For innovation in education, allow new methods

The Ministry of Education has announced the scrapping of the High School Entrance Examination (SBS) test — which measures a student’s performance based on a very brief moment in time — to be replaced by a system that measures student performance over a broader period of time.

As stated, some of its goals include: “To strengthen the relations between students, teachers and schools. To allow the curriculum to be implemented simultaneously on a national level. To reduce the need for assistance from external school institutions and to bring drop-outs and absences to a minimum.”

In the traditional approach to education, whether you are talking about education policies or about tests and other methods of performance analysis, these are generally designed within a centralized framework. In this kind of centralized educational structure, individual differences and the variety in types of intelligence are overlooked, which creates an educational system based more on tests and disheartening numbers and figures aiming to quantify academic success. The state is simultaneously the financer, supervisor, curriculum producer, program determiner and standard setter of academic success in schools.

This is why traditional educational institutions are hardly engaging environments for children or their parents. These types of systems do not allow opportunities for divergent schools, curricula or even flexible educational models. Hence, any debates about the advantages and disadvantages of the new system ought to also include a questioning of this traditional educational system and include suggestions for potential changes.

A more traditional approach to education tends to instill a tendency to obey authority in students through the imposition of series of rules, rather than allowing students to discover their own talents and strengths. The system and its learning approaches, models, classroom atmosphere and programs are thus focused on trying to push students into certain molds, rather than trying to trigger their curiosity.

In the 1940s, British writer and critic Herbert Read expressed his “psychological” objection to the traditional approach to education thus: “In nature, humans display much variety, and thus, trying to stick all these different types of people into just one category not only causes extreme pressure, but is also extremely difficult. There is a need for schools offering up different kinds of education, and with different sorts of curriculums.” For most parents, it is vital that their children complete their education. Many hope that a successful education will grant their children the opportunity to take specialized careers with high salaries. While this is completely understandable, it also brings about an incorrect view of education’s purpose.

These days, this is what most people think when they consider education. Added to this is the general perception that the very best education is only available at certain select schools organized only by the state. Unfortunately, an erroneous perception of what education is and should be has emerged, ignoring the primary goal of education, which should be the exploration of freedom and virtue. These days, the concepts of school and teacher seem to call forth just one word in peoples’ minds, and that is “teach.” Educator Vinoba Bhave notes that among the forty languages spoken in India, there is no word that is the equivalent of “to teach” in English. This is because, according to Bhave, the Indian approach to education is based on the idea that “We can only learn, and we can help others learn, but we cannot teach.” He argues that the concept of teaching is based upon the teacher or educator’s sense of self-importance. Without eliminating this concept, we cannot understand the real nature of education. From this perspective, the greatest necessity for any learning process is that teacher and student become partners, and the most important thing for students is the development of his or her free thought.

Philosopher John Locke notes in his own writings that the greatest job facing a teacher is to accustom his student to good habits, as well as to the virtues and principles of knowledge. There is no question that individuals’ learning skills and activities are an important part of science, philosophy, art, literature and sports, but this does not have to happen within a centralized and rigid framework of learning techniques, tied to so many formal and binding rules. Unfortunately, the traditional approach to education has been predicated upon children’s measurable performance, not upon their being “good people.” This is why tests and exams make up the central component of this approach to education. But if different schools servicing varied demands were allowed to develop in a free market, not only would children’s various talents be defined and appreciated more, but students would gain tremendous self-confidence while the costs of education would drop and quality would rise. We need to think more about the development of local education, with alternatives in schooling and testing.

Throughout the world, there are many kinds of schools outside the traditional approach, schools which arouse children’s curiosity. For example, in the state of New York, there is one “Quest to Learn” school. According to information from Ayşe Kaya Akfırat, an expert on strategic management consulting, every lesson and activity in this school is designed around play, and rather than the usual grades on report cards, there are labels indicating levels of expertise achieved such as “apprentice,” “ranked” and so on. This is a school where the curriculum has been specially designed by teachers and computer game designers. The digital kids of this digital world in which we live are learning in classrooms very different from those in which we studied. Their education is steeped in technology, with programming at the heart of everything; it is a brand-new and very engaging kind of education. Teachers do not give their students homework, instead going on “missions” with them. The goal of Quest to Learn is not to make learning attractive, but irresistible.

In their current state, today’s schools are very far removed from children’s real worlds. It is almost as if they are lagging behind our children. Children have no problem in obtaining information in the digital world. For them, it is important to provoke or trigger their curiosity. And the most important thing is to ease the path to their becoming responsible individuals with strong virtues and a moral sense. From this perspective, we wish to see one “innovation” in education: Different schools opened for different demands, in a free market.

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