Education system behind schedule

It is very clear to all and sundry that the education system in its current form has fallen behind schedule. The world has shifted a lot and there is a lot that needs to be done to close the gap.

The other day the nation listened with great care and attention as the President delivered his mind set vision.

His message is subject to various interpretations but my little understanding of the gist of his vision is that ancient approaches will not assist the nation to battle with the challenges of the 21st century.

Understanding the presidential vision and giving it high approval ratings is not a difficult thing. Everyone can say with confidence that Mr President you made your point sufficiently clear (re go utule morena) but trying to enact the vision, to live it and seriously dig deep to uproot the familiar but outdated 20th century way of doing things is obviously going to require a bit of work.

Old habits die hard, they say. But switching to new dispensation is urgent and cannot be delayed anymore especially in the field of education. Education must not shirk the responsibility of leading the way. Already the world all over is feeling the ramifications and consequences of failure on the part of the education sector to provide direction and leadership. Here is the evidence which many are aware of. The present job market has rendered useless products of the current education system. Holding a Master’s degree while coming with prestige and sense of accomplishment cannot guarantee anyone a job or a decent life.

Yet there is a relentless emphasis on these qualifications even though they no longer open opportunities for employment and improved livelihood. This is what makes change a bit of a challenge. Mind set change should begin with less emphasis on qualifications and more emphasis on what people know, can do and create. The other an experienced communication guru toyed with the idea of seeking a slot (teaching post) at some university to share his vast experiences within the communication and writing industry .But the stumbling block was that he does not hold a Master’s degree which is a requirement for one to secure a job at that level. This means the expertise accumulated over years of practice count for nothing simply because one may not flaunt some paper qualification.

Mind set education should encourage us to cease worshipping paper qualifications, which may not necessarily guarantee delivery. Consider this: In the education field, there is an attitude towards holders of Primary Teachers’ Certificate (PTC). The generation of teachers holding PTC served the teaching profession and country with loyalty and distinction. But they couldn’t advance to the apex of the teaching structure simply because they did not hold the necessary qualifications.

Yet it cannot be denied that they were star performers. They were true nation builders. Mind set education in my world means beginning to consider introducing pay for performance and not necessarily remunerating qualifications. Back in the days, achieving a sore of 100% guaranteed one a ticket to a decent job in the labour market and improved livelihood. Painfully this is now a thing of the past. The evidence is that the streets are littered not only with a bunch of underachievers ejected by the school system but also high flying school graduates who are not only struggling to get jobs but have also become social misfits because the ‘wisdom’ acquired from the books they read is not relevant to the demands and experiences of life.

But, the irony of the situation is that the conventional school is unrelenting in its demand for attainment of top scores. Scoring 100% in a test seems to be everything. But the job market and life outside school do not always respect this achievement. Why has the school system taken so long to change and turn to a different direction?

The school system is suffering from a denial syndrome, literally failing to come to terms with the reality that life outside the classroom demands more than tests scores. The tragedy is that the world of work is miles far ahead of the school system. The labour market experienced a mind set revolution long time back leaving the school system, with its pants down, huffing and puffing trying to catch up. This is the more reason why mind set education should begin with the school system. It is very difficult at present to chant with confidence the once powerful education slogan that education is the key to success.

In their book, Strategy in Action, Rachel E. Curtis and Elizabeth A. city cited the education Philosopher Mortimer who “framed the three callings for which schooling should prepare all Americans (and the whole world - my emphasis), to earn a decent livelihood, to be a good citizen of the nation (and the world - my emphasis) and to make a good life for oneself.” It is in this light that the education sector should, beginning today, start the process of visioning and re-visioning. Furthermore Rachel and Curtis bring to attention to issues raised by economists Richard Murnane and Frank Levy on the requirement of the economy.

They defined “skills needed for today‘s economy as expert thinking and complex communication.” Sadly schools are still stuck in the past teaching things that can be performed faster and more accurately by computers. Skills, values and attitudes needed to get the world moving in the right direction and towards socio-economic transformation are expertise in communication, boldness, honesty, integrity, empathy, patriotism, improvisation, interpretation and critical thinking. Mind set change means the education system should not only discuss 21st century skills in boardrooms but should endeavour to filter these skills into the classroom.

The world needS great communicators in the mould of Ronald Reagan, Winston Churchill, Martin Luther King junior and philanthropists specialising in championing the cause of humanity. How many education systems are intentional about growing talent and building a caring and compassionate society? Good citizenship education should encompass environmental care, compassion, empathy, caring for the sick and the elderly, participating in national building among others.

Mind set education should embolden us to start dealing with issues we have not been comfortable to deal with. Often we talk of the 21st century student without necessarily trying to get students involved on how they want to be taught. Children of today say nothing without us. Perhaps the student voice should be represented during the process of curriculum development so that they can tell us what they want to see in the curriculum.

The curriculum should also be ambitious and multidimensional to cater for a diversified clientele. Also mind education means we should never underestimate the potential of students. This means the education system should set the bar high, shun mediocrity and make leaners believe in a world of possibilities. Setting low targets and low expectations cannot sufficiently challenge students to bring their best selves to school.

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