Making education worthwhile and even exciting

Prienderen Moodley By Prienderen Moodley, 18th Apr 2012 | Follow this author | RSS Feed
Posted in Wikinut>Family>Education

Looks at the the state of education in this country, the attitudes of learners, teachers and educators, and the growing perception that education is boring, too difficult or in some cases unnecessary. This is a critical evalutionof what needs to be done to make our education system more effective and more efficient

It's all about attitudes and perception

Education is the building block of any economy. This is a fact that cannot be disputed no matter what the general opinions of education systems of various countries are. I will not go into what an education system is except to say that it is the manner in which educators, learners, parents as well as various administrators work together in order to equip learners with the necessary theoretical as well as practical skills in order for the learners to be able to obtain employment, and thus be able to contribute to the economy.

Even though there seems to be politics here and there making our objectives diificult to see, plainly put, it is the learner that needs to be the centre of our focus. Let me ask this question - what state would the education system be in if there are no learners to educate? After you've answered that rhetorical question in your mind, let's focus on what it is that is providing significant barriers to learning in our education system.

Motivation is key

Motivation is a powerful tool which is not only important but crucial to making sure our learners actually learn something both at school and at home. Having worked as an educator and tutor for a couple of years now, I have noticed a growing trend in which learners displayed an obvious lack of motivation. This could be for various reasons - could be our changing society of teens in which learning is regarded as boring or in their terms "uncool", could be a lack of an effective mentor or role model, maybe the subjects are not taught properly in the classroom, could also be because of past experiences in the subjects, could be due to personal,physical, or emotional problems, or of course maybe because the learners feel that they won't be using the subject in their futures or that they do not have the ability to perform well in the subjects, or may have been told as such by educators or close members of family or friends.

Whatever the reasons are, the key thing is not to say to ourselves that "there's not much we can do about that" because that would be the same thing as saying there is no solution to these issues. Just becaue we can't see it, it doesn't mean the solution isn't there. It is true that it is difficult to deal with a fast changing teen society in which some teens move further and further away from the culture of learning. So why don't we just give them what they want - fun. No, I don't mean turn the learning environment into a circus or a joke centre or any social event for that matter. What I am suggesting here is that we add a bit of fun and excitement to the environment while the learning is taking place.

After all which do we prefer : a dull, serious, uneventful atmosphere where the learners may learn nothing from or a lively, free, exciting atmosphere in which the learners are encouraged to be themselves which enables them to go home with some knowledge?
Try different things for example using real life objects, or real life situations to explein the subject you are teaching, engage learners in activities, such as drawing, painting,
constructing and so forth to spark interest so that the learner will want to take part in the learning process. Use different contexts to explain how certain aspects of your subject differ from other aspects. Have we, in all these tense times with the declining economy as well as countless strikes, politcal mess and various other issues, lost our sense of humour, zest for life as well as this excitement at being able to help the future of our country (the learner)? If so we are not only hurting ourselves, we are hurting these learners and in so doing we are hurting the future of this country.

Come on educators

It is about time that we as educators as well as the leaders of the education system (I refer to some, not all, as there are those who are still flying the educator flag well) get our attitudes right. A few things never seize to amaze me when I look at our current system. The first one is this "brilliant" idea to keep lowering our standard of education so that we can enable more learners to pass. How is this a true reflection of what skills our learners have gained? The truth is that the learner's knowledge hasn't increased, it is just his marks that mask these frailties that increase (again I refer to some learners, not all because there are those who are deserving of their high marks).

I do appreciate that there is a significant amount of public pressure who feel that the standard of testing is too high but it is our duty to explain to the public in no uncertain terms the reason behind this high level of assessment. Educators have over the years also taken up this worrying habit of encouraging learners to switch to maths literacy. I would like to know why this happening because several of the maths literacy students
I have taught clearly have the necessary skill level to do maths core. For example, a learner who has obtained a mark of 40 to 50 percent in grade 9,10 or 11 should not really be encouraged to do maths literacy in the next grade because they can be helped to obtain a good enough mark in the next grade. With all due respect this is pure laziness on the part of us as educators. It is discouraging and even demoralising for these students to do this. Yes, if the learner is failing, I would understand completely.

Then there is growing tendency to encourage learners to us their calculators for the simplest of arithmetic. Let's be honest here, we can spend ages on figuring out tricks we can teach the learner to use on the calculator, but how is that of use to our learner? Sure enough, it may help them achieve greater marks, but is that really what the learning process is about? Correct me if I'm wrong but isn't maths about what mathematical knowledge the learner gains? My advice to you is to encourage learners to use less of their calculators and more of their mathematical skills. If the skills are not there or not of a high enough level then help them gain these skills. Time is a factor but we have to learn to manage our time better (host extra classes, etc) so that we can assist these learners perform to their potential.

Please encourage learners no matter how poor a mark they obtain. The last thing they need is an educator coming down on them hard because the educator feels that they are not good enough because that may cause them to be demotivated and they will not bother to put in the effort the next time. Patience is also crucial as it is so often that certain instructions, ideas or solutions need to be repeated in a variety of contexts in order for the learner to understand them.

Another worrying trend is this egotistical attitude which causes us to compete with ourselves as to who is the better educator and so forth. Just remember that a system is only as good as its weakest link, so please bear in mind that no system can run smoothly where there is politics and in-fighting involved. We must all work together to achieve the common goal and that is to assist the learners so it does not matter who is better than who, all that matters is whether the learners are any closer to performing at their optimum levels.

Notes to parents and the general public

We set a high level of assessment to challenge students to reach their full potential as well as to challenge those who are quicker learners and thus have aquired slightly higher skill level at the time of the tests or exams. It is for the public to understand that it is impossible to set different levels of tests, that is one for those with higher skill level and one for those with average skill level as well as one for those with lower skill level. This is for the following reasons:

(1) It labels the learners (mentally and psychologically) as either being brilliant (hence
being assigned a test that is designed for those with higher skill level), being
average (hence being assigned a test that is designed for those with higher skill
level) or being poor (hence being assigned a test that is designed for those with
lower skill level). This kind of labelling is detrimental to the learner who is of an
average or lower skill level because it creates mental block towards them achieving
higher marks in the future. We must also note here that skill level isn't something
that reamins the same, for example a learner with a low skill level may well gain
sufficient skills to become an average skilled learner, given time and effort, same
can be said of an average skilled learner - he or she can easily become a high
skilled learner, given time and effort. A high skilled learner can slip down to an
average skilled learner should he or she become complacent and thus not put in
much time and effort.

(2) It makes it impossible to gauge the learners' general skill level when it comes to
comparing the learners' skills to what skills are required to improve the global

(3) It creates havoc in the department of higher education (universities, technikons,etc)
because they will not be able to accept or reject learners because they cannot
compare the learners' results with their set criteria.

Please understand that we as educators try our best to assist the learners to achieve their best. It is wrong for us to lower the standard of education and increase the mearks because the level at tertiary level is of a high standard so it is crucial to set the very same levels at school level to prepare the students for the level of education set at tertiary level. If a learner is not prepared mentally as well as psychologically for what is expected of them at tertiary level it increases the likelihood of them failing and they may even become dropouts at some stage (not that I'm condoning this)

Parents, please encourage your children, no matter what kind of marks they achieve, you donot want to demotivate your children even fiurther after receiving the mark. Always be tuned in to their education and take the role of a listener whenever your child is in any kind of stress or dilemma. It is crucial that the child's emotional, psychological and mental states are solid in order for them to perform at their best on an intellectual level.

Notes to the learner

Last but not least, I have a few pieces of advice for the learner.

You, the learner are the future of this country. Your actions will shape our tomorrow.
Just remember that there is nothing that you can't achieve, given time and a bit of effort. I urge you not to notice of those who don't believe in you. In life we can do without those who take pleasure in belittling others. The key is to believe in yourself because there is no greater asset than self belief. Surround yourself with friends and family that have your best interests at heart, and even find yourself a mentor, someone who has a positive effect on your.

You won't know what's behind a door until you open it, and you won't be able to deal with something that you don't know of. Bear in mind that if you don't try then you guarantee that you will fail but at least if you try you will have a fifty percent chance chance of passing. Whataver the result don't don't lose hope, go forward with determination and perseverance, and you will succeed in time. Take it a step at a time and you will improve and give yourself credit for even the slightest improvement but donot get down on yourself if somehow you don't improve, just be more determined to do better next time.

Your future is in your hands, it depends how badly you want it. If you want it badly enough, you can reach out and touch it. Please by all means have fun while you learn but please take your learning seriously. Take care and all the best in your life.

Here are some of my other articles that you may be interested in:-

The double-edged sword
Grass is always greener on your side
Nights of redness
Laughing the troubles away

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