Ontological Issue

In philosophy, ontology is the study of being. In other words, it asks the question, “What is?” It looks at what exists in the world and how those things exist. When applied to education, ontology looks at the nature of educational experience and tries to answer questions such as What is learning? What is knowledge? Ontology also attempts to address what reality is for humans and their experiences with the world. By examining these fundamental questions, a more complete understanding of the nature of education can be gained.

For example, if we ask, “What is knowledge?” This might lead us to explore different theories about epistemology or philosophies about human thought. If we ask, “What is the relationship between mind and body?” This might lead us to explore theories about cognitive science or psychoanalysis.

 Finally, if we ask, “What is education?”, this might lead us to explore how schools are designed and maintained by society, who has access to them, who benefits from them, and who doesn’t benefit from them.

The importance of understanding the philosophy of education:

A clear understanding of the ontology of education is important for a number of reasons.

  • First, if we want to create educational institutions and experiences that are aligned with our goals and values, it is important to have a shared understanding of what those goals and values are. 
  • Second, an accurate understanding of the ontology of education can help us to avoid potential problems and pitfalls in our educational endeavors.
  • Third, a clear understanding of the ontology of education can help us better communicate our educational ideas to others.
  • Fourth, understanding the ontology of education may provide insights into solving some of our most pressing issues and dilemmas in society. 
  • Fifth, as research on how people learn has increased, having a shared understanding of this knowledge will be key to creating effective learning environments.

Ontological Issues in Education:

In philosophy, ontology is the study of being. And in education, there are many different ways to think about what it means to be a student, a teacher, or even an educational institution. So how can we better understand the ontology of education? By looking at some of the different ways that people have approached this question, we can start to get a sense of what might be at stake in our own understanding of education. 

First, there is Jean-Jacques Rousseau’s (1997) idea of nature as sacred and with the child as its purest representative: The child is born perfect; all he needs to do is grow and become conscious of his forces. Everything else comes from within himself. 

Second, Thomas Aquinas (2001) argues for four levels on which children learn: sensation, imagination, reason, and intuition. These four levels correspond with Plato’s world of appearance, the world of ideas, the world of generation and decay, and finally contemplation, or absolute reality. 

Thirdly, John Dewey (1938) sees experience as vital:

The constructionist theory states that learning occurs through interactions between individuals and their environment. These interactions then lead to new experiences based on what has been learned thus far in life. All three thinkers offer very different viewpoints, but each also provides insight into some part of our conception of education.

And in educational research, ontological issues are concerned with the nature of reality and how it is known. For example, when we ask whether education is a good or a bad thing, we are really asking about the nature of reality (is it good or bad?) and how we know this (through our experiences or through reason?).

However, these questions cannot be answered unless we first determine what ontology of education there is: for instance, does education consist primarily of objects that exist independently from humans? If so, then to say that school would be a bad thing would be to say that objects that exist independently of humans are bad things.


A thorough understanding of the ontology of education is important for a number of reasons. 

  • First, it can help us to better understand the nature and purpose of education. 
  • Second, it can help us to identify and assess the various philosophies and approaches to education. 
  • Third, it can help us develop our own philosophy of education.
  • Fourth, it can help us to critically evaluate educational policies and practices. 
  • Finally, it can help us articulate our own personal beliefs about education. 

The study of ontology in education is important because it helps us to better understand the nature and purpose of education. It also helps us identify and assess different philosophical perspectives on education. It helps us create an individual philosophy on education as well as critique existing approaches to education. The study of ontology in education can help teachers work towards their own professional goals as well as find ways to improve their teaching practice through philosophical analysis.