Thursday, January 30, 2014

Education: Effective yet Elusive.

Education goes beyond just learning how to read and write. It is more than mastering the fictions or finding the mysterious X in algebra. Education should be about the community we live, the ecological system that surrounds us and how we and our actions influence it. 

We have learnt a lot since mankind evolved and we have also created a planet where the ecological system is now so delicately balanced that even the slightest tilt could result in a catastrophe. Interesting how the uneducated and naked man was sensitized to the slightest change in climate and here we are still trying to understand the mysterious planet Earth. 

What do you think? Has education desensitized us? 

Remember, when Steve Jobs said that he took a calligraphy course in college, just because he wanted to.  The movie Jobs shows him screaming at his staff, because they could not see the vision and the need for multiple type-faces known as fonts today. Today we know that if he had not taken that course, MS Office would never have had the multitude of font options. 

What does this have to do with education?  It’s the “Why Learn” that is being redefined.

Till now, schools and colleges were the sure set way to a career and one did not need to think out of the box. A standard job required good grades and a few canned answers in the interview. Today a good job can happen without grades provided the applicant has a skill set of value.  See the reversal in roles?  Gone are the days when colleges and education institutions defined what students should learn. Today it’s the businesses defining them.  There are very few jobs left that require a defined skill set, most require multiple skills that allow their employees to float between departments.

Interestingly the change in education is not stemming from schools and colleges but from businesses.  Silicon Valley sweethearts introduced the Hour of Code in December 2013. Their vision; coding needs to be taught in schools starting at the elementary level.   Many would argue otherwise, but the argument is that the world is now techno centric and will get more, so the need to know coding is imperative.  We can argue and agree to disagree on this, but the point is, it is the businesses now demanding and dictating the skill sets needed.

Tangential to this is the changed focus on how the basics are taught.  For the longest time, teachers had the freedom to teach. They could choose their medium and then as the law decided to not leave any child behind came in rigorous testing, scripted manuals and defined curriculum for teaching. Today, the buzz in all schools is Common Core State Standards (CCSS); the new standard for teaching. The CCSS takes us back to the basics. The philosophy “It’s not about what the answer is but how you got to the answer” is at the heart of CCSS. The educators are raising the bar and challenging the students to achieve those higher goals.  

Education has been in an endless state of hibernation, but now spring is here. Once again, the philosophy, life is a circle comes true. 

Google the topic CCSS and you will find a wealth of information. What the articles don’t tell us is How?  They say students are going to be challenged. Students are the most resilient party involved, the teachers and parents are the ones who are going to be challenged the most. 

Yes teachers! Why? Simply because every manuscript they had will have to be chucked out of the window and they have to start from scratch. They have to find a way and connect the evolution of man in science to the migration of man from Africa to USA in social studies.  You would think that should be easy, it’s not. Cross-referencing subjects is not the norm for students in the USA. The weekly testing helps release the stress of semi-annual  testing, but the flip side is chapters are taught in isolation.

This is not bad news for the teachers though. It is very good news, because CCSS gives them flexibility and more elbow room to teach. They don't have to follow a manuscript. To understand how the earth revolves around the sun, they no longer have to use charts, they can go outside, create a sun-dial and see their students come to life with excitement. 

You wonder why would parents be challenged?  Tuitions will soon be obsolete, because they don’t provide the why and how of learning. They just teach the student how to calculate and read fast.

The wealth of online resources and the new paradigm, quality education should be free is making tuitions obsolete. 2008, with the launch of Khan Academy this paradigm became a reality. This shift will require parents to spend more time with their child. These are challenging times for kids, increased pressure to succeed, an overload of knowledge and the constant need to stay connected adds to their mental stress and takes away from the fun stuff; shooting hoops and just hanging out. Kids need individualized attention that tuitions don’t provide.   More importantly, there is no one as vested in your child as yourself. So why not re-prioritize and spend time with kids and give them experiences. Give them the experience of going to a playground and being a kid and some where in between talk about the kinds of clouds in the sky or ask them how heavy does your sibling have to be for the see-saw to be balanced.  They need to see the connection between what they learn and the real world. 

When the dots connect for those little innocent minds, we as parents will see magic happen.

Have I achieved this at my home? Absolutely not. I am struggling just like many other parents but I am confident persistence will pay off. It’s a rough road that requires every ounce of patience and I am not giving up.

This week, we looked at the subjective and in some ways the philosophical perspective of education. I am going to leave you today with the question: Has education desensitized us? 

As always, thank you for visiting and taking the time to read. I would love to hear your thoughts and experiences on this subject. Next week, we take a closer look at education as an Industry. 

..... To be continued. 

No comments:

Post a Comment