Educational institutions, especially schools, face many serious challenges in this era of rapid change. Today, educational content on just about anything is just a click away. No discussion on making education more effective can apparently exclude the role of technology in enhancing the quality of education at surprisingly low costs.
Change is so pervasive that we seem to have reached the stage where it is almost heretical to ask the question “Is there anything that has not changed?” The answer to this question, quite surprisingly, is a resounding “Yes.”
The bulk, if not all, of the change we witness is in our collective, distributed knowledge of the material world and the abstractions we use to make sense of the material world. This combination has spawned many technologies that make our lives better in many ways.
While our knowledge and tools may have improved, we still remain, quite irrevocably, human. We still have the same genome (more or less) as our forefathers who lived a few centuries ago. A father and a mother are still required for a child to be born. A human baby born through natural methods still has a normal gestation period of 40 weeks. A newborn still knows only to suckle at its mother’s breast and to cry out when hungry. An infant still attempts to roll over when it is around 5 months old and starts crawling when it is around 8 months old. The child still grows into an adolescent, goes through puberty and evolves into an adult. We still need food to stay alive and healthy. We still have feelings and emotions. We still build and break relationships. Our life spans may have become longer but we are still mortal.
So let’s face it. There is something that has not changed in this so-called era of change. Something that matters a lot to us. It is us. And this is what anyone concerned with the education of children, especially educators and parents must understand clearly. This is all the more important if you view education not as the filling of a pail but as the wondrous process through which the child flowers into an adult who seeks to lead a purposeful, productive and happy life.
If you are an educator, remember that you are still educating children who are fundamentally very much like children have always been. These children are also developing in various dimensions – physical, intellectual, emotional, moral and spiritual. It is absolutely imperative that you view education as a process that, at every stage, aids in the flowering of every beautiful life that you touch. To do this, your educational content and methodology needs to be developmentally appropriate. It will need to reach out to the child as the child, given his/her stage of development, needs.
If you are a parent eager to give your child the best education, you need to understand whether the education you are giving or obtaining for your child is developmentally appropriate. You need to understand whether what your child is doing and experiencing is actually aiding learning and development, or hindering it. You need to be able to differentiate between purposeful, educationally useful activities and those that may only constitute a pretence of education. For instance, there is a world of difference between children actually working for an entire month to build a thatched hut and making a 2 dimensional home replica with ice-cream sticks.
You need to be careful not to fall for fads masquerading as use of technologies and techniques to make education more “effective”. You need to be cautious about the yardsticks you use while assessing the effectiveness of education. For instance, you may be amazed that children of a certain age are doing something ‘so well’, but the question is “Should they be doing it at all?”
In the process, you may need to revisit the underlying framework you are using to assess the quality and effectiveness of the education your child is receiving.
In subsequent articles on this blog, we shall explore various aspects of education, with specific emphasis on developmentally appropriate education at various stages of development of the child. We hope you find these articles engaging and useful, and look forward to having you connect with us on an ongoing basis.