How Do Jehovah’s Witnesses View Education?
We base our view of education on the principles found in the Bible. Each Witness uses his Bible-trained conscience to determine how to apply godly principles such as the following. a
Education is vital
Education helps a person to develop “practical wisdom and thinking ability,” qualities that the Bible praises highly. (Proverbs 2:10, 11; 3:21, 22) Further, Jesus told his followers to be teachers of the things he commanded. (Matthew 28:19, 20) Thus, we encourage and help those in our congregations to have a well-rounded education, including skills in reading, writing, and communicating, b as well as knowledge about other religions and cultures.—1 Corinthians 9:20-22; 1 Timothy 4:13.
Governments also see the value of education and often require young people to receive primary and secondary schooling. We comply with such laws in harmony with the command: “Let every person be in subjection to the superior authorities,” or governments. (Romans 13:1) In addition, we encourage our children to apply themselves at school and to do their best, not being satisfied to do the bare minimum. c As God’s Word says: “Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as though you were working for the Lord and not for people.”—Colossians 3:23, Good News Translation.
Education helps us to provide for our families. According to the Bible, “if anyone does not provide for those who are his own, and especially for those who are members of his household, he has disowned the faith and is worse than a person without faith.” (1 Timothy 5:8) Secular education can help us fulfill the sacred obligation to support our families. As The World Book Encyclopedia states, a key purpose of education is to “enable people to become productive members of society . . . as workers in the economy.” A skillful, well-educated person can provide for his family more readily and reliably than one who is unskilled and lacks a basic education.—Proverbs 22:29.
Parents also provide for their children by equipping them for adult life, and formal schooling can be invaluable in that regard. (2 Corinthians 12:14) We encourage parents to provide a formal education for their children even if they live in areas where it is not free, is difficult to obtain, or goes against cultural norms. d We also give practical suggestions on how parents can get involved in their children’s education. e
Education should be viewed objectively
We examine secular education options carefully. The Bible says: “The naive person believes every word, but the shrewd one ponders each step.” (Proverbs 14:15) We apply this principle by carefully examining the range of options available for supplementary (postsecondary) education and the cost and value of each. For example, vocational training can often provide good value for a reasonable investment of time.
Spiritual education has greater value than secular education. Unlike secular education, Bible-based spiritual education provides the lifesaving knowledge of God. (John 17:3) It also teaches moral values—“what is righteous and just and fair, the entire course of what is good.” (Proverbs 2:9) The apostle Paul received what could be likened to a modern university education, yet he acknowledged “the excelling value of the knowledge of Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 3:8; Acts 22:3) Likewise today, many of Jehovah’s Witnesses have received advanced secular education, yet they believe that their spiritual education has greater value. f
Higher education can lead to moral and spiritual dangers
A Bible proverb says: “The shrewd one sees the danger and conceals himself.” (Proverbs 22:3) Jehovah’s Witnesses feel that the environment in some universities or similar centers of higher learning can pose moral and spiritual dangers. For that reason, many Witnesses choose not to immerse themselves or their children in such an environment. They feel that in centers of higher learning, mistaken ideas such as the following are often promoted:
Misconception: Money brings happiness and security
Higher education is often promoted as the surest way to a high-paying job, so an increasing number of students attend a university primarily to make more money. Some hope that money will bring them happiness and security, yet the Bible exposes the futility of such thinking. (Ecclesiastes 5:10) More important, the Bible also teaches that “the love of money is a root of all sorts of injurious things” and often leads to a loss of faith. (1 Timothy 6:10) Jehovah’s Witnesses make every effort to avoid being ensnared by “the deceptive power of riches.”—Matthew 13:22.
Misconception: A person should seek the prestige or status that can result from higher education
For example, Nika Gilauri, a former prime minister of Georgia, wrote regarding the common viewpoint in his homeland: “A university degree is almost obligatory as a status symbol in Georgia. . . . [In the past,] young people who did not get a degree were a disgrace to their families.” g In contrast, the Bible warns against seeking prominence in this world. Jesus told the glory-seeking religious leaders of his day: “How can you believe, when you are accepting glory from one another?” (John 5:44) The university environment could foster a haughty spirit, which God hates.—Proverbs 6:16, 17; 1 Peter 5:5.
Misconception: Each person should set his own standards of right and wrong
Jehovah’s Witnesses accept God’s standards of right and wrong. (Isaiah 5:20) However, according to an article published in the Journal of Alcohol and Drug Education, peer pressure in universities leads many students to “make decisions contrary to their established knowledge of right and wrong.” h This observation agrees with the Bible principle: “Bad associations spoil useful habits.” (1 Corinthians 15:33) In the university environment, practices that God condemns, such as drunkenness, drug use, and sex outside marriage, are often common and even encouraged.—1 Corinthians 6:9, 10; 2 Corinthians 7:1.
Misconception: Higher education is the best way to improve the world
We recognize that many pursue higher education, not to gain wealth, prestige, or illicit pleasure, but to improve themselves and the world. These are noble goals, but Jehovah’s Witnesses have chosen a different path. Like Jesus, we look to God’s Kingdom as the only hope for a better world. (Matthew 6:9, 10) However, we do not passively wait for the Kingdom to solve the world’s problems. Instead, like Jesus, we share “this good news of the Kingdom” throughout the earth, helping hundreds of thousands of people every year to transform their lives for the better. i—Matthew 24:14.
a Witness youths still living at home abide by their parents’ wishes in regard to education as long as these do not conflict with God’s laws.—Colossians 3:20.
b To that end, we have published more than 11 million copies of literacy aids, such as Apply Yourself to Reading and Writing. And we conduct free literacy classes around the world in 120 languages. Between 2003 and 2017, we taught some 70,000 people to read and write.
c See the article “Should I Quit School?”
d For example, we encourage parents to send their sons and daughters to school. See the article “Should My Child Go to School?” in the March 15, 2003, issue of The Watchtower.
e See the article “How to Help Your Child Improve His Grades.”
f See the jw.org section “Viewpoints on the Origin of Life.”
g Practical Economics: Economic Transformation and Government Reform in Georgia 2004—2012, page 170.
h Volume 61, No. 1, April 2017, page 72.
i See the jw.org section “The Bible Changes Lives” for real-life examples of the power of God’s Word and the Kingdom message.