Changing the Focus

The focus of educational institution should include teaching children skills that they will require and not just imparting knowledge though facts and figures.  

Veena Krishnan
                   Veena Krishnan

Teachers have been entrusted with the job of teaching children since time immemorial. It is taken for granted that a three-year- old child will soon start attending school and will continue to do so till at least she/he is 15 or 16 years old.
It is assumed that in school the child learns what the teacher teaches.
At the end of the learning years the child will have received enough basic information to be able to join the work force or pursue a course to gain further information.
Pedagogic research has centred mainly on what to teach and how to teach it.
Should the information be taught by the teacher with the student passively receiving it, or should it be through students actively participating and contributing to their learning? How much of the content to be taught is basic, requires practice, what information is important and hence needs to be repeated and reiterated.
But whatever the issues discussed there never was a doubt that during the school years the child gained in knowledge and learnt facts and information which would help steer the child towards later success.
Now, however, there is a re-think about these issues.
Issues that were assumed to be basic foundations of pedagogy are being discussed and debated about.
The biggest question being asked is if the role of schools is to merely ensure that children are taught facts and equipped with lots of information.
If the evaluation at the end of the school years and the report about the child’s school years are any indication this is precisely what is expected of a school.
Children graduate from the school after going through an examination which tests them for their capacity to recall the facts that they were taught in the classroom.
This capacity is considered to be the child’s academic achievement and it becomes important indicators of the child’s future.
The child’s performance in these evaluations will determine the type of University she/he attends, the courses pursued and the kind of job she/he gets.
And these indicators further determine if the child is to be considered a success or a failure.
These premises are being questioned.
Merely having knowledge of facts and figures doesn’t transfer to being able to apply the knowledge when required or having the ability to find solutions to problems.
An excellent academic record does not automatically mean that the person will be a good team leader and successfully lead his/her team at the work place.
Often in life a person is called upon to come up with new solutions to problems, be enterprising enough to utilize existing resources and adapt and apply whatever knowledge they have to resolve a situation.
With modern technology and the Internet, facts and information is available to anyone who is able to access it.
There is no limit to the information one can access.
And what is also true is anyone can post this information on the net.
The question of authenticity therefore becomes crucial.
To be able to analyse the information available and judge its authenticity becomes critical before applying it for ones purpose.
This requires analytical skills.
To be able to think through all the options available and deduce the correct solution would require deductive thinking skills.
To be able to work together in a team requires social skills, good communication skills and an ability to empathise with ones co-workers.
These skills also called soft skills are equally or more important than having a fund of factual knowledge.
But our schools have focused on imparting mainly factual knowledge.
The textbooks used, the methodology followed by the teacher and the evaluation done assesses how much has been retained and how much of it can be recalled by the child.
No thought has been given to how the child will acquire the soft skills required in life.
No special activities are planned where children can acquire and practice the soft skills.
It is just assumed that the child will have it when she/he needs it.
It is therefore time for schools to re-think their curricula and adapt them for the demands of today.
Teaching children to question, think and analyse the facts they are exposed to and not merely reproduce or recall facts will help them form sound opinions and realistic attitudes.
Children will have to rely on their analytical and critical thinking abilities to help them sift through the fund of facts and information available, literally at the tip of their fingers, and apply the information to the real-life situations they are likely to face.
The focus of educational institution should include teaching children skills that they will require and not just imparting knowledge though facts and figures.
[The writer is an Early Child Educationist
and Parent Counsellor]