“Education should not only train people to solve problems and sharpen their intelligence but, more importantly, to be good human beings.” ~ Matthieu Ricard
Chatting to a friend yesterday, I was surprised to hear from her an evaluation of her grandson’s education. “He is a brilliant student and recently qualified as an accountant,” she said. “But, when I spoke about #10, he did not know what I was talking about. And to make matters worse, “she added, “he has never even heard of Downing Street. I really do not understand what education today is all about!” She reflected on her own background in the arts and her fund of general knowledge. I could not help thinking, “Is this really what is important in this day and age? Does a lack of a piece of factual knowledge give us the permission to condemn the contemporary system of education?”
I managed to refrain myself from vocalising my thoughts. I acted sympathetically. While not agreeing with her statement, I did manage to stop myself from disagreeing. However, more importantly, I started to ponder the primary requirements of contemporary education.
My Thoughts on Contemporary Education
Ken Robinson on TED
The first place to which my mind travelled was to the TED talk given by Ken Robinson which is one of the most popular of all time. It has achieved 62 164 165 viewings. the main point of Robinson’s presentation was the enormous value of training in creativity, rather than the presence of a vast factual knowledge base.
Scenario Planners advocate Thinking Skills
In a recent blog, I have spoken about the work done by the scenario planners Chantelle Illusbury and Clem They have put a great deal of work into developing a system which encourages the students to practice their logical thinking skills.
Understanding our own Biases
Another recent blog of mine talks about the work that Johnathan Haidt is doing on American campuses to enhance the students thinking of racial, class and gender issues. He focuses on giving the learner the skills to become aware of their own unconscious biases.
Evolution of Goals of Education
The next thought that came to my mind was, “Is it appropriate for us ladies, who were born more than 80 years ago, to use the educational models of our growing years as an example for the present generation?” Seventy years of history has been added to the available information since our school days. To say there has been an information explosion is an understatement. What percentage of the school curriculum should be devoted to technology? Our teachers did not have to worry about finding space in the curriculum for computer usage when I was a scholar.
Contemporary Goals in Education
At the stage, I decided it was time to do some research and bring ‘Mr Google’ into the act. My query in the search engine was, “What are the Education Goals of Today? Here is what I found in the first article I accessed. While this is an arbitrary choice, It is sufficiently broad in scope and progressive in orientation for me to use as a starting point.
The School Around Us suggests the following as education goals:
- Learn how to learn, for life by being aware of multiple resources
- Discover the whole self by reflection and introspection
- Exploring and practising basic skills by understanding the interaction of all things
- Practice responsible and knowledgeable citizenship
I rather like how The School Around Us reflects on the spiritual aspect of Holistic Education. “It is not a traditional school, in that the “basics” include matters of the spirit, the body, the heart, as well as the mind. Academics are certainly important, but they are only part of the “basics”.
Current Events Meeting promotes Further Ideas
At our U3A current events meeting this week in September 2019 the facilitator opened with a challenge. “Why do you think,” he enquired, “the British politicians are having such a hard time getting together making a decision. The British Parliament has so many well educated and experienced politicians, yet they seem unable to form an agreement on this matter despite being led by three different Prime Ministers in the past three years?”
I did recognise our leader was being intentionally provocative. My thoughts were, “These experienced British Politicians may be well educated, but that does not mean they are necessarily rational in their behaviour. Each of us has our biases which may well not be founded on logical thought.”
While going to do my shopping this morning, I was stopped at a pedestrian crossing by a school teacher who was ushering her primary school class to cross the road. She failed to share my greeting, offered while I patiently waited for the last child to cross the street. As she moved on, I was anticipating a friendly wave or some acknowledgement for my wait. I was disappointed. She merely walked on with never a gesture of appreciation. I wonder what sort of education she experienced! And, I wonder if she knows where 10 Downing Street is situated!