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Posts Tagged ‘change

The best way to start change is to identify what needs changing in the first place. This seems so obvious as to sound redundant, but you have probably seen how blind change initiatives can be.

So if we are to desire change in schools, we must know what is wrong with them. Here are two videos that outline some critical issues.


Video source

The video above highlights how most schools:

  • Are based on outdated Industrial Age values.
  • Do not promote student autonomy.
  • Perpetuate inauthentic learning.
  • Do not accommodate student passions.
  • Provide little or no room for individualisation.
  • Rely on lecturing.


Video source

The video above uses social conflict theory to explore social inequalities that school reinforce or perpetuate. While the video focuses on schools embedded in US systems, the principles apply to any system that claims to be based on meritocracy.

Both videos shed light on what areas need urgent change.

Both videos are also not perfect — both equate education with schooling. They could have drawn distinctions between the two terms because both seemed to desire movement away from schooling and progress towards education.

Schooling is about enculturation. Education is about self-actualisation.

This WatchMojo video highlighted ten things we did not have ten years ago that are essential now.


Video source

Well, not quite. Some of the items mentioned in the video have been around for more than ten years, e.g., Facebook. Some people do not consider all the items things are what “we can’t live without now”, e.g., Twitter.

However, their Number One item, the smartphone, is worthy of its placing. Apple marked its tenth year in this market with the iPhone X, and while there were other smartphones before, the iPhone was a watershed moment.


Video source

The iPhone was accompanied by a larger ecosystem, the App store, and iCloud. The hardware spawned other industries like case, cable, and accessory makers. Innovation bred innovation.

Despite all this change in technology, people remain constant. Yes, the way we walk and talk with our phones has changed, but many of us remain stubborn at our core. Many websites we create are not mobile-first and the attitudes behind changing online resources and practices lag far behind the technology.

Quick videos highlight the glitz and glamour; everyday practices reveal the dust and inertia. I wager that most adults will feel that ten years is not long ago. I also wager that many of the same adults have the same mindsets today that they had ten years ago.

Reflect on that as we head into 2018. What can you change now so that you make a difference by 2028?

Banksy recently tweeted this:

If you Google for its source, a cursory review will reveal a vague attribution to “African proverb” or a specific one to the Dalai Lama. Look even further and you will discover a few more sources.
 
If you think you are too small to make a difference, try sleeping with a mosquito in the room.
 
Regardless of its source, there are lessons for change agents seeking resolve for 2018. You may be small and you can effect change, but there are conditions if you pursue the mosquito analogy.

You may need to be a periodic noise, even to the extent of being irritating.

You need to be persistent to find your opportunities to bite.

If you manage to bite, you must leave a mark effective enough to cause the status quo to itch.

You risk being repelled or removed because the status quo is intolerant of noise and change.

If you are sacrificed, know that others will come after you. Sometimes you pave the way. Sometimes you might swarm the place. Either way, there is always sacrifice.

The last weekend saw a “big read” from TODAYonline with the ominous tagline, What the demographic ‘time bomb’ spells for Singapore’s education system.
 

 
What is our demographic ‘time bomb’? An aging population due to couples having fewer children. This is not news as Singapore has had one lowest replacement birth rates in the world.

To oversimplify a complex issue, this is the line of thought that binds several paragraphs or pages: Our falling replacement birth rate led to reduced enrolments in school, and schools were merged to optimise resources. Fewer children born, fewer schools needed.

According to the news article, observers and experts suggested centralisation of programmes and co-curricular activities so that kids could pursue their interests even as those items were labelled extraneous in shrinking schools.

The same observers and experts also revisited reduced class sizes so that schools would maintain similar numbers of classes and keep as many teachers as possible.

The centralisation has already started, but as I have argued previously [1] [2] [3], the class size issue will not be taken seriously yet.

Part of the resistance to the class size issue is the unwillingness to operate outside the box or the blindness to possibilities. Both stem from the fact that the problem and solutions have a largely administrative foundation. They start with student-teacher ratios (or pupil-teacher ratios, PTRs, as our Ministry of Education calls it).

A social issue as complex as a declining replacement birth rate is complex and has far-reaching consequences. It cannot be solved with a spreadsheet mentality. The social issue needs needs multiple social approaches.

In the schooling front, we need to also change qualitative issues like changing mindsets, expectations, evaluation, and pedagogy. Mindsets like kids should be siloed by age and ability. Expectations that there should be only one teacher in the room. Evaluations that stop at conventional assessment, i.e., tests and projects. Pedagogy that is defined largely by textbooks and fixed or approved curricula.

Each of these elements is complex in itself and cannot be reduced to numbers on a spreadsheet. Collectively, changing all these elements can diffuse the so-called time-bomb and turn it into an opportunity to transform our schooling system into a truly educational one [examples].

Simply put, when the factory model stops working because you no longer have enough workers, it is time to think of boutique approaches.

I am recreating some of my favourite image quotes I created some time ago. This time I use Pablo by Buffer and indicate attribution and CC license.

Change is not about asking for permission first. It is about asking for forgiveness later.

This quote is about recognising that we are all part of a larger social system, e.g. schooling and education. If we are not part of the solution, then we are part of the problem. If we are not pushing and pulling for meaningful change, then we are maintaining the status quo to the overall detriment of the system.

Sometimes change agents need to move or create movement even when the system is not ready and terribly unforgiving. If the attempts to change fail, change agents need to apologise for the fall and pick themselves up.

If the change succeeds, everybody wins. The change agents might still need to apologise for creating a fuss in the first place.

Note: I am on vacation with my family. However, I am keeping up my blog-reflection-a-day habit by scheduling a thought a day. I hope this shows that reflections do not have to be arduous to provoke thought or seed learning.

Today I link a YouTube video and a call by one of our Deputy Prime Ministers (DPM), Tharman Shanmugaratnam: ‘If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it’ will not cut it for Singapore’s education.


Video source

We were all taught that we have five senses — sight, hearing, smell, taste, and touch. These senses are obvious and seem irrefutable, but they are oversimplifications.

We actually have a myriad of basic senses. Two of the less obvious ones include proprioreception (sense of space) and equilibrioreception (sense of balance).

It is easier to just teach everyone that we have only five senses. We are taught these in kindergarten or in primary school. However, most adults probably do not realise they have more than five senses even if they have a basic degree.

We do not seem worse for not knowing. This is an indicator of the “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” mindset. It is being satisfied with or indifferent to the status quo because we choose not to be receptive or reflective.

The only-five-senses-as-fact is broken. We had more studies discover and verify more senses, but somehow we choose not to update what we know and teach.

Arguing that teaching these extras makes things more complicated does not make sense. Teaching these “new” facts leverages on the wonders of the human body and illustrates the importance of the scientific method.
 

 
We need to be critical and humble enough to spot the cracks in WHAT we teach and HOW we teach it. We need to consciously keep breaking old mindsets and expectations like test is best.

CNA quoted DPM Tharman:

“The biggest mistake we would make is think that because we are doing well in the PISA test, or we get a good rating by the Economist Intelligence Unit or anyone else, that therefore we keep things as they are,” Mr Tharman said.

“The biggest mistake is to think if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. Because in education, more than in any other field, we will only know how well we are doing 20 or 30 years from now.

“If it ain’t broken, experiment. That’s the way we will secure our future.”

DPM Tharman was our Minister for Education from 2003 to 2008. Even though he has a new portfolio now, I am glad that he singled out changes in education as a pillar for holding Singapore up.

The PISA scores remind us that Singapore is doing well on testing stage. The type of schooling and education that helps us do this is like relying only on our five basic senses. We have so much more to discover and develop.

The CNA article and DPM’s speech highlighted more sets we need to challenge ourselves with. These included:

  • Avoiding the “lottery of birth” and ensuring social mobility
  • Reducing emphasis on academic-only measures and providing time and space for creative efforts
  • Not trapping ourselves with false multiculturalism

Like our “extra” senses, these education experiments will make us more complete.

This funny-yet-sad tweet reminded me of why I need to do what I do.

Viewed positively, you might say that the teacher was very consistent about his attire over four decades.

Viewed more critically, you might ask if his dressing was a possible reflection of his unchanging mindset.

Symbolism aside, the teacher’s attire does indicate how many teachers operate. They might get older, but they do not change how they appear to others.

Ask most lay folk what a teacher looks like and you will likely get traditional views. You will hardly, if at all, hear of distinctions between teachers and educators, or educators who reach through walls, teach over the Internet, or operate without school principals.

These are educators who are pushing the boundaries of the past so that their learners are better prepared for the present and look forward to shaping their futures. There is value in looking back, but facing backwards while trying to walk forwards is a recipe for falling and injuries.

I liking showing people how to look and walk forward, strange as that may sound. I start by pointing out that they have their feet pointed in one direction and their eyes in the other.


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