Plato’s education system and some criticism | 02

The great theory of education by Plato has some notable features like the classification of society, steps of education etc. This theory is not out of criticism though. Few are noted in this article below.

Plato’s classification of citizens

Plato divided the citizen into three categories and designed their educational system differently for his just society. His educational system gives way a pyramidal structure of the society. Namely, the classes are the producers, the auxiliaries and the guardians. Each class is designed to perform a particular role in the society and Plato’s education system was designed to provide them a different type of education for their job.

These classifications basically adopted from Pythagoras proposal of three class three soul; where every human has three qualities Rational, Spirit, and Appetite. It was believed these souls (qualities) were connected with the three classes. Having a look bellow can give us a better idea of the classification.

Looking from the bottom up:

  • The Producers: This class are those who love their labour job, security and comfort. They are more vulnerable to their desire like food, drink and sex. They place their material pleasure above all. It is the largest class of the society it includes most of the low average profession, farmers, soldiers, artisans fall into this category. It is believed they are driven by the reason not by the sprite. Therefore, they cannot be a part of state rulemaking or political affairs. They are the main workforce of the state.
  • The Auxiliaries: According to the classification they are in the middle position who loves courage, honour and their homeland above all. They are the helping hand of guardians, they help protect the city from invaders and keep peace in the state of all time. The enforce the rule made by the guardians. They hold the sprite of honour and excellence.
  • The Guardians: This class hold the topmost position of the state. The love knowledge and truth above all. They are more rational, this rationality loves truth, which should rule over the other parts of the soul through use of reasoning, they are highly educated philosophers and thinkers who rule the country and participate in the decision-making process.

Plato believed that as their soul and aim are different they deserve different education procedure. In short, we can say he believed that the producers must get vocational training, the auxiliaries should get military training and only the guardians can get academic and philosophical training.

 Plato’s design of education

Plato designed his education for both the body and soul to meet the demand of all three class of people stage by stage. He believed the education should provide stage by stage.

Plato was of the opinion that education must begin at an early age stage within the family then he preferred institutional education away from family to get a unique computable environment.


  • First Stage: Platonic theory of education emphasized the education of children to start when the infant at the age of zero to six years, at this time the baby should stay with their mother and slowly adopt basic sense of life, they should react to pleasure and pain, play with other children, Liston fairy tales by this they will achieve grow some basic moral sense.
  • Stage Two: This is the time for elementary school, children will learn reading, writing poetry, play, numbers, geometry religion, manners, instrumental music, music, memories poetry and arithmetic (Theory) etc. which will meet their demand of soul and shall be an avenue for the spiritual growth. Besides that, Gymnastics will be also essential as part of education for the physical strength and growth. Students of age thirteen to six shall participate at this elementary school.
  • Third Stage: After the second stage students of sixteen to twenty years shall be enabled to join the more formal gymnastic and military training. No intellectual training will be provided at this stage. The youth shall be prepared for battle at this stage and they will be able to join as an axillary.
  • Fourth stage: This stage starts from twenty years last up to thirty years of age. This stage shall make the days of the students difficult because Plato wanted only the highest quality of students in this stage of higher education. The student must be surest, bravest, fairest and those who have the natural gifts and abilities to serve the state. At this stage, the student will come closer to the science, undergo mathematical training. They will be trained on coordination of reason and habits; interrelating the physical science etc.
  • The Fifth Stage: This age is from ages thirty to thirty-five. Plato restricted the study of dialectic to this age because he felt that an individual should be mature enough to carry on the study in dialectic, especially about ultimate principles of reality.[1]The student of this stage shall learn Philosophy, Psychology, Sociology, government, law etc.
  • The Sixth stage: This education starts from thirty-five years to fifty years. Critical higher philosophy shall be taught at this last stage. Plato believed after achieving this age a man shall be able to take the ruling power of the state, command of war or hold important office as he will be able to understand the complexity of life and nature on the other hand he shall have good command on his action considering good and bad or moral or immoral.

Plato education system

Criticism of Plato’s theory of education.

  • “Bodily exercise, when compulsory, done no harm to the body; but knowledge which is acquired under compulsion obtains no hold on the mind” – Plato, Republic

Like this quote, there are many other thoughts and views that are quite contradictory with his own thoughts. In this quote, Plato stand against compulsory education by force by in his own opinion he wanted to enforce compulsory education to the children even by separating them from their parents! Which is quite questionable indeed.

  • His classification of the ancient Greek citizen is quite outdated in our present context but his position can be considered at his time his proposition is also defective, his classification was base on class but how a children’s future can be predicted was not clear in his writing.
  • Plato rejected the scientific or realistic approach where the universal truth is a man is driven by the realistic approach not by moral one. He criticizes the individual schools of education because he thought that could misdirect the student and the can be separated from the ideology of the state on the other hand his own thought can be defined as individual thoughts of state and education then he falls in his own fallacy. His theory can be questioned too. Moreover, it is evident that diversity and individual enterprise brought the most fruits most of the time.
  • His teleological view can also be questioned as that is an objective satisfaction of his thoughts, thereof any person can easily twist the explanation according to his logical explanation.
  • He toughs a society where the society is balanced and the citizens are happy but he wanted it by the sacrifice of the citizens will with is ambiguous because the individual by lost his trust when his freedom is curtailed he may not want to cooperate with the system unless it is forceful one than the total approach to making the citizen happy is meaningless rather his compulsion shall only benefit the ruling class.
  • Looking back to his stage of education designed by Plato and compared to comment with the theory of cognitive development by Jen Piget we now we can see the clear gaps of the stage of designed by Plato.
    • At the first stage, Plato wanted the infant to get rid of self will which is not possible at all rather it should be designed to enhancing primitive reasoning.
    • In the second stage, Plato only focused on the treatment of should but that age is a high time to learn some basics of science and philosophy.
    • In the third stage, Plato reserved the whole space for gymnastics and military training where there must be some intellectual training too.
    • Fourth stage or the stage to get higher education at the age after thirty is quite difficult because it will kill the initiative in man at that age.
    • Fifth or last stage of education shall be quite hectic for the learners at the age of fifty.

No theory is out of criticism and Plato’s theory of education falls in the same rule, despite of so many critical points of view his new thoughts should be appreciated.

Man die, civilization may rise and fall, but ideas lives on; Idea have and endurance without death. Thus, the Plato’s idea lives on within us. The theory of education was a remarkable one that forced the contemporary philosophers to think in some new direction. Many philosophers agreed that though his though are not impossible to question but the deep level of thought he presented was the most comprehensive one.

It is obvious he was influenced by his master Socratics and sow the society from his point of view, sometimes ignoring some realistic point of view, moreover, the picture he draws of the utopian society was unable to see the light of reality but his moral approach of society is adopted by most of our society.

He was also influenced by the Athenian and Spartan practice of education at that time and took the best part of each system and try to create new education system with his moral view. His approach to purify the soul and make the body credible was very appreciated. He designed his educational stage according to the need of the state and according to the classification and needs of the citizen of that time.

Though there can be hundreds of criticisms from various angle but philosophy is not all about reality rather it is about proposition discussion and most important thoughts of human being and considering this aspect Plato’s theory of education is very thought provocative, argumentative and it opened a new window before us, even today we are discussing his idea because these ideas matters. They touched the place of our rational thinking the give birth to new ideas that shaped our present educational system. The world adopted his view and the view of others to compare and find out the best possible solution for the education system.

For better understanding read with first part here: Plato’s Theory of Education | 01

[1] Rawat, K. and profile, V. (2018). Plato: Stages of Education. [online] Available at: [Accessed 12 May 2018].

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Rayhanul Islam

Advocate Rayhanul Islam is the founder and Editor in Chief of Law Help BD. He is also a researcher. Critical thinking is his main focus. He is on a quest to bring positive change to the legal sector of Bangladesh. He promotes legal knowledge and human rights concept to the root level. e-mail: [email protected]

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