Plato and Nyerere seem to develop some similar ideas on the understanding of education. However, there are necessarily also differences between them and in their approach to education. Obviously, what makes them differ is time and space, although both started from their historical and political experiences. Plato is disappointed with matters in Athens, while Nyerere attempts to overcome Colonialism. More than that, Nyerere seems to be influenced by Socialists countries of Eastern Europe, Asia and by Cuba.3.1 On Understanding Education Both Plato and Nyerere agree that education need not be done in the classroom only. For them education is a transfer of knowledge from one person or from one generation to another. Knowledge according to Plato is transmitted through human relationships
Similarly, Nyerere saw the ways of educating people in which person can learn from radio, books, magazine, newspapers; or children learn from parents, brothers and sisters
. Therefore, through those ways of educating, it is evident that education for both is not only restricted to the classrooms, but rather, persons will learn from others even outside the classrooms.3.2 The Role of the TeacherIn the case of formal education both Plato and Nyerere emphasised the role of teachers. Plato thought that the role or the function of teachers is to communicate a subject matter to the pupils. Teachers are those who know the subject matter. So did Nyerere. Moreover, Nyerere emphasised that teachers should have enthusiasm, they should have a spirit of helping students, and good behaviour, treat students with equality and friendship
. Nyerere believed that students learn many things from their teachers, not only what teachers teach, but also social behaviour through the example shown by their teachers. 3.3 Selection of StudentsPlato and Nyerere also discussed the selection of students together with examinations of the student. These selections were in accordance with the age and stage to which these students were admitted. InGreece, pupils were being accepted in the first level at the age of six. Unlike Plato, Nyerere had a different age of accepting students into schools. While Plato emphasised that education must start early,Nyerere differed with him. According to Nyerere, students must be accepted to start school in later age i.e. seven or eight years so that they can complete their studies old enough to enter society. Another thing whereby Plato and Nyerere differed, was the separation of boys and girls during their course. In Greece, boys and girls were being separated. As Plato says, “ when the boys and girls have reached the age of six, the sexes should be separated; boys should spend their days with boys and girls with girls.”
. Boys and girls were being taught the same things separately, but the spirit in which they were taught, differed because boys were destined to be soldiers, while girls would become mothers of families, they would only be called upon in an emergency to defend the state. Unlike Plato, Nyerere suggested that boys and girls must learn together. 3.4 On the Question of Special SchoolsDue to the differences of intelligence and talents, Plato suggested that different schools should be established in order to meet the needs of these people; rulers, soldiers and populace should be educated separately. But though Nyerere had this idea, also it was in a different manner. To him special schools were important but these were introduced after the primary level. Those who would pass well in their studies would get a chance in special Tanzanian schools.3.5 Practical WorkIn the learning process, both Plato and Nyerere wished practical work to be included. For example Plato insisted that those who want to be good builders or good husbandman should learn practically their work.
Plato emphasised this point in this way:
…I insist that a man who intends to be good at a particular occupation must practice it from childhood: both at work and at play he must be surrounded by the special 'tools of the trade’. For instance a man who intends to be a good farmer must play at farming, and the man who is to be a builder must spend his play time building toy houses…
On Nyerere’s side, students should learn through working, i.e. they should have to put what they have learnt to practical application. In supporting this idea Nyerere had suggested that in rural areas every school should have a shamba while in urban areas other practical schemes should apply. “…the best way to learn cooking is to cook…”
. Moreover, Plato and Nyerere considered the role of tradition in learning. Both agreed that it is through tradition that one learns or knows about the history of his/her society.3.6 Against Gender DiscriminationPlato fought against the discrimination of women. At that time women in Greece were not considered the same as men so they were not given education since they were staying home caring for children. For him, women had to be given the same education as men. He believed that differences between sexes are not relevant in constructing a society. He thought that females and males have got the same right of receiving education from the state since the interest of the state is paramount and the kind of education which will produce good men will also produce good women.
Nyerere was not far from this.
He was totally against gender and religious discrimination and proposed that education should be provided to all without any discrimination i.e. without considering race, sex or religion. For him, Europeans, Asians and Africans, Christians and Muslims, men and women were supposed to receive the same education. He would say: “a child of Tanzania can now secure admittance to any government school in this country without regard to his race or religion and without fear that he will be subjected to religious indoctrination as the price of learning”
.3.7 The Minister of EducationPreviously, education in Greece and Tanzania were the matter of private individuals. Plato strove with great effort to put education in the hands of the state. He proposed that the state should be responsible for education. Also he proposed this educational matters to be under a Minister of Education. Like in Greece, after the Arusha Declaration in Tanzania, Nyerere proposed that all schools had to be under the Ministry of Education and this Ministry was put under the Minister of Education.3.8 On the Question of MoralityMoral aspects were also being insisted upon. Ancient Greece didn’t have the Bible, poems were being used as a source of theology and morals; children were taught by using these poems so that they would grow up with good examples. In Tanzanian schools the respective religious representatives were teaching students religion, though there was no single binding religion in school.
3.9 The Role of Education
One of the most important roles of education according to Plato and Nyerere was the preparation of people so as to fit into their social roles and enabling them to give service to the state and offer an important economic contribution. Generally, according to Plato, education was for the betterment of state and individual. Nyerere insisted that education will form people and will help in the maintenance and development of a particular society. Nyerere knew that society is made up by people, and once people are educated, the whole of society will benefit. Both thinkers emphasised that education should meet the needs of the society and not merely just to learn without aim. In this matter Nyerere said, “Our young men and women must have an oriented education”
. Education must not only be given to Africans, but must meet the present needs of Africans. Learning according to Nyerere is not a merely learning of something, or an accumulation of knowledge, which will not profit society, rather a learner, must make sure that education is applicable and useful to the society. Subjects to be learned in Tanzania must help Tanzanians to solve their own problems.3.10 Physical EducationPlato introduced physical education as a separate stage of education. But Nyerere introduced it in a different manner. According to Nyerere, in primary and secondary level students before entering the classrooms were supposed to get some exercises, which would help them to build up healthy bodies. This was called para- military training (mchakamchaka).
And those who had completed secondary level or Teacher’s training college were all supposed to attend a one-year of Military service.3.11 Absolute KnowledgePlato divided three stages, which man passes in order to reach the highest stage of knowledge i.e. the knowledge of the Good. Knowledge of the Good according to Plato, was the absolute knowledge upon which a person would attain a complete knowledge. Therefore, we can discover that according to Plato learning ends somewhere else i.e. after reaching the knowledge of the Good. Unlike Plato, Nyerereshows that learning is something, which doesn’t have an end. Everyone is a learner from day to day and no anyone can boost on himself/herself that he/she has reached a complete and absolute knowledge. According to him, a person can learn from others, or from his/her experience including the past successes or failures
Moreover, Plato’s idea of education was primarily intended for the statesmen in order to avoid blind leaders. Plato understood that once statesmen are being educated, the state would not be in a terrible situation. Thus is why he proposed that a ruler must be a Philosopher-King. Philosopher king is the one who has passed all the stages of education, i.e. one who has reached the knowledge of the Good. Unlike Plato, Nyerere’s idea of education was not primarily insisted in a particular group of people but rather, education was being emphasised to the all citizens. Nyerere understood that once citizens are being educated, poverty, ignorance and diseases would disappear. However, on the question of leaders, Nyerere consider it in a different manner. According to him, a leader is the one who has been selected among the people to lead the country. Nyerere asked,
what is the meaning of leadership? When you are being selected to lead your fellowmen, it doesn’t mean that you know everything better than they do. It doesn’t even mean that you are more intelligent than they are, especially the elders
Therefore according to Nyerere, a leader doesn’t know everything since he is still depending on others in order to learn.