In this era of globalisation and digitalisation, the spectre of education and its importance hangs over society and the youth of today with a fervour rarely if ever previously experienced.
The necessity of children obtaining a “good education” to face not only the challenges of today but more importantly, also of tomorrow, has never been so raw as it is now, but what actually constitutes this supposed utopia of academia?
Living in Indonesia, we are aware that not only do many types and methodologies of education abound but also so do levels of educational quality. Unfortunately, it is a sad fact of life that the most financially challenged members of society usually end up being unable to afford education of the highest quality.
However, notwithstanding these variances, there are other issues to consider when discussing or debating the top of “quality education”.
Trends and modes of education shift within society as time passes, and tried and tested methodologies of days gone by are not always relevant or applicable in the present climate – or at least to the same extent as before. The onset of globalisation has seen a shift in learning away from traditional “chalk and talk” and “book and paper” styles of learning to more active styles of learning.
Different schools offer different syllabi and curricula, and these include innovative systems such as International Baccalaureate programmes – which involve a fair deal of critical thinking and project-based learning – and traditional “examination-based learning” (with final grades and assessments being set by overseas external boards) such as Cambridge. Also in existence are Montessori programmes, which – theoretically- help children to learn at their own pace and according to their own preferences and learning abilities.
These are all systems and methods which have their proponents and their good points, but what is true of educational systems in general, is that nurturing a child does not begin and end in the classroom. Schools and indeed society has so many more responsibilities to children than merely filling up their heads with knowledge – now more so than ever before.
A common complaint heard from potential employers nowadays is that large swathes of young people emerging into the workforce for the first time are not suited to the vacancies available. Some fresh graduates have qualified in disciplines that are no longer relevant to society, and on the other side of the coin, vacancies for which there are no suitably educated candidates exist in droves. In short, everyone is losing. Young people are emerging from universities after up to seventeen years or so in full-time education only to find difficulties in gaining employment, while scores of positions remain unfilled.
The onus is thus on educational institutions to keep abreast of the changing needs and requirements of the workforce and to adapt their courses and learning strategies accordingly. As well as the soft skills required, employers are constantly on the lookout for graduates that possess more intangible attributes such as clear-minded thinking, problem-solving skills, logical exposition, and, sometimes, plain old-fashioned common sense.
The development of all these qualities falls within the remit of schools and universities and teachers in general, and they are not such that can be spoon-fed to students. Instead, they need to be developed within the children from an early age. Notwithstanding the chosen curriculum, all schools and teachers need to be aware of the need to develop students in holistic and pastoral manners.
Educating a child means preparing them for life as an adult and ensuring they become honest and productive members of society. Children must be allowed – and encouraged to – grow up inquisitive in nature, independent in thought, and practical in habit.
Children must develop the following: honesty in everything they do; empathy for others they encounter and learn about; authenticity to develop their characteristics, opinions and ideas; resilience to keep going when times get tough, and trustworthiness to show they can be depended upon in times of need. These qualities can be highlighted and known by the first letters of each, forming the acronym HEART.
No two students are the same, and so a good teacher will soon learn to develop differentiation in their teaching methodologies. While some students may appear to be “smarter” than average, and others could give the impression of being “slower”, the truth of the matter is that all children have potential and a natural curiosity. It is the teachers’ role to tap into this, to discover the students’ interests and thus capabilities, and hence assist them in their learning journeys.
To dismiss a student who is unfocused in the classroom as “lazy” is laziness itself. No child wishes to sleep all day – every child wishes to be engaged in some manner or another, and so the teacher must learn what makes each and every one of their students click and thus be able to tap into their potential.
This requires the development of differentiation. How students with different learning styles, different interests, and different motivations can all be inspired and guided to reach the learning objectives of a course, syllabus or lesson is what is important.
Before we undertake any journey, we plan it well. We consider where we want to go, why we want to go there, and what our purpose for doing so is. Then we consider the mode of transportation we will take, before finally deciding upon the route we will travel.
In short, there are many different ways to arrive at our destination and education goes by the same principles. It does not matter how the students arrive at an answer, a solution, a result or a conclusion, but that they get there in the end. Some students may be better suited for presenting work in oral form than written, for example. Others may prefer a visual style. Some may not be eloquent speakers but have a flair for the written word instead. Each child is different.
As we wrote above, we are all unique and this uniqueness should be harnessed and embraced. It is up to us all as adults to be educators and teachers in this crazy modern world of ours.