Bildung is a concept developed in Germany around 1800. Two main figures where Wilhelm von Humboldt and Immanuel Kant. Its main aim is to enable us to develop into independent individuals led by reason. Bildung is not teaching students knowledge and freedom. With Bildung the teacher helps the student to gain knowledge, freedom and independence themselves.
The German term „Bildung“ has a relation to the self, in a sense of ‚I am building, constructing myself’. This is not the case in the term, education’. So Bildung is a term characterised by its German linguistic origins. Bildung is reflexive, it is important what I as an individual do with it. Bildung is not transitive with an object, as the term ‚education’ is. Hence Bildung is based not on the educator but the individual who is to be educated, or more precisely: the individual who educates themselves.
„The view from a Bildung-perspective is a view at a growing self-construction and self-determination of man, at developing his own strengths and traits. In short: Bildung in a modern sense aims at the constitution of subjectivity.“ (Pongratz, 2008, p.111)
Bildung is a process and as such a never ending one. As the construction, re-construction and alteration of the self in the process of Bildung does not end, Bildung does not end.
In his book „Ideas of an attempt to define the limits of the effectiveness of the state“ (1792), Wilhelm von Humboldt defines:
„The true purpose of man – not the one dictated to him by changing affections, but which is dictated to him by his unchangeable nature – is the highest and most proportional Bildung [/development] of his strengths to a whole. […] In the centre of every specific way of action is man, who, without aiming for any individual goal, wants to strengthen the power of his nature and wants to make his nature last and attribute worth to it.“ (von Humboldt in Koller, p.75)
„Processes of Bildung are therefore not only aimed at young people, who distance themselves from and possibly reject certainties gained through socialisation and education.“ (Pongratz, 117-118)