Education needs to change!!!

  - March 10th, 2014 by Shalini Nambiar | Posted in General   No Comments »
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With the world changing rapidly it is creating unknown challenges, opportunity and unpredictability. We as educators are trying to educate a generation without being aware of the different kind of jobs which will be available 10 years hence, what are the skills needed to survive in the globalized world yet we are trying to reform, improve and work on an attainable solution. We are well aware that these challenges will require new thinking and collective action.

Schools of tomorrow need to be different… even at the present moment one can see students struggling at school, though we have progressed but still the focus in schools of student excellence is by  what a child scores in his tests/exams.

If I look back at my own school days and the teaching style that existed then and compare it to now not much has changed except the fact that the classrooms are swankier with smart boards/projectors/computers/tablets etc

In an era of expanding choice and risk how can students be best equipped to lead the good life and the life of a citizen as well as that of a worker? What we teach is sometimes dictated to us. How we teach though, should never be dictated to us. Many have heard the term in relation to teaching students “Engage me or enrage me.” What can we do that will engage students and what can we make sure we do not do in order to avoid enraging them. Regarding the use of different technologies in the school,
1) The tools are not the things that have the power to change education, it is the teachers that have the passion and ability to use the tools effectively that will make the difference.
2) What is the tool we will be using in the future? Furthermore, should we be concerned with what the next gadget will be or should we simply utilize what we have today effectively?

There is a greater demand of critical thinking and problem solving skills and all in unison agree that the student needs ’21st century skills’ to be successful. I agree that many students are lucky enough to attend highly effective schools or encountered great teachers but it is indeed a matter of chance rather than a deliberate design.

The focus today has to be on a better curriculum which is more effective/ interactive and fosters thinking and problem solving skills.

The importance of content in the development of thinking creates several challenges for the 21st century skills movement. They need exposure to varied examples before their understanding of a concept becomes more abstract and they can successfully apply that understanding to newer situations.Another curricular challenge is that we don’t yet know how to teach self-direction, collaboration, creativity, and innovation the way we know how to teach long division.

How can we teach them these skills? Classrooms should be more interactive and group work needs to be encouraged as it has long lasting learning of skills needed to work in any organization.

Because of these challenges, devising a 21st century skills curriculum requires more than paying lip service to content knowledge. Outlining the skills in detail and merely urging that content be taught, too, is a recipe for failure.

More emphasis needs to be there on teachers training .Greater emphasis on skills also has important implications for teacher training. We must have a plan by which teachers can succeed where previous generations have failed.

Advocates of 21st century skills favor student-centered methods-for example, problem-based learning and project-based learning-that allow students to collaborate, work on authentic problems, and engage with the community. These approaches are widely debated and agreed upon by one and all and yet, teachers don’t use them. Even when class sizes are reduced, teachers do not change their teaching strategies or use these student-centered methods

Most of the teachers are unable to use these methods though they are aware of its effectiveness as they pose huge classroom management problems. When students collaborate, one expects a certain amount of noise in the room, which could devolve into chaos in not so expert hands. These methods also demand that teachers be knowledgeable about a broad range of topics and are prepared to make in-the-moment decisions as the lesson plan progresses. There is a greater demand on the teachers’ effectiveness to lead a class by engaging different students in what they like and also monitoring the student progress. It’s a constant juggling act that involves keeping many balls in the air.

An effective way is also to allow time for teachers to collaborate amongst themselves as they can share their expertise.

These challenges raise important questions about whether the design of today’s schools is compatible with the goals of the 21st century skills movement.

What teachers need is much more effective training and support than they receive today, including specific lesson plans that deal with the high cognitive demands and potential classroom management problems of using student-centered methods. Teachers get a lot of technology, ideas, and theories taught to them, usually without adequate time to explore or learn how to use these ideas. In frustration teachers abandon most of the new things.

There is little point in investing heavily in curriculum and human capital without also investing in assessments to evaluate what is or is not being accomplished in the classroom.

Also, sitting in desks works great for some, not for others. Who cares if a kid wants to sprawl on the ground to work? As long as they’re getting something done, I say go for it.

It’s because we’re doing the same thing over and over again. We’re holding millions of kids prisoner for x hours a week. And the teacher is given a set of instructions as to what you’re going to say to the students, how you’re going to treat them, what you want the output to be, and let no child be left behind. But there’s a very narrow set of outcomes. Thus in this context the teachers are hardly taking ownership of their jobs and with the lack of that passion is lacking and the pride is missing.

When I was a student, I went through all the same rote repetitive stuff that kids go through today. You need to find out what each student loves. If you want kids to really learn, they’ve got to love something.

Much of what we’re teaching is doomed to obsolescence at a far more rapid rate than ever before. We have this enormous bank of obsolete knowledge in our heads, in our books, and in our culture. Now, because everything is in rapid change, the amount of obsolete knowledge that we have — and that we teach — is greater and greater and greater. We’re drowning in obsolete information.

Do you think that we need textbooks at a time where anything is available at a click of a mouse and also the textbooks are the same for every child; every child gets the same textbook? My argument is that why should all kids in a classroom get the same book though they have different interests and abilities. One kid may be interested in art and another in Medicine but they are studying the same thing.

My Ideal school [if God gives me the money] would be… It will be open 24 hours a day. Kids can arrive at different times and not come at the same time like an army. I would have non-teachers working with teachers in that school, I would have the kids coming and going at different times that make sense for them.

The schools of today are essentially custodial: They’re taking care of kids in work hours that are essentially nine to five — when the whole society was assumed to work.

Schools have to be completely integrated into the community, to take advantage of the skills in the community. So, there ought to be business offices in the school, from various kinds of business in the community.

I’m giving a utopian picture, perhaps.

I also think that maybe teaching shouldn’t be a lifetime career. I feel teachers should quit for three or four years and go do something else and come back as then they will come back with better ideas. They would have gained knowledge about how the outside world works, in ways that would not have been available to them if they were in the classroom the whole time.

I just feel it’s inevitable that there will have to be change. The only question is whether we’re going to do it starting now, or whether we’re going to wait for catastrophe.

Our present academic structures, from nur-graduate, modeled on the basis of the needs of an industrial society, are no longer functional nor adaptable to the needs of the 21st century. Merely seeking to reform them will not do. Radical surgery is needed, not just band-aid efforts.

Shalini Nambiar
Director
Excelsior American School
Gurgaon.

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March 10 2014 11:51 pm | General

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