“The Commonwealth requires the education of the people as a safeguard of order and liberty” — Quote on the North-side of the Boston Public Library
I went to the Boston Public Library (a subtle way of telling you I have been to Boston!) and this quote caught my imagination. I must admit it stayed with me. It gave me an idea of what education was meant for. You need to train the man for your own good and the betterment of society. Education was not just for bagging degrees and being respected but rather to train the person to the level that they can contribute. You can see my thoughts on this in my work “The Erudite Scholar”. Let me leave it at that and follow another course.
One of the often-repeated words by parents is, “I want to give my child a good education”. From the sincerity of their hearts, they really want to do that. The only issue I usually see is that the term “good education” means different things to different people. If good education were to be colours, some will like their white, some brown, some blue and some burnt orange mixed with sky green blue (welcome to attires in Nigerian weddings). Very few are able to describe in words of what they actually want out of this “education”. I have attended PTA meetings where the parents felt the school standards were not “tough” and the parents wanted the school to tighten the noose. When the school did by loading the kids with assignment upon assignment, the parents screamed blue murder. Getting a balance was tough. Welcome to “good education”.
In another school that I was aware of, they tried to make the kids be more assertive, analytical and exposed to broad learnings. Parents revolted that Maths and English were not given more emphasis. They blamed the school for being too “oyibo”. “Ah, we are Nigerians o … Maths and English is very importanter”. The school took a redress. On a lighter note … I wonder now that the kids are in Canadian School whether this “Asobey” as per Maths and English still occur. Just asking for a friend.
The main aim for me about a good education is to provide the toolbox for problem-solving.
Back to the matter; in my opinion, a good education involves the opening of the mind. It also entails instilling values. It involves creating interest in the learner and guiding the learner to develop further interest in what has been presented. As such the main job of the teacher then is to evoke and generate interest from the learner. And that is tough I must admit. The teacher has to make the learner learn how to relate the concept to things that are happening in his / her reality.
In today’s world, a thinking person is a rare commodity.
I will present what I think, in my opinion, is a good education. The acronym for this is “V-CHILDREN” (Does this mean that every learner is a child? I don’t know. I am still asking for a friend. Yeah, the same friend that asked me to ask the first question. Maybe learners should have a childlike attitude).
Let me have a go at them.
Values and Morals — A brilliant fella without moral boundaries is bound to be a deviant to society. He will use his intelligence to destroy rather than create. A good education apart from teaching concepts should be able to allow the individual to download and install moral codes and values into his/her being. Two quotes will summarise my position on this:
“Education without morals is like a ship without a compass, merely wandering nowhere” — Marin Luther King Jr.
“To educate a man in mind and not in morals is to educate a menace to society.” — Theodore Roosevelt.
Critical Thinking & Analysis — A good education should be able to make you think in different dimensions. You should be able to mix, mesh and curate facts and ideas and make decisions based on your reasoning and evaluation. Once a young man I know told his mum that the housefly is the best friend of man. His mum enquired further. He told his mum his reasons — if a friend is someone that is always around you, then a housefly is a great example. His mum had to bring in other perspectives and reasons to enhance his thought on the matter; for example, the house fly as a carrier of germs, a potent cause of diseases etc. With those new facts, the young man redefined his answer. I hope you get where I am going to with this. Perspective was brought into the situation and the answer changed. This was not done forcefully but by combining new facts. A good education does not just shut down the door or shoot down answers/responses rather it tries to understand why the learner made that response. The “why” is what leads to innovation and further interrogation of facts, if required.
Human Interaction — A school is a place filled with people. The learning is supposed to be on many levels; teacher to student, student to student, student to teacher etc. As the learner starts to interact (at whatsoever age), the learner is able to spot the nuances of his/her environment and incorporate it into what s/he has learned or is learning. Human interaction plays a big role in learning. Whosoever is transmitting the learning should be of sound mind and devoid of prejudices. The learner should also be able to sift ideas from fiction. While going about human interaction, respect for constituted authority is established, boundaries are set, social norms are learnt and some jointly created. It is through human interaction that critical people skills are developed, which helps in the long run in getting results in all facets of life.
Inspire Interest & Motivate — A good education must strive to inspire its subjects. Without inspiration, learning will be reduced to rote. It is mechanical and not fun at all. Education will then be viewed as medicine that must be taken and after you get well, you will have nothing to do with it. That should not be the case. A good education makes the learner want to do more with the information at his/her disposal. You want to try and see if what you were told in class is really true. I remember taking home some Copper Sulphate crystals from the Chemistry lab in my secondary school. When I got home, I mixed it with edible salt (Sodium Chloride), by the time I woke up the next morning, I saw that the blue copper Sulphate had reacted with the salt and is now a mixture of Sodium Sulphate and Copper Chloride. The colours had changed, and I could see new sets of crystals forming. I stepped out and took a walk, strutting around like the “New Einstein”. It was magical, I gained confidence in my abilities and I saw in reality what I had been taught in school. This all came because my Chemistry teacher had told us to try these things. There were times she gave us chemicals to work with under supervision. Of course, she made it fun. Of course, we were inspired. BTW, chemicals are great up until they mix. Please keep them only in the lab. Don’t follow my example. I take God beg you.
Learning — Getting new facts, lining up reasoning, building upon old facts already taught and seeing the big picture is what learning is all about. This is one of those things a good education does — it facilitates learning. It provides a guide for us to know more about the world and also about ourselves. It provides a guided template for one to understand concepts, builds upon them and goes further in our quest for knowledge.
Diversity and Inclusion — A good education enables you to understand that despite our differences as people, we are looking for similar things e.g. success, family, love, etc. While we are on the search for these things, there is no need to disparage the other. There is a need for tolerance, understanding and mutual respect. This is where Diversity comes in. One of the many blessings of my life was going to the University of Benin (UNIBEN). Since Benin is a melting pot, it gave me an idea of Nigeria as a country. I had to interact with people from almost all the states in the country. My roommates were different from my classmates and both sets were different from those I had spiritual fellowship with. I had to exist and function with these different types of humans. Different skill sets and temperament were required to live in harmony. These experiences tempered me. It made me a better person. It helped me in conflict management and resolution.
Reflection — With critical thinking come reflection. Reflection entails pondering and meditating on facts, concepts and assumptions. An education that does not entail the learners reflecting has lost a vital ingredient. It is like cooking jollof without tomatoes (is that one still jollof? No be jollof jo!)
You want the learners to have their “Eureka” moments all by themselves. It helps. It makes the person feel fulfilled. It makes you feel like “I belong. I deserve a seat at the table”. Reflection leads to self-discovery. With self-discovery comes the making of the person — character is formed, values are built, and the person can aim for self-actualization. This makes the person dependent on his ability to deliver. Self-reliance is now born after the cycle has been completed. Ralph Waldo Emerson talked about this is his seminal work “Self Reliance”. I watched the series “Genius” which documented the life of Einstein. The thing that made Einstein the SI unit of genius was his ability to reflect and ponder.
Exposure — A good education should include exposure of the learners to what has been taught. I mean hands-on learning. I remember teaching my son coordinates and I tried to make him understand how important coordinates are. I told him that without it, planes will not fly, and a ship will not sail. When he grabbed the essence and applicability, his interest was piqued. I also remember a time I took my kids to Kenya. Though they were excited that they were going to the parks to see the animals, my aim was to make them see other Africans. More like other black people. It seems I succeeded because they noticed that the Kenyans spoke with a different accent, their food and traditional clothes were different. They kept asking questions. This is what exposure does. It makes you know that there are others around you and that they matter. It makes you empathise and see the common thread that binds humans. Learners should be exposed to facts, figures, humans, experiences, institutions, processes etc. This makes for rounded learning.
Network — Your network of first friends and acquaintances is mostly from school. With the type of values that you have been instilled in, you should be able to identify people that are in your area of interest, values and aspiration. When you learn to do this while in school, it should be easy to do that when you leave school. If a school is all academics and forgets to provide a platform for networking to happen between the learners, then it has failed miserably.
I have compiled what I think a good education should offer. I know you have others. Let me hear from you.