Another dot in the blogosphere?

The need to teach and learn light

Posted on: June 12, 2012

Learn, Unlearn, Relearn #change11 by ecmp355, on Flickr
Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 2.0 Generic License  by  ecmp355 

Last week, TODAYonline claimed this exclusive with our Minister for Education in an article titled “A call to relearn how we teach our children“. The same article was published by TODAY’s parent body Channel News Asia.

I have no problem with the principle or even the rhetoric of putting the child first. Education Minister Mr Heng Swee Keat said:

Fundamentally whatever we do, we must rest on one clear focus – what is best for our students. We have to just keep doing that and getting it right.

But the way this was reported indicated what the press thinks parents still buy into.

Predictably, the article started with what parents would want to read, i.e., parents attending workshops conducted by schools to show them current math teaching strategies so that they know how to help their children with homework.

Read carefully and you realize that 1) it is the parents who are learning new math teaching strategies, and 2) the goal is still teaching to the test.

If you follow the original line of rhetoric, you could highlight how the reforms in math instruction are meant to activate broader thinking skills. These in turn help the child prepare for a less predictable future.

The larger issue is the need for change. We cannot teach the way we were taught because the circumstances have changed. What Alvin Toffler said holds true in this mathematical context:

The illiterate of the 21st century will not be those who cannot read or write, but those who cannot learn, unlearn, and relearn.

A few readers reacted to the news article:

The first response was written by someone who mostly “gets it”. Parents need to change their expectations of what and how their kids learn. Furthermore, in the larger scheme of things what matters more is “the social, emotional and moral growth of our children”.

However, not all parents or readers are ready to unlearn, much less relearn.

The second response was a tirade against MOE and tuition centres. The gist of the argument seemed to be that MOE set unrealistic standards and that tuition centres bridged the gap that schools and parents could not. The writer argued for a return to fundamentals instead.

The third response echoed the previous sentiment, but in a different way. Absolving herself of being responsible for academic development, the parent wrote:

I do not want to “learn new ways to teach (my) children”. What my grandparents taught us is still the right track. I am my children’s teacher, but only to raise them to be good people and citizens.

Both wrote about going back to basics. One parent focused on academic fundamentals (the three R’s?) while the other focused on fundamental values.

I support the need for fundamentals, but we need to build on them.

The reality today is that kids are growing up in a world that is changing faster than when their parents were kids. Parents must continually unlearn what they know and relearn what is new and relevant. This applies to both information and values.

The cynic in me might point out that if those same parents grew up not just learning (or memorizing) in school, they might be more open to unlearning and relearning.

We need to learn and teach light. By this I mean being less heavy on content dumps and not hanging on to emotional burdens like old is gold. We need to learn all the time and teach our charges how to do the same.

1 Response to "The need to teach and learn light"

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