?
The course will mix theoretical and applied courses.
In sociology, you will learn about how socio-economic and political factors can affect educational institutions and children’s development around the world, and may also think about inclusive education.
In history, you will study the changes educational institutions have gone through in the past and the role they play in national development, as well as the idea of what it means to be educated.
In philosophy, you will ask fundamental questions such as what is knowledge, what it means to teach and to learn, what is character and how can you shape it, what is the purpose of education etc.
In the psychology of education you will focus on child development from early ages through to adolescence by examining language, attachment, thought and social interactions. You may also have a comparative module on international education.
In the applied part of the course, you will do modules on general pedagogy, inclusive approaches to provision for disability, multimedia production, informal learning methods, student-led learning, classroom dynamics, play and pedagogy, cultural and linguistic integration of immigrant students.
What should I study to do an education degree?
No specific subjects are required to study education at university. If your plan is to go into teaching, you will however need to do the subjects you intend to specialise in.
A background in the humanities such as literature, history, philosophy or politics, and social sciences such as anthropology, economics, sociology and psychology will prepare you well for the degree giving you a foundation in analytical and critical thinking, and writing and presentation skills.
What do people go on to do with an education degree?
An education degree is perfect if you enjoy the immediacy of working with young people and helping them develop their critical thinking and character.
Graduates often end as teachers in primary or secondary school, sometimes working as special educational needs teachers.
Still focusing on individual children’s formation, others develop careers as youth workers, careers advisers, teaching assistants or speech therapists.
But studying education is also good if you are interested in macro-scale projects and systems. You can join other graduates in becoming a community education officer, an education administrator or a museum education officer. You can also work in adult education and training, curriculum design, education projects, education policy making and educational NGOs.
If you are interested in the creative industries, alumni have in the past joined television production, cartoon production, or have gone to become writers, artists, photographers, filmmakers etc.
Education is a safe option even if you decide to change direction and go into other industries where strong analytical and communication skills are valued such as the civil service, marketing, PR, advertising, consultancy.
According to a Higher Education Statistics Agency (HESA) study, just under 80 per cent of education undergraduate leavers in 2014-15 went on to work, and 15 per cent did further study.
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Famous people who studied education
Notable alumni of education degrees are; Sesame Street creator Joan Ganz Cooney; Canadian politician and 25th Premier of Ontario Kathleen O’Day Wynne; Olympic silver medal winner Lacey Nymeyer; national director of education in the Philippines Minori Nagatomo; global head of human resources at Harcourt Education Michael E. Pilnick; President of Disney-ABC Television Group Anne Sweeney; educator Nínive Clements Calegari; photographer Edward Burtynsky; and UNESCO regional coordinator Moritz Bilagher.
However, there are many other noteworthy education alumni who are involved in grassroots projects, schools, community centres and universities who are as worthy of praise.