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Revamping the Education System for Younger Generations

24 August 2014 06:30 pm - 0     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}


It is true that a asignificant minority of youths in this country make use of the education system to attain their goals in life. Yet, for the others, education is largely irrelevant and meaningless. The perpetuation of such a system of education at public expense, without major reforms, is unjust and counter-productive. The purpose of this article is to show that, in spite of the presence of a large body of teachers, school managers and education officials as well as many institutions dedicated to education, the entire education system has deteriorated over time in terms of the quality of services delivered and the benefits it accrues to society.

Modern education has played a major part in facilitating social and economic development in many countries across the world. Educational philosophers from different parts of the world have helped develop a broader view of education that extended far beyond the narrow instrumental interpretation of education that largely underpins education today. In fact, education has been widely conceptualized as a holistic process encompassing cognitive, psychological, moral, political and social aspects, not just the development of human skills needed to perform various tasks in society. But, in some countries, education evolved into an elite system that simply conferred credentials to those who pass various tests and examinations, devoid of any attention to moral, psychological, political and social implications of education.

"From a broader national point of view, education has also contributed to national disunity, whereas it should promote social cohesion"

Today, the entire education system in this country is focused on national examinations. Students and their parents single-mindedly pursue examination success. We maintain nearly ten thousand schools and nearly 250,000 teachers, a massive education bureaucracy, several national institutions and a large number of ministries at national and provincial level at an enormous cost to the general public. Yet, most children attend many private tuition classes in all parts of the country, spending time and money, simply to ensure that they pass the national examinations. Educational authorities and others can see thousands of colourful posters and banners advertising private tuition classes, usually around schools, to entice hapless school children. While this should not surprise anyone in this country where some of the key decision-making positions in the sector are held by successful former private tuition masters, the critical question we should ask is whether even capable young children will fail their examinations if they do not attend these private classes. If the answer is in the affirmative, then who is accountable for this colossal failure of the public education system? Why should we employ thousands of full time teachers and principals who are trained at public expense if they cannot help pupils at least to pass their examinations?

On the other hand, in spite of school instruction and widespread private tuition, about 60% of the pupils do not go beyond the GCE (Ordinary Level). Their future livelihoods do not depend on the education they receive. Of those who go into GCE (Advanced Level), only about 5% go into university education. We also know that a majority of those who complete university education have poor employment prospects. So, all in all, the entire education system does not fulfill the aspirations of a majority of young people who are compelled to accept livelihoods that have little to do with their education. It is perhaps this realization that encourages many male youth to dropout from school early. In fact, more and more youth consider education as irrelevant for their future.

"Today, the entire education system in this country is focused on national examinations. Students and their parents single-mindedly pursue examination success"

As mentioned before, education should be treated as a process facilitating the development of the whole person encompassing cognitive, psychological, moral, social, aesthetic and political aspects. Yet, today education is largely reduced to its instrumental value. Success is measured in terms of examination results and educational credentials. Many who reach higher levels of educational attainment often do not have basic life skills including reading and writing skills and communication capabilities. There is hardly any need even to talk about other aspects of education as most schools do not seem to pay much attention to them.

What we have in the text books are abstracted from a large body of knowledge, information and the world around us. This abstracted knowledge cannot be meaningful to children and youth unless the whole teaching and learning process is intertwined with the wider environment outside the class room. But, this is not what is happening today.

An examination-oriented education system does not leave much space for other activities and experiences involving culture, social relations, the world of work, nature, aesthetics, collective life, etc. Both learning in school and private tuition after school keep children away from home and their neighborhoods, depriving them of much needed day to day social interactions within and beyond family. There is also little exposure to economic and social life in the community. Moreover, school children do not see any connection between what they learn from textbooks and the world outside the school.

Children and youth spend most of their time with peers in school and tuition classes. Much of the spare time available in between is spent in front of a TV screen, mobile phone, or a computer. The result is the weakening of inter-generational bonds. Schools do not prepare children to make realistic choices with regard to their personal lives. Teenage heterosexual affairs often end in tragedies such as unwanted pregnancies, inter-personal violence and even suicides.

From a broader national point of view, education has also contributed to national disunity, whereas it should promote social cohesion. Ethno-linguistic segregation of children and youth during the formative years of life has not only promoted exclusive ethno-religious identities but also deprived them of opportunities for language and inter-cultural learning.

It is in view of the above that the country can ill-afford to perpetuate the present, largely dysfunctional system of education and continue to avoid or delay major educational reforms any longer. Those who derive individual benefits from the system are likely to remain indifferent but a majority of youths and the country at large will continue to suffer if the authorities fail to adopt a far-sighted education policy and transform the education system accordingly. This is the only way to rectify its serious defects and develop the full potential of younger generations for their own benefit and the benefit of the entire country.

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