Many of my Asian students who are learning English say that parents can "educate" their children. However I'm not sure if this is a correct collocation in English. My understanding of "education" is that it is restricted to the classroom and schooling. Though of course parents can teach their children any number of things (and any individual can pursue their own "self-education"), I wouldn't call any of that "education" per se. "Parents educate their children", to my ears, does not sound like proper English. Any thoughts?

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    Education is much broader than schooling. Schooling is formal education, but it is certainly true that parents do educate their children -- who teaches them to talk and walk and act politely? And in many cultures all the education comes from their parents and family for most people. – John Lawler Jul 18 '14 at 1:35
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    There are thousands of written instances of {parents} educate their children at {NOT "home"}, which would normally mean the lessons are delivered by someone else. – FumbleFingers Jul 18 '14 at 2:39
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    I don't understand why people voted down my question. If you disagree with it, fine, give some reasons, but I don't think it's fair to down-vote someone for asking a legitimate question. – user43898 Jul 18 '14 at 3:04
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    I didn't downvote your question, but whoever did so may have agreed with me that it lacks a substantive reason for your impression that education is restricted to the classroom and schooling, or any evidence that you tried to research your question on your own before posing it here: as FumbleFingers has demonstrated, a Google search or two would quickly have led you to plenty of counter-instances that appear to invalidate your proposition. – Erik Kowal Jul 18 '14 at 3:24
  • Indeed -- to continue @JohnLawler's comment -- even in countries like the UK where the law requires every child to have a formal education, home schooling is certainly not unknown. In that system, parents provide that formal education. – Andrew Leach Jul 18 '14 at 7:21

As others have pointed out, giving education is not limited to teachers. Parents may educate their children as well as teachers.

To develop an intuition about why this is the case, I think it is useful to distinguish between educate, teach, and learn (verbs), and to understand the nouns a teacher, and an education.

to educate:

  1. to provide schooling for someone
  2. to train by formal instruction and supervised practice
  3. to develop mentally, morally, or aesthetically especially by instruction to provide with information, to inform
  4. to persuade or condition to feel, believe, or act in a desired way (e.g. "educate the public")

to teach:

  1. to cause or help someone to learn about a subject by giving lessons
  2. to give lessons about a subject to a person or group

to learn:

  1. to gain knowledge, understanding, or skill by study, instruction, or experience
  2. memorize
  3. to come to be able
  4. to come to realize

Learning, then, is the outcome. Teaching is an attempt to cause learning by giving lessons. Education, however, is broader and includes settings that are not strictly lessons. Anyone may teach or educate, but a teacher is someone whose job it is to teach students about certain subjects. When teaching is given by trained, employed teachers in a structured setting, it is often referred to as formal education. The result (hopefully) is that students learn. What they receive over time is an education: the body of knowledge, including mental, moral, and aesthetic aspects, of a field of study.

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