In 1971, a philosopher by the name of Ivan Illich published a book called “Deschooling Society” – a critique of education in modern societies which called for the imminent disestablishment of schools. His radical ideas highlighted the institutionalisation of schools and he advocated self-motivated learning that could only occur outside of formal school boundaries. Many dismissed his thoughts as impractical or too radical for his time and while schools did not in fact disappear, Illich put forward ideas that still hold some relevance to this day (Hart, 2000). This essay will discuss what Illich sees as the aims of education, how he thinks these can be achieved and what the outcome would be if these ideas were applied to the present-day education system.
Illich argued that whilst schools have become recognised as the institution which specialises in education, he saw the role of schools as a tool of social control, spreading existing political ideologies and preserving the status quo of society (1971). Ideology was maintained through teachers who took on a powerful role, dictating how and what was taught to their students. It was common belief that education could only be supplied by a properly qualified person (1971). This attitude is what Illich used to support his theory that schools have become bureaucratised. To further this notion, Illich made a distinct difference between schooling and learning. Schooling was related to bureaucracy and teaching, and learning occurred independent of the former (1971). This idea is easily understood if one considers where most of their learning occurs – outside of school, during daily life experiences and encounters with other people.
Illich (1971), stated that the opposite of school was possible through self-motivated learning instead of employing teachers to compel students to learn. He described three main aims that all good educational systems should have. These are: that the system should provide all who want to learn with access to available resources at any time in their lives; enable all who want to share what they know to find those who want to learn it from them; and to supply all who want to raise an issue to the public with the opportunity to make them understood (Illich, 1971: 78). His aims ensured that students would not be constrained to learning material from a previously set curriculum nor confined to learning during a set time or age period. Illich strongly felt that learning was a life-long process, should not be based on certification and that learning should allow access to a kind of thinking or opportunities that would not be provided within schools. (1971; Hart, 2000). This is summed up by the following statement: new education systems will allow the learner to “…look into the windows of the control room or the parliament, if he cannot get in the door” (Illich, 1971: 78).
According to Illich, there are also four resources essential for real learning to occur. These are...