For any entity, its purpose is the reason it exists and matters and its mission describes what it needs to accomplish in order to fulfil its purpose. In the case of education, its purpose and mission are the same: to prepare students for life.
Goals are more concrete and specific. They define what an entity needs to achieve in order to accomplish its mission. Each component of education needs to have a concrete and specific goal that when achieved, accomplishes the mission and fulfills the purpose of education; i.e., prepares students for life.
The goal of U.S. K-12 science education, which I wrote about in Robinson’s Weblog #008: What’s the Big Idea? Part Two: The Big Ideas about Science Education (The Vision and Goal of the Framework), is articulated in A Framework for K-12 Science Education (National Research Council, 2012), and reflected in the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS).
By reading it, you will see that the goal of science education goes beyond simply ensuring that students have an understanding of the natural world (science content knowledge), but it also includes components to ensure that students are able to obtain, make sense of, and use scientific knowledge to inform their daily lives. By embracing this goal as our own, science educators do our part to prepare students for life — that is to ensure that they are critical consumers and proficient communicators of information, and are able to make decisions based on evidence.
As science educators, of course we want to give our students an understanding of the natural world, but the goal of science education and all academic subject areas goes beyond increasing students’ knowledge and understanding to empowering them to use their learnings to make informed decisions on things that matter outside of and beyond school.