In the movie Educating Rita, what is it that Rita learns?

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Ashley Kannan eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Rita learns much in way of academics and life in the film.  She grows as a student, recognizing different forms of literature, their importance in being, and how education can transform a human being.  She also learns the powerful idea that gaining knowledge does not make you a better person.  Her relationship with Frank develops in this regard in terms of being able to assess how her change as an emerging scholar does not necessarily indicate a change as a superior human being.  While she is able to sing "a better song" at moments, she realizes that her advancement as a human being does not rest with gaining more knowledge.  Frank tells her as much, causing her to begin the process of reflection as to how student and person are two different entities:

Found a better song to sing, Rita?  No.  You found a different song to sing, my dear.

This moment of revelation enables Rita to understand one of the most profound lessons that the film and the script have to offer. While there is much to be praised in the pursuit of scholarship and of intellectual letters, it does not supplant the growth that all humans must make in their consciousness.  One cannot retreat to the cloisters of academy or the bustling sound of social trappings in order to avoid this reality of maturation and growth as an individual, something that Rita recognizes at the end of the drama when she finally gives Frank a haircut, embracing her former self, if only for a moment.