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Should students be prepared only for careers or are other things important?

Education is looked at in the narrow sense of preparing children for their future jobs alone. We must first expand our horizons to include a much broader range of purposes for education

education Updated: Jan 03, 2018 18:42 IST
children's development,parenting,creativity and children
What we see today is a fragmented approach to learning, with classrooms focusing on understanding concepts, at best.(Getty Images)

Ever noticed how a lot of people around us trudge unwillingly to their workplaces? And then there is overwhelming enthusiasm in anticipation of the weekend. How many of us are leading joyful, contented lives while also finding meaning in our existence? The root of all this, we believe, is a lack of purpose, arising out of leading a life that is not in harmony with one’s inner self and the world outside. To find this harmony, one ought to discover one’s unique, innate potential. How can formative education serve this purpose?

The first step is to go back to the very purpose of education. It is unfortunate that education is looked at in the narrow sense of preparing children for their future jobs alone. We must first expand our horizons to include a much broader range of purposes for education. Broadly, focus on nurturing of one’s human potential.

Human potential itself is multifaceted. It varies from person to person and consists of a wide range of abilities. Currently, excellence in schooling is reduced to exactly the opposite – performing well against a very narrow set of criteria. Most of these are highly cognitive in nature. Even here, the abilities are limited to memorisation of facts and acquisition of knowledge. We must, first, broaden the development of cognition to include abilities such as thinking, questioning, decision-making and so on.

Emotional and social development

Alongside, there is a need to focus on other domains of development in individuals. These include the emotional, social and metacognitive domains. The development of these domains is as important, if not more, as the development of cognition. The need to imbibe certain basic values as part of the process of growing and learning at the primary level of education cannot be questioned. In fact, primary level education (formative years in a child’s life) provides an ideal setting for this purpose as children at this level are at a plastic age and the experience provided to them at this stage can have a more lasting impact in moulding their personality.

Nurturing a child’s thinking, in all the above domains, can be done through core academics, as an average child spends 76% of her time inside classrooms. What we see today is a fragmented approach to learning, with classrooms focusing on understanding concepts, at best. Here and there, schools throw in a good measure of value lessons and personality enhancement classes. There is a lack of an integrated approach in the curriculum that could help the child awaken his or her potential progressively. These need to be built on a foundation of values which will enable children to live up to their full potential, thus leading to fulfilment at work, relationships and life. This also leads to a congruent self, living in harmony with oneself and with the world around.

Beyond traditional forms of learning

To actually see this change happen, parents, teachers and school leaders should be willing to consider that the development of the child is way beyond just the cognitive aspects.

A ‘sense’ of numbers: To delve a little deeper, in cognition we focus on deep learning. For instance, in early education, does your child have a sense of numbers? This includes being able to count, having a sense of size - how ‘big’ or ‘small’ an object is, apart from just the ability to recite / write numbers.

Emotional development:In emotional we focus on children’s overall emotional development like, asking them to rationalise their moods. How many of us teach our children to be aware of their feelings and understand why they are feeling the way they are?

Social development: In social development, the focus is on asking them to reflect on how they deal with others. For instance, how their mood and behaviour affects their surroundings and the way they interact socially.

Metacognition: In metacognition we focus on not just the outcome, but the process. Imagine if we asked our children, “How did you go about achieving what you did?” or “If you had an opportunity to do it again, what would you do differently?”

All this calls for a fundamental change in belief, followed by a rigorous approach to the development of school curricula and practices. All these are to be done in a consistent, continuous manner, and should be looked upon as outcomes of education. Teachers will need support and guidance, along with systemic provisions for such practices to flourish. Only then will children truly develop to realise their human potential and we can hope to have a better world.

The author is an educational thought leader who has spent the last two decades crusading against mediocre practices in the educational ecosystem. She is CEO and founder of Chrysalis, an educational research and innovation organisation. Views expressed are personal.

First Published: Jan 03, 2018 18:42 IST