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The Purpose of Education – Creating Responsible, Productive Citizens
“The whole art of teaching is only the art of awakening the natural curiosity of young minds for the purpose of later satisfying it.” – Anatole France
The purpose of education is to create responsible, productive and socially contributing citizens, people who can support their own families and contribute to their communities. As Toffler says, education in the 21st century should allow people to learn, unlearn, and relearn. But I am not sure that our schools and colleges are committed to this.
Education is one of the most unscientific human endeavors. You do well in school to get into a good university and get a good degree. A good degree is supposed to be a passport to a good job. Depending on your educational qualifications, you can rise to a reasonably high position without having to demonstrate any outstanding ability.
Beyond that, however, you may run into problems. There is no established link between your performance in school and your performance at work. Even more importantly, there is no link between your performance at work and your performance in life.
To be true to purpose, education must help a child develop three fundamental capacities:
1. Discover, develop and continuously evolve a vision to become a useful member of society:
Many of us have an advantage: our parents envision our future for us, and push us to work towards achieving that vision. However, this is not so common among the poor. The education system must step in to help everyone create that vision, and to build even the poor child’s confidence to follow the vision.
Balaji Sampath, who heads Eureka Child, an NGO committed to improving literacy and numeracy skills in government schools, told us a heartwarming story in this context. Returning from the US to do something meaningful in education, he immersed himself in local issues by spending a few months in a village. I was in a village classroom when a child asked the teacher if it was possible to travel to the moon. “You and I can’t fly to the moon,” replied the professor. “But US scientists can…” We must stop robbing our children of goals and dreams.
2. Understand that questions are more important than answers:
Our education system places undue emphasis on providing answers, often to questions that children don’t have. That is, too often we teach children concepts without context; we need to show them why learning is important. We need to focus on awakening children’s natural curiosity and teaching them to love learning. A good way to do this is to place children in natural experiences or in games where they can ask questions. In these environments, learning is immediate and strong. Learning can be a structured process of discovery, offering students varied learning outcomes, just as our situations and decisions later in life offer varied outcomes.
For example, an NGO in Mumbai went to schools with an experiment to teach students about water conservation. The students measured the amount of water consumed while brushing their teeth with the faucet open, and then again with the faucet closed. Imagine, if we all learn this kind of lesson in school, how we can apply the principles to so many other aspects of our home and work later in life.
3. Learning to learn:
The world is evolving too fast for schools and universities to keep up. What is taught is inadequate and out of date, or soon will be. It is important that children discover answers on their own: through the Internet, by experimenting and by having access to experts at the forefront of each field.
It is important for students to learn the scientific method:
(a) create a hypothesis based on observations,
(b) design and carry out experiments to prove or disprove these hypotheses and
(c) reach conclusions while recognizing that the conclusions might change with additional information.
With the level of knowledge available in today’s world, it is also important to judge what to learn, how and when to learn it. We need to teach children when to trust their own judgments and when to trust the expertise of others. Our children need to learn that even when you outsource the effort, you retain responsibility for the outcome.
what do you think Do you agree with these ideas about the critical skills our children need? Does our education system address this? Share your thoughts and experiences with all of us.
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