Aims of education are not fixed, eternal and universal. These are changeable and relative. The nature of the aims of education can properly be understood in the light of two distinct philosophies of life-idealism and pragmatism. Idealism stands for absolute, ultimate, eternal and universal values. It advocates high ideals of life, which are mainly spiritual in nature. Idealism pleads “knowledge for knowledge’s sake.” In an idealist society, education is for the general and moral development of a person. According to idealism, the aims of education are spiritual and idealistic in nature and they are predetermined, absolute, unchangeable and universal. The aim of idealist education is to realize these pre-existing, absolute and universal values. It is “Education for complete living.”
Pragmatism deals with life as it is and not as it should be. It is also known as the realistic approach to life. In realism the existing or prevailing social, political and economic conditions of life are taken into consideration. The existing conditions of life determine the aims of pragmatic education. Pragmatism does not believe in absolute and eternal values: philosophy of life is always reflected in the aims of education. Plato considered that the guardians of the state should have high philosophical ideals. Locke emphasized “the disciplined and well-ordered mind.” Hegel stress on idealistic aim of education, i.e. glorification of the state and the fulfillment of the will of the absolute. Marx was a materialist. So he emphasized material aim of education, i.e., the practical economic needs of man. In a materialist society, educational aims are based on the materialistic outlook of the people. In such a society moral or spiritual values have nothing to do with education. The idealist society tries to glorify those values and emphasize moral upliftment of personality.
The socio-political ideologies also determine the aims of education. A democratic government, a fascist government, a communist government- each one formulates its own ends and means of education. Democratic ideals of life are flexible and change with the changing conditions of life. Hence, in a democracy aim at the highest development of the innate potentialities of the individual. In fascism the individual exists for the state and education aims at glorification and welfare of the state. Man is regarded to be the creature of the state. Social and economic issues also serve as determinants of educational aims and objectives. Education must prepare the future generation for the economic and social system of the country. In determining its educational objectives, every country has to take into consideration its economic conditions. Thus we find, variability is the nature of educational aims. The Secondary Education Commission (1952) puts it: “As the political, social and economic condition change and new problems arise, it becomes necessary to re-examine carefully and re-state clearly the objectives which education at definite stage should keep in view.”