Why is it called 'higher' education?

Why is it called 'higher' education?

Origins of the Term 'Higher' Education

The term 'higher' education dates back to the Middle Ages when universities were first established. The term was used to distinguish the advanced study of the liberal arts - what we now call the humanities, social sciences, natural sciences, and mathematics - from the more basic skills taught in primary and secondary schools. It was believed that these higher studies led to a greater understanding of the world and the individual's place in it, hence the term 'higher' education.

Understanding the 'Higher' in Higher Education

The descriptor 'higher' in higher education refers not only to the level of learning but also to the elevation of thought, critical thinking skills, and intellectual maturity that this type of learning fosters. In this sense, 'higher' education means education that aims to elevate an individual's thinking and understanding beyond the basic facts and skills taught at lower levels of education.

The Hierarchical Structure of Education

Another interpretation of 'higher' education refers to the hierarchical structure of education. In most countries, education is structured in a progressive manner, where learners move from primary to secondary, then to tertiary or higher education. This progression often corresponds with the age and development of the learner, with higher education typically being pursued by adults who have already completed their basic education. Thus, the term 'higher' education reflects this stepwise progression in education.

Higher Education as a Gateway to the Professional World

Higher education is also seen as the gateway to the professional world. It is at this level of education that individuals specialize in specific fields of study, preparing them for careers in these areas. This focused, specialized education is thus 'higher' as it goes beyond the general education offered at lower levels. It equips individuals with the specialized knowledge and skills they need to excel in their chosen professions.

Higher Education and Personal Development

Higher education also plays a key role in personal development. It offers opportunities for individuals to explore their interests in depth, develop critical thinking skills, and broaden their horizons. It is a time for individuals to take charge of their learning, to question, to discuss, and to form their own opinions. This process of intellectual and personal growth is another reason why this level of education is referred to as 'higher'.

The Role of Higher Education in Society

Higher education also plays a vital role in society. It is through higher education that we train our doctors, engineers, teachers, and other professionals. It is also through higher education that we conduct research and generate new knowledge. This societal role of higher education, its contribution to the advancement of knowledge and the development of society, is another reason why it is called 'higher' education.

Conclusion: The Value of Higher Education

In conclusion, the term 'higher' education is a reflection of the value we place on this level of education. It refers to the elevation of thought, the stepwise progression of education, the specialization for professional careers, the personal development, and the societal role of this level of education. It is 'higher' not only in terms of the level of learning, but also in terms of its impact on individuals and society.

Theodore Kiplington
Theodore Kiplington

Hello, my name is Theodore Kiplington, and I am an expert in the field of education. With years of experience as both a teacher and an educational consultant, I have honed my skills in curriculum development and instructional design. As a passionate advocate for education, I enjoy writing and sharing my expertise on various aspects of the field. Whether it's the latest trends in teaching methodologies or innovative ways to engage students, my goal is to inspire and inform others about the power of education.

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