In this, the first in a series of articles on Classroom Matters, I am trying to highlight the multiplicity of issues attached to the teaching profession. What we normally see in the classroom is preceded by many layers of issues contributing to the essence of what teaching is about. The philosophy of teaching, the methodologies, and systems contributing to schooling are some of the many factors contributing to the success or failure of the teaching and learning process.
Teachers as facilitators
The majority of teachers the world over still follow, unfailingly, the old paradigm of the teacher as a fountain of knowledge and wisdom. Learners are still treated as subsidiary to the assumed intellectual superiority of the teacher. Learners are not expected to contribute to their academic development and cognitive growth. They are not assumed to possess any intellectual catalogue from which to draw and reference during the teaching and learning process. In my previous posts, I have written about the need to professionalise teaching.
Teachers in the 21st Century should operate as facilitators not drill sergeants. Their aim should be to help learners extract knowledge from themselves and assist them to make sense of it during application. The advent of technology has rearranged our knowledge space. The archaic model of a teacher-centred approach to learning has lost its relevance.
Learners can now rely on multiple information sources that they can access 24/7. From now onwards, teachers would do well to adapt to their new role as facilitators, supporters, motivators, enhancers, interpreters, guides, researchers, etc. Socrates once referred to himself as ‘an intellectual midwife’ — someone who assisted others in giving birth to their own ideas and thoughts.
Education always hits the raw nerve
In the DNA of the educational process is the need to challenge the current frame of mind of learners. Education is supposed to displace prejudices and many other forms of preconceived ideas, thoughts and feelings about the world. An education process that doesn’t challenge, promotes and babysits our preconceptions and prejudiced understanding of the world we live in. That’s why things don’t change, despite people being educated at the institutions in the world.
Instead of being challenged and displaced by their prejudices, they were left as they were. They entered the education systems with prejudices that made them unable to offer newness in the positions they now hold in society. Sad indeed.
As an educationist, I believe that our role is to challenge, excite, ignite curiosity, bring into focus, help to understand, help to question, help to dig deeper, etc. Our duty is to facilitate newness; taking our learners from the known to the unknown. That’s why I’m busy challenging the status quo. I’m pushing for the idea that teachers become independent professionals and practitioners making their own decisions about educational issues. So far teachers are muted functionaries.
The schooling “system”
There’s something terribly disarming about the education systems of the world. Firstly, education is not supposed to be a system. Systems imply replicability, predictability and rigidity. Systems tend to attract militarism in an area that requires advanced innovation. That is why education in the world keeps reproducing an advanced version of a learner from the 1900s. The only thing changing is technology. A case of rearranging the frog’s dress code hoping it will become a swan. At the exoskeleton of the world’s educational offerings is the lack of fundamental change and innovation in the ideology of education.
Education should be deeper than historical instructions, learning traditions that have no relationship with the needs of learners in 2017. Educationists around the world need to challenge their own conceptions of what they view as education. New thinking is needed desperately; evolutionary and out of this world thinking. Education should challenge and not babysits. If it doesn’t move you, it is not education.
Xolani Majola is an education policy analyst, writer and public speaker.