Over the last few decades, the idea that education should function to promote economic progress has played a major role in shaping educational policy. So far, however, philosophers of education have shown relatively little interest in analysing this notion and its implications. The present article critically examines, from a philosophical perspective, the link between education and the currently prevailing understanding of economic progress, which is grounded in human capital theory. A number of familiar philosophical objections to the idea that economic progress is a worthy educational aim are raised, but it is held that many of these objections stem from a partial understanding of economic theory. The article then moves on to investigate the foundations of human capital theory's conception of economic progress. It is argued that there are inherent tensions between the philosophical foundations of the economist's conception of progress and the very essence of education. The article concludes by suggesting that in order to resolve these tensions we should consider grounding the economic theory that guides educational policy-making in an intersubjective or objective conception of welfare.