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Issues In Education

Staff Writer
Towards A More Pragmatic Philosophy Of Teaching and Learning
Pursuing the agenda of values of cultural diversity some previous Issues have emphasised the desire that UNESCO led educational policies and practices are giving to art education.

This Issues is trying to advocate for a new philosophy of teaching and learning that is not constrained by old approaches where schools have been seen as working like prisons, frustrating inquisitive minds. New trends endeavour to enforce a curriculum that is oriented towards the art disciplines such as performing arts (dance, drama, music, etcetera), literature and poetry, craft, design, digital arts, storytelling, heritage, visual arts and film, media, and photography. In this argument, background is made to curriculum policies and practices such as those adopted and used in Botswana and other nation states that emerged from colonial occupation. Many developing countries have found themselves subjected to school curriculum policies that give a false sense of reality and create myths, denying what they know. More often such curriculum is tied to old philosophies of idealism and realism that in turn inform the educational philosophy of perennialism. Under this traditional thinking, understanding and philosophical positioning, schools are seen as centres of moral, spiritual, faith development. Knowledge is seen as the gospel truth that is already given. The role of the school is seen as one of assisting the learner only to be conscious of the existing truth and body of knowledge of reality. The teacher is believed to be the master of the school subject matter and content, and as one who possesses all the truth and the right knowledge that a learner must acquire.

This is the colonial educational approach that was introduced largely through missionary work from Zululand (Southern Africa) across Africa to Kikuyuland (Eastern Africa) and beyond. Such educational philosophical approach has succeeded in creating the African elitism that many nation states to-date find difficult to decolonise. This orientation serves to create a myth that is devoid of appreciation of the richness of African cultural diversity, with which all nation states in Africa are made. As a consequence, education systems in many nation states that emerged from this development are characterized by factors of silent and open exclusion,

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and systematic marginalization of other sections of the society, while championing agenda of cultural assimilation. Few independent states such as South Africa and Namibia work around the clock to reform their educational policies and practices from perennial educational curriculum to a more modest John Dewey pragmatic philosophy of educational development. Dewey's progressive movement is reflective in these countries' language policies of multilingualism and curriculum practices that focus on the outcome based education that have greater attention to issues of diversity and context. For example, rather than prescribing a standardized curriculum based upon certain fixed subject matter or content that must be studied, and often insensitive to cultural diversity, instead the education systems allow schools, provinces or districts to prescribe the learning outcomes that are expected. Learning is expected to be an evolutionary approach where children are artistic, active, out and about doing things, talking, watching and learning from other people and other objects around them. UNESCO is therefore providing an opportune moment for all UN member states and particularly the developing world to revitalize their educational curriculum focus. With its "Road Map for Arts Education" this organisation encourages educational systems and school curricula that work towards promoting "cognitive development across all academic subjects and that is relevant to the transformation of societies". In this way the values of cultural diversity and inclusive education could be highly recognised and cherished.  Towards a more pragmatic approach that involves art education, teaching and learning should be fun rather than forced because 'force and punishment' play no part in a good education.

Progressive teachers detest the attitude of punishing children for not doing their classroom or homework. Through art disciplines, learners could develop critical thinking skills freely, determining the truth for themselves and learn more about their environment. Art education is therefore about experiential learning in which emphasis is on learning by doing, allowing collaborative and cooperative hands-on projects, hence encouraging development of the needed and more progressive problem-solving and social skills.

 



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