REVISITING EDUCATION IN THE 21ST CENTURY
Nurture's Global Education Model of Schooling
Present day education is a barren field, rife with possibilities for anyone who wants to make a difference. If we want a new reality in education, we need to do things differently. Let us re-imagine education at school. Indeed, we want a metamorphosis in education. From the cocoon, a butterfly must emerge!
All change begins with a thought.
IF WE WERE TO RE-IMAGINE EDUCATION IN THE 21ST CENTURY, WHAT WOULD ITS TENETS BE?
Education is the most complex and challenging issue of our times. It is not just a local or a national concern but a subject of great deliberation worldwide.
Even as the world has witnessed vast advances towards globalization and technology makes life much easier, education remains largely unchanged with its19 century objectives and old ethics intact. Current education, like an old injection with an expired date, has at best an uncertain outcome, the goals of which are at odds with the needs of the 21 century.
Surely, the change we need in education today is far more than reduce the weight of our children's school bag, replace a few books, integrate the multiple intelligences or better technology, and train our teachers in the methods that accelerate learning?
Could we not organize education far better in order to bring out the best and highest in both human nobility and educational excellence and nurture human spirit as well to create a vastly better world for all ?
For these, a change in educational direction is urgently needed, not just some tinkering changes, piece-meal approaches and add-ons to an existing system that is founded upon material ethics..
Having been fortunate enough to grow up into a family of 'world class' educators, get a 'world class' education myself, having had the fortune to travel far and wide to study education in 38 countries and work on education policy at the 'best policy institution in the world', I have been forced to think hard about what is a 'good' education. I also wonder why after the so-called 'good' education, youth all over the world feel so much hopelessness and lack of direction.
What has guided my efforts are Baha'u'llah's words: “Regard man as a mine rich in gems of inestimable value. Education can alone cause it to reveal its treasures and enable mankind to benefit therefrom.” This inspired me to come up with 'GEMS—The Global Education Model of Schooling' and along with my colleague Dr Robert J Saunders, I founded the Council for Global Education in Washington, DC. First and foremost, GEMS is a new way of thinking and conceptualising education. Indeed, every child is a mine rich in gems of inestimable value.
Through education, we can unravel the gems hidden in each child and enable education to become, at the same time, an instrument of profound social transformation. TS Eliot once wrote:
“IT IS IN FACT A PART OF THE FUNCTION OF EDUCATION TO HELP US ESCAPE FROM THE INTELLECTUAL AND EMOTIONAL LIMITATIONS OF OUR OWN TIME.”
A Tunnel of Enlightenment...
As we review education's goals in the 21st century, an important question we need to ask is: 'Can we convert the Tunnel of Learning, this present educational system, into a Process of Enlightenment?' Other important questions are: 'What are the outcomes we seek from human potential and the educational process?' 'How do we re-organise educational content, its delivery and the educational environment to help every child become both 'good' and 'smart', preserve their self-esteem, and bring out the best of gems hidden within each one? Indeed, what do we need to do differently in order to meet the aspirations and address the reality of the world's children?
Indeed, how do we re-imagine@school assessments, materials, processes, attitudes, behaviour and training of teachers? How do we orient our staff and ourselves? What syllabus and curriculum do we adopt at each stage of development, pre-primary, primary, middle and senior? What single or mixed age class settings can help our children best at any point in time? Which of the new and varied teaching methods do we adopt and when, from among so many good methods, for example, inquiry, multiple intelligences, constructivism, cooperative learning, thematic work, etc.?
It is only when we know the outcomes we want, can we refine our approach to teaching and learning and choose from existing methods and make innovations of our own that integrate research and a scientific understanding of the child.
Together We Can!
What we desperately need is a new education based on a new set of ethics and governed by a new set of principles that are more suited to the needs of the 21 century.
In particular, we need to empower ALL our children, not just a few. With even as few as 20 children to a class (we rarely have that!), teachers are often hard pressed to personalize learning for the individual child. Differentiated teaching is hard to manage in the west, even with extra helper teachers in a class.
Can a teacher with 20 or more children in a class personalize learning so that every child excels or is this expectation an oxymoron? The experimental underpinnings of a personalised learning programme began in Aslandsskoli, Hafnarfjordur, in Iceland, in 2000. It was the beginning of an experiment with the help of some amazing individuals: Bodvar Jonsson and Steinunn Gudnadottir, Gudrun Petursdottir, Jonina Bjartmas, Hanna Ragnarsdottir and others with whom we started Iceland's first two charter schools.
We invite you to share your thoughts and experiences to help create a new education more suited to the needs and aspirations of children living in the 21st century.
Nurture's Global Education Model of Schooling
Four Essential Building Blocks of Education in the 21st Century
Universal Values are the spiritual qualities, virtues and values that we nurture in our children.
Our Report Card?- Are we doing an adequate job of instilling the attitudes, values and habits of life so needed today? Are our morning assemblies, and all the rest that we do to nurture values, enough of an antidote against moral decline in our society? Could we do more to make values not only integral but also real, and making individuals 'good' as equally important If not more important than making them 'smart'?
Global Understanding is about creating a love for other human beings and all things living, helping children recognize the preciousness of life and taking them beyond the narrow confines of caste, religion, country and colour.
Our Report Card?- Are we instilling in our children a love for existence, the preciousness of life, and the fundamental recognition that we are part of one, single human race, part of one global ethos? Do we help our children examine the deeper aspects of life, watch the night sky, hear the birds, smell the flowers, learn about the diversity and beauty of world cultures and languages, and appreciate the wonder and beauty of the universe?
Excellence in All Things is teaching children to do their best always and strive for perfection and beauty, recognise the potential of every child to become a successful member of a family, society and the world, and nurture every child's potential to become the best s/he can possibly be.
Our Report Card?- Do we in fact bring out the best in every child, or could we do more to nurture excellence in all things? How can we reorganise learning so as to inspire in every child an intrinsic desire to do one's best always, and to appreciate beauty and perfection in all one does? Can we nurture our children's potential to go beyond the narrow confines of exam success, to teach them the qualities of excellence in both human and material forms?
Service to Humanity goes beyond teaching children the concept of charity to recognising service as a way of life, instilled during the process of education itself, so that when they grow up, young adults will go beyond narrow concepts of success based on material gain to become conscious thinkers and doers, leaders of thought and action and proactive agents of social transformation.
Our Report Card?- Do we endorse and develop through our educational process a child's natural empathy, and do we nurture in them a desire to contribute and serve as they move from adolescence into a life of service?
Compete With Yourself ?
As history has witnessed, people who attain the most in life are people who compete with themselves.
The ethics of ‘Compete with Yourself’ brings out greater excellence in all children. Every child is empowered with not only the knowledge of her strengths and areas of improvement, every child also receives personalised targets, study materials and strategies to help to compete with herself, and personalised her succeed like never before.
Present day education is a barren field, rife with possibilities for anyone who wants to make a difference. If we want a new reality in education, we need to do things differently and we need to do different things. We need a metamorphosis in education. From the cocoon, a butterfly must emerge!
All change begins with a thought. If we were to re-imagine education in the 21st century, what would its tenets be?
Education is the most complex and challenging issue of our times. It is not just a local or a national concern but a subject of great deliberation worldwide. Even as the world has witnessed vast advances towards globalization and technology makes life much easier, education remains largely unchanged with its19th century objectives and old ethics intact. Current education, like an old injection with an expired date, has at best an uncertain outcome, the goals of which are at odds with the needs of the 21st century.
TS Eliot once wrote: “It is in fact a part of the function of education to help us escape from the intellectual and emotional limitations of our own time.”
Surely, the change we need in education today is far more than reduce the weight of our children's school bag, replace a few books, integrate the multiple intelligences or better technology, and train our teachers in the methods that accelerate learning? Through education, we can unravel the gems hidden in each child and enable each child to become, at the same time, an instrument of profound social transformation.
Having been fortunate enough to grow up into a family of “world class” educators, get a “world class” education myself, having had the fortune to travel far and wide to study education in 38 countries and work on education policy at the “best policy institutions in the world”, I have been forced to think hard about what indeed is a “good” education. I also wonder why after the so-called “good” education, youth all over the world feel so much hopelessness and lack of direction.