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Posts Tagged ‘education

This tweet was a timeless reminder that schooling is not the same as education. You can be educated without school; you can get schooled without being educated.

The embedded article focused on how the teaching of virtues and cultivating character distinguished education from schooling. It put forward its case more articulately than my bumbling attempt that schooling was about enculturation while education was about self-actualisation.

But I combined both now with this: I was schooled. I became educated.

I was schooled. I became educated.

For the second time in as many years, my son asked for a printout of our latest home utility bill. It was for a geography topic.

I have no objections to sharing how energy and water efficient we are, but I took care to block out personal information like our account number and address.

Perhaps teachers or designers of curricula think that an example from real life will connect with learners. It might. Then again, it might not. Kids do not normally worry about utility bills.
 

 
There is a more serious disconnect — the hardcopy. I asked my son why he could not share a digital copy on his phone. He replied that the instructions were to bring a printout.

A printout. This means that someone realised that we rely on e-bills now. The utility companies offer this as a cost-saving and timely measure, and customers are already on the bandwagon.

Why is a class disconnected from the new normal? Students will learn from teachers how not to question, to stick blindly with tradition, and to be prepared for the past.

Students will learn to play the game that is school. They will be schooled, but they may not be educated.

Education is not synonymous with schooling, no matter what you may have been told or what you perpetuate without question.

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

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

Those are compact and loaded sentences. I unpack them simply this way: Schooling is about preparing you for what society expects you to be; education is about preparing yourself for who you need or wish to be.

Schools function to school and educate, and arguably do more schooling than education in the early years. As a student gets older, he or she seeks an education. That is why universities are often referred to as institutes of higher education instead of really-big-and-expensive-schools. A working adult who learns on and with the job might opt for continuing education. This might take the form of a higher degree, credentials, skills upgrades, or enrichment.

The problem is that both the student and teacher might be so used to schooling that they do not know (or they forget) what it means to educate. That is why we have schools in universities (e.g., School of Education) and training (e.g., content delivery for compliance).

There might be circumstances where schooling an adult is necessary (e.g., standardisation exercises are not philosophical discussions) but for the most part education is the better path. That is why we have andragogy which is borne of pedagogy.

Andragogy differs from pedagogy by one main element — learner experience. However, I do not know any good educator of kids or adults who does not take the experience and perspectives of their learner into account. When they do this effectively, they rise above schooling and teaching. They educate.

This STonline article lead with this opening line:

The education system needs to be aligned with the structure of the economy, so that people will continue to be armed with the required skills to find jobs in the current age of disruption.

We probably take this stance for granted in Singapore. The refrain is like white noise and the blue sky that envelops our tiny Red Dot.
 

 
The economic focus has its merits, of course, and the news article mentioned a relatively low post-graduation unemployment rate and a renewed focus on skills over pure academic results.

But surely our education system must align itself, without conflict, to more than just the economy.

  • How about the arts in all its forms?
  • How about the development of individuals to their fullest of their abilities?
  • How about helping these individuals by focusing on equity instead of equality?
  • How about nurturing citizens of the country and the rest world who are compassionate problem-seekers and solvers?
  • How about not calling these approaches idealistic and investigating how they actually contribute to the economy and more?

What else should an education system align to?

When a few people talk about the Netflix-ation of education, they might be referring to the online, customisation, or on-demand aspect of Netflix.

Coursera seems to have already taken a leaf from the Netflix book by offering courses by subscription.

We will have to wait and see if this has any legs and becomes a worthwhile trend. In the meantime, I offer a perspective on a Netflix-like education that I would NOT like to see.

Ever since Netflix went global, I lost access to the US listing and gained a Singapore listing.

Now some favourites of mine, like Black Mirror and Rock and Morty, are labelled in Chinese.

Why?

Singapore is not in China, and even though we have a Chinese majority, our lingua franca is English.

My preferred language setting is English and most other titles are in English, e.g., Werner Herzog’s Lo and Behold (see screenshot above).

So again, why?

For some reason, Netflix also recommends a section of movies to me that is labelled “Western Movies”. Why not call the category “Corrupt Bourgeoisie Shows” since there is an implied value system?

The issue is not so much the language or the labels. It is that there is a one-size-fits-all standard that I do not have control of. Isn’t Netflix-ation supposed to provide more choice based on my preferences?

So while having a Netflix-like education might offer more customisation, it might also view us more like a customer. However, this customer is not king, nor is he or she always right.

This customer is to be mined of data and possibly manipulated into accepting labels and making false choices. This is not the Netflix-like education I look forward to.

Most educators worth their salt have heard of Sir Ken Robinson. His TED talks have made him famous.

I wonder how many have viewed the videos of Yong Zhao or read his work. To say that Yong Zhao rarely fails to provoke is to make an understatement.

I am an admirer of his and respect his work. I have referenced some key moments over the last few years.

One of the more recent articles by Yong Zhao builds on yesterday’s theme: What seems to work might be an illusion. Yong Zhao argued that what seems to work in schooling can hurt because of side effects.

His article is an introduction to a longer one published in the Journal of Educational Change. He has a link to download the full article and you will have to visit his site to get it.

Yong Zhao started with this premise:

Educational research has typically focused exclusively on the benefits, intended effects of products, programs, policies, and practices, as if there were no adverse side effects. But side effects exist the same way in education as in medicine.

He suggested that the side effects in schooling and education might occur because:

  1. Time spent on a new intervention results in time lost in something else.
  2. Resources like people power are also redirected to newer initiatives that might distract from important core tasks.
  3. The desired outcomes of schooling and education are often contradictory. You cannot have an obedient and pliable workforce and one embraces diversity and risk-taking.
  4. Different people respond differently to the same treatments. What works with one group in one context can change with the group, the context, or both.

History repeats itself. It has to, because no one ever listens. -- Steve Turner.

All these seem like common sense or obvious points to make in hindsight. Yet we make the mistakes again because we do not learn from others and recent history.

Once again, we need to pull the wool off our eyes. This time it is the wool that we put on and we have ourselves to blame for being so blind.

I am not necessarily for the Uber-ification or Netflix-ation of education. Some principles and practices do not transfer.

For example, the customer is not always right and the bottomline is not always immediate nor about profit or mindshare.
 

 
However, the changes that Uber and Netflix bring signal the need to adopt and adapt some ideas. I suggest a few less radical but important ones using company slogans.

Burger King’s favorite ditto seems to be “have it your way”. I am all for nurturing independence and critical thinking by getting learners to decide what they need to learn and to determine if they have learnt it.

IKEA says that “you do not have to be rich to be clever”. I am a proponent of open educational resources and open access journals being the norm rather than the exception, particularly if education is to be the great leveller.

McDonald’s would like its patrons to say “I’m loving it”. I would Iike our children to say the same thing about their education and following their passions.

Right now it is the privileged few who hate school but have opportunities to love their personal journeys thanks to family-sponsored rides. If all our children had access to more open resources and were taught to give back, we would have the equitable system that dreamers imagined.


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