Sunday, February 2, 2014

What is Education?



   Our forefathers knew that a good education was the path to a richer and more fulfilling life. That would be why so many children from wealthy families pursued education with a passion. Parents of poorer students would push but the child was seeing their parents and accepting what life had for them instead of pushing harder. Their help was needed to put food on the table. Today, when a good education is available to everyone, we face the question  what is an education? It is certainly not what it was 40, 50 or 100 years ago. We are no longer filling factory jobs.  Most jobs in good businesses jobs now require skills that are not learned in school.   

   I propose it is time to redefine education. The methods, the thoughts, the attitudes we have towards education must change. No longer can we continue to foster the idea that the only education that is worthwhile is one that involves post secondary education. Education is about so much more than what happens in classroom. It is about the development of a necessary set of skills that help us anywhere our path will go.  No longer can we foster the idea that making a lot of money through education is the only way to go. These days we see millionaires who are younger than the age of 20 because they developed a computer program, an app or some other idea that was useful. Education is no longer about  going to a University or College. It is about what you do with the life you have been given. It is about taking advantage of the opportunities that are presented to you and making the most of it.

    Education starts in the home. It starts the minute a child is born. Parents are the first teachers, those who set the standard by providing the warmth, nourishment and love for the child. The child imitates their behaviours and attitudes, their ways of walking and talking and begins to adopt some of the thoughts that are shared daily. What training do parents have to ensure the best possible life for their child? For centuries it has been based on observances and experiences of those in the home. In some homes this is very successful but in others it is a disaster. We cannot continue to play hit and miss in this area. That is why there is a prevalence of books on the topic of child rearing. Caring people want to know. Often in schools we are facing children who do not have the luxuries of a happy safe, encouraging home life.

    Our present outlook and delivery of curriculum does not reflect the changing times. We are stifling inquisitiveness and the exploratory nature of childhood. We are steering kids away from being curious and following their interests towards following what we deem necessary for them. School is still about providing a set of skilled employees for the labor market. Our programs are set up to force a conformity of thoughts and actions. Educators talk about developing the ‘whole’ child – emotionally, intellectually, creatively. What does that look like and how does it work in the current setting? When we insist on conformity we get what we want instead of what is needed by the students. Students need the ability to seek, to understand and to synthesize information. In short they need to be taught to be creative and innovative as they work together towards solutions to problems or issues. This creates a sense of purpose and challenge. Students need to be learning about a wide variety of topics of interest to them so they can feel like they belong. As they research and analyze information this knowledge will help them to make informed decisions. They should be learning to develop arguments for or against real life situations and be able to support those arguments both verbally and in written form. A textbook education will never be able to do that.

     Schools today is not reflective of the society we want to become. Teachers have long known that when a group of students work together on a project they believe in sparks fly. This is often seen when teachers move on to the next topic of study and dullness sets in. There is no participation. The room is totally quiet with the enthusiasm disappearing. The lifelong pursuit of knowledge should not be onerous or burdensome which leads to self defeating thoughts and actions on the part of the students. It should be a learning experience where one is involved in their growth rather than merely being a by product of it.

    So what is education really about? What is your definition? Let’s redefine education so that everyone has the same definition. Let’s work towards giving each and every child a good chance of finding a fulfilling and satisfying life. Time to stop listening to, “We need more (substitute a job description in here),” and filling their quotas. Let’s make every child’s dream becomes a reality by encouraging them from an early life to explore and question and devise solutions. Only then will education be what it is supposed to be.