All human societies, previous and present, have had a vested interest in education and some wits have claimed that teaching (at its best an educational activity) is the second oldest profession. To cite 1 example that is prominent in the literature in North America at least, the US Supreme Court issued a ruling (Wisconsin v. Yoder) in which members of the Amish sect have been allowed to withdraw their young children from public schools soon after the eighth grade—for, it had been argued, any deeper education would endanger the existence of the group and its culture.
The most lively contemporary debates about education investigation, however, had been set in motion around the turn of the millennium when the US Federal Government moved in the direction of funding only rigorously scientific educational research—the kind that could establish causal elements which could then guide the improvement of virtually successful policies.
Normative philosophies or theories of education could make use of the outcomes of such analytical operate and of factual inquiries about human beings and the psychology of finding out, but in any case they propound views about what education must be, what dispositions it need to cultivate, why it ought to cultivate them, how and in whom it should do so, and what forms it must take.
Some such normative theory of education is implied in each instance of educational endeavor, for what ever education is purposely engaged in, it explicitly or implicitly assumed that specific dispositions are desirable and that particular methods are to be employed in acquiring or fostering them, and any view on such matters is a normative theory of philosophy of education.
Far more complete theories of education rest their views about the aims and methods of education neither on the prevailing culture nor on compromise but on standard factual premises about humans and their globe and on fundamental normative premises about what is good or appropriate for men and women to seek or do. Proponents of such theories may possibly reach their premises either by reason (such as science) and philosophy or by faith and divine authority.