Tuesday, 23 January 2018

What is the aim of education today?

Something I have been contemplating lately is the aim of education.  What is it we are trying to achieve?  Many of the skills still being fostered in classrooms today, are not relevant to the workplaces they will find themselves in,  so what direction should we be taking?

What is our aim?

 You only have to read articles about workplaces like google to know that times have changed, test scores do not matter, intelligence has been redefined and somewhere along the way education has missed the memo.  We live in a world today, where the most successful are forging their own path, often despite the education they have had, not because of it.  So many people are self made now, they have created viable businesses out of their passions...not because of the success they had in school, but because for some reason they were strong enough to follow their passion, they had a strong sense of self.

I think this could be the ultimate aim we should have in mind for education, allowing children to create a strong sense of self and an awareness of how they are connected to their environment and to others.  Understanding their place, their passion, and having the belief to forge ahead.

Workplaces still value intelligence, but not as measured by tests scores.  Overwhelmingly workplaces demand a different intelligence, one that displays the ability to think in different ways, to pose problems, to be creative, to be a team player, to know and use your strengths, to have an absolute passion for learning, to have resilience and grit.  To not expect there is one answer, or to even just look for one, to have initiative, humour and humility.  To have emotional intelligence.

In fact many workplaces don't really care for qualifications, they care about the person standing in front of them, not the marks on a piece of paper.  Does this person have a strong sense of self, do they know their passions, abilities and shortcomings.  Do they know where they need to improve and are they willing to do so. Can they work with others, can they cope with being wrong, do they know how to think, will they stick with it, can they bounce back from difficulty, do they have initiative and can they appreciate the points of view of others?

This article is worth a read

Within this article you can find the following paragraph...

"While in school, people are trained to give specific answers. “It’s much more interesting to solve problems where there isn’t an obvious answer,” Bock says. “You want people who like figuring out stuff where there is no obvious answer.”

The article goes through many of the skills or dispositions wanted by google, but try as hard as you might nowhere do they list the ability to follow, comply, complete tasks even if they have no value, work from a task board, produce a piece of work exactly like the person next to me etc...

So why are many classrooms still focusing on creating such a different definition of success, than that of the workplaces many of our children will go into.  

I advocate for planning for dispositions and habits, but while out walking in the rain yesterday I reflected on what it was I was actually trying to give to children here.    If I create an environment that is rich in these dispositions and habits, what is it I am exactly trying to do, what is my end game?

After 6km in the rain I came to a diagram in my head that I have tried, probably very poorly, to show below. Ultimately I think the end game is that I want children to have a strong sense of self, to understand how all of those dispositions and habits serve them.  To start to understand their passions and interests.  To have connection and understand their connection to others.  While contemplating this, I reflected on what the key aspects of an educational environment needed to be to enable a child to develop this sense of self.

We all hear the old nugget, you need to believe in yourself....and yes that is true, but I believe that for this to be possible, first you need to have key adults, or peers that believe in you...that validate you as an individual, that give you a sense of belonging, because everyone needs validation and belonging.  

I believe they also need the capacity to believe in others.  This comes back to connectedness...to be effective in a working environment I am going to need to have empathy and emotional intelligence, and this allows me to believe in others around me.  To trust them.  To sometimes even change my point of view because of what they teach me.  

 Lastly I do need to believe in myself, which can be incredibly hard...and is a process that needs to be supported in the classroom environment.  A key adult highlighting and validating the disposition and habits that I have used, not praising the final product is crucial in my opinion.  

Self-belief to me is not believing I can do absolutely anything, it is believing that I can improve and do well if I work hard.  It is understanding what makes me unique.  It is appreciating the integral role I have to play in my success.

I think these three prongs of belief, are something we need to be taking the time to embed in our classroom environments, thus in turn will promote and develop as strong sense of self.  Once again it all comes down to relationships.

Anyone that has read my posts before knows that I advocate for play.  I do so, because I believe this environment is one, that created well, can deliver all the dispositions and habits that are absolutely valued by the workplaces children will eventually go into.  In these environments children are given the ultimate gift, to see how their passions and interests have an absolute place in their education.  Best of all, they get to share this with others.

I also advocate for approaches like Mantle of the Expert that encourage creativity and all the wonderful dispositions that will allow children to work as a purposeful team

However I believe absolutely that whatever the approach that is taken, children's interests and needs must be at the centre of it.  Planning should not be something we do at the start of the term and then deliver to children.  For them to develop a true sense of self the curriculum that is presented in a classroom needs to be living, breathing and evolving, not governed by timetables and intentions, or the big topic I have to cover, but by the passions and interests of children and the relationship they have with each other and their teacher/s.

Sadly I believe that our current system advocates 'sameness.'  Even sadder is that Teacher Education seems to be also based on this sameness.  How is it possible that in a world that values and desperately needs people with passions and interests, and a strong sense of self, is it that education still promotes this blanket approach.  

You only have to watch Dragons Den or Shark Tank to know that age is no barrier to inventing or creating, and certainly not a barrier to success.  The children, I've seen as young as 15 in there, have one thing in common, someone has believed in them, they have belief in others (to take the risk they are taking) and the belief in themselves and their passion.  

Now, not every child is going to be an entrepreneur, but I believe that once we find our passion, the world is our oyster.  Learning through passion is then no longer just learning, it is a vocation that we are driven to explore and develop.  It is very hard to learn through passion, or to develop a sense of self, if someone else is in the driver's seat.

Or this girl, incredible at 15.  

Children are capable of so much more than we are currently expecting, we are just expecting the wrong things.

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