“It takes a village to raise a child” an African proverb with very deep meaning. It is with this thought that I approached the writing assignment for this week titled “Can schools make a difference?”
Jane Perryman in her lecture says that most schools teach students to pass tests and hence there has been a rise in test scores but passing tests doesn’t necessarily mean that students are learning skills and acquiring knowledge that are needed for a wider life. I tend to agree with her.
My schooling experience can also be summed pretty much as Jane says. The school curriculum on the good side was very rigorous we were taught well in maths, english, science and there was great focus on tests and exams to keep us on track. On the low side there was little or no focus on other skills like teamwork, sports, music, art, drama.
I was taught to work hard and keep focus on my test scores. This prepared me to work for long hours in the university which also followed the same philosophy of education.
However, my natural curiosity encouraged by the some amazing Teachers that I met fostered in me the desire to learn more than the test required. I think it is this curiosity that continues to push me to learn more.
I’m very curious to understand how schooling is perhaps better in other countries and what is being done to make it an experience that works to develop children both academically and socially so that they can continue on their life long journey of learning.
I would like to quote some parts from the Plowden Report (Gillard, D. ‘The Plowden Report’, the encyclopaedia of informal education,www.infed.org/schooling/plowden_report.htm.)
I feel that this report adequately addresses how schooling should be. I quote:
“At the heart of the educational process lies the child”
This sentence sums up so many thoughts that I harbour in my mind. Ideally Education should be all about the individual child and his/her development. How can a society hope to be original or imaginative in civic and commercial life if it did not nurture creativity, individual thinking in the school?
I find the report’s recurring themes of individual learning, flexibility in the curriculum, the centrality of play in children’s learning, the use of the environment, learning by discovery and the importance of the evaluation of children’s progress meaningful and apt. I do see some of these concepts being applied in the schools that my kids attend. I also feel that my kids are better learners than I was at their age.
I further quote from the Plowden Report:
“One of the main educational tasks of the primary school is to build on and strengthen children’s intrinsic interest in learning and lead them to learn for themselves rather than from fear of disapproval or desire for praise.”
What I further like in the report is that Lady Plowden has carefully distinguished that though report “endorsed the trend towards individual and active learning” it did not undervalue the importance of practicing concepts and reports says “we certainly do not deny the value of learning ‘by description’ or the need for practice of skills and consolidation of knowledge”.
I further quote from Gillard, D. ‘The Hadow Reports: an introduction’, the encyclopaedia of informal education, (www.infed.org/schooling/hadow_reports.htm.)
” a good school is not a place of compulsory instruction, but a community of old and young, engaged in learning by cooperative experiment”
It goes on to argue that ‘the curriculum of the primary school is to be thought of in terms of activity and experience rather than knowledge to be acquired and facts to be stored’.
Schools of today have to embrace a far wider concept of education. As quoted above most of these concepts need to make some place in the schooling system.
Further the interesting concepts of informal education and learning mentors does make so much rational sense. On a personal level I can relate to it. Referring to the Greek concept of pedagogues, I would like to share here that in my country we lived in extended families with grandparents and aunts and uncles. Though they don’t fit exactly into definition of a pedagogues but they performed the same role. I learned many things from my interactions with them then I did in school. Our conversations were vivid and often encouraged me to think about issues more deeply.
Here I would like to quote from Jeffs, T. and Smith, M. K. (1997, 2005, 2011). ‘What is informal education?’, the encyclopaedia of informal education. [http://infed.org/mobi/what-is-informal-education/.
“Informal education is the wise, respectful and spontaneous process of cultivating learning. It works through conversation, and the exploration and enlargement of experience. When we put conversation at the centre of education something very important happens. It is the exchanges and the thoughts they provoke that leads us.”
As families become nuclear and most children no longer have the benefit of extended family members providing informal education I feel it is imperative that this is incorporated into the schooling system. It has numerous benefits and will go long way in developing life long learning.
I quote from the same article:
“Catherine Blyth has described conversation as ‘the spontaneous business of making connections’ (Blyth 2008: 4). It involves connecting with both ideas and other people. As such it can be a very powerful experience – ‘conversation changes the way you see the world, and even changes the world’ (Zeldin 1999: 3).”
Schools definitely need to incorporate some of the theory of Pedagogues or specialist informal educators. I would like to end with thoughts on lifelong learning.
I quote from Smith, M. K. (1996, 2001) ‘Lifelong learning’, the encyclopedia of informal education, http://www.infed.org/lifelonglearning/b-life.htm.
“It is not only that education carries on throughout life, it also part of living.”
“Learning continually throughout life is vital if we are to make informed choices about our lives and the societies in which we live.”
“Life, to be vivid, strong, and creative, demands constant reflection upon experience, so that action may be guided by wisdom”