Wednesday, February 22, 2017

MAKING OUR EDUCATION MORE PRACTICAL

Its examination results period. The anxiety among parents and their candidate children is at fever pitch.  A single line on a list will mean the difference between getting a “good” school, university or not. If the result is outstanding a trip via the newspaper for the now traditional mug shot is worked into the plot.

While distinctions and As are flying around like they are going out of fashion, increasingly the question is being asked about the products of our educations system.

Employers are tearing out their hair at how intending employees can barely read, write or count.
So somewhere outside the traditional  nursery-university path, we are looking to skilling people with practical skills that will make them employable on sight or even better, turn them into job creators rather than job seekers.

Which is all very nice but what about the bulk of the potential paper pushers we are ramming through our education pipeline, what can be done for them?

"First off as was pointed out to me a while ago, it is good that we are pushing out thousands of graduates a year regardless of the credibility of their scholarship. That even if we had thousands of graduates of the most mundane subjects ( I am not naming names), this army of job seekers have at least learnt the discipline of subjecting themselves to a higher authority, working to a time table and even seating still for an hour at a time. Invaluable skills for an aspiring industrial nation...

When you think about it or if you have ever been in a pre-school class you will appreciate the point.
Industry requires people who can take instruction, adhere to a laid out schedules and have some level of self-drive.

The British did not try to be too clever. They set a curriculum for us, which emphasised reading, writing and arithmetic. A solid foundation for higher learning and really all one needs – even today, to get by. Of course they then added some higher learning, which was exclusive well into the 1990s.

The thing with this kind of education is that it is based on rote knowledge, you are encouraged to cram predetermined facts.

But in the real world all questions are ambiguous, while they may require a solid knowledge base, they often require more creativity, team work and goal setting skills.

So for example you go into a history and they want to know when Vasco da Gama rounded the southern tip of Africa (1497) or in geography what kind of mountain the Rwenzoris are (block) or knowing that the complementary angles in aright angled triangle add up to 90 degrees (do you remember that?)

"But life’s questions are more open ended where there is often more than one answer and all of them correct....

So for instance in the work place an understanding of the office dynamics, historical and market context mean the answer to the question “How do we achieve 20 percent growth in sales?” can go in any number of ways.

Experience helps, but wouldn’t it be useful if our graduates could do more than regurgitate sterile facts maybe have the personal initiative, mental agility and intestinal fortitude to take on life’s challenges?

Going back to the British. Once they had churned out the cream of the readers, writers and counters they sent them to schools modelled after their own public schools in the UK.

Apart from teaching higher reading, writing and counting skills these schools singular characteristic was there extensive extra-curricular activities roster – sports, music and social clubs.

Beyond keeping hormones from running amok, sports for instance teaches concentration, team work, goal setting and performing under pressure, invaluable skills in the real world.

But also, all sport is an open question.

Will you win, lose or draw? How will you play? Who will play? How will we react to the opposition? The pitch? The crowd?

"In an increasingly competitive environment knowing how to read, write or count better than the next guy just won’t cut it....

You need the softer skills that are better taught on the playfields or camping site or in the choir.

To the extent that we are not doing this enough for our children is the extent to which our education system – the government, schools and parents, is letting us down.

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