Traditional Educational Institutions in Child Education in Sierra Leone

INTRODUCTION

Sierra Leone is bounded on the north-west, north and north-east by the Republic Guinea, on the south-east by the Republic of Liberia and on south-west by the Atlantic Ocean. It has an area of 27,925 square miles. The colony of Sierra Leone originated in the sale and cession in 1787 by native chiefs to English settlers of a piece of land intended as a home for African settlers who were waifs in London and later it was used as a settlement for freed African slaves. The hinterland was declared a British Protectorate on 21st August, 1896. Sierra Leone attained independence on 27th April, 1961 and became a Republic in 1971. Education is provided by both private and state-sponsored schools. The current system of education is 6-3-4-4 (that is six years Primary school, three years Junior Secondary School, four years Senior Secondary School and four years tertiary/higher education. This system is complemented by non- formal education.

CONCEPT OF EDUCATION

Education is frequently used in the sense of instruction in the classroom, laboratory, workshop or domestic science room and consists principally in the imparting by the teacher, and the acquisition by pupils, of information and mental as well as manual skills. A wider meaning than instruction is that of schooling. That is to say all that goes on within the school as part of the pupil’s life there. It includes, among other things, relationship between pupils and teachers, pupils and pupils both in and outside the school. J. S. Mill (1931) opined that whatever helps to shape the human being; to make the individual what he is or hinder him from being what he is not is part of his education. Implicitly education is lifelong and ubiquitous; it is the sum total of all influences which go to make a person what he is, from birth to death. It includes the home, our neighbors, and the street among others.

Education is to some extent a deliberate planned process devised and conducted by the educator with the purpose of imbuing the learner with certain information, skills, of mind and body as well as modes of behavior considered desirable. In part it is the learner’s own response to the environment in which he lives. Education has three focal points: the individual/person upon whom the educator’s influences are brought to bear; the society or community to which he belongs; and the whole context of reality within which the individual and society play their part. Man is a social creature; he grows as a person through the impact of personality on personality; and even for his basic physical needs he depends on the help and cooperation of his fellow men and women. Without society and the mutual support and enrichment of experiences which it provides civilization is impossible and the life of man, in Hobbes’ words, is “solitary, poor, nasty, brutish and short.”

One of the fundamental facts of human existence is the tension between the pull of the past and the forward urge into the future, between stability and change, tradition and innovation. For effective living,man needs a circle of security, an area of established habits and relationship which forms dependable relationships. This is also true of society. For its effective functioning there must be an underlying continuity of traditions and outlook which preserves its identity as a society and safeguards it against the disruptive effects of change. Change must be for life and not static but this change in turn must be controlled by the basic traditions of society. It is tradition which gives a nation its character and distinctiveness as a society. The conservation of tradition therefore is obviously crucial.

It has been recognized from time immemorial that the conservation of traditional education has a vital part to play in the development of the child. The children of today are the adults of tomorrow; they must be trained therefore, to inherit and perpetuate the beliefs and modes of life peculiar to the particular society to which they belong. For every society has the desire to preserve itself not only physically but as community consciously sharing certain aims, ideals and patterns of behavior. This type of education is not necessarily formal in schools by means of classroom instruction but that effected indirectly through the family and through the impact on the individual of social influences and customs which the child cannot evade. In Sierra Leone this social education included elaborate ceremonies of initiation involving feats of endurance in which young men and women must prove themselves worthy of the community. The ultimate goal was to produce an individual who was honest, respectful, skilled, cooperative, and who could conform to the social order of the day. As Aristotle once stated “the constitution of a state will suffer if education is neglected. The citizens of a state should always be educated to suit the constitution of the state. The type of character appropriate to a constitution is the power which continues to sustain it as it is also the state force which originally created it” (p. I).

TRADITIONAL EDUCATION IN SOCIETY

Traditional education has both a creative and conservation function in society; it is a powerful means of preserving a society’s customs, if not culture. In the past the nature and needs of society played a vital part in determining the nature of education. Professor M.V.C. Jeffreys (1950) once wrote in his book, Glaucon, that “in a tranquil society the educational system will tend to reflect the social pattern, while social uneasiness and instability create opportunity for using education as an instrument of social change”(p.7). A similar view was shared by John Dewey (1897) who opined that through education society can formulate its own purposes, can organize its own means and resources and thus save itself with definiteness and economy in the direction in which it wishes to move. Education looks both to the past and the future; inevitably it reflects the traditions and character of society. Traditional education can be used to prepare for changes in society and anticipate and prevent changes or the effects of changes in society.

Traditional education conserves and hands on the customs and ways of life which constitute the character of a society and maintains its unity. It also helps society to interpret its functions in new ways to meet the challenges of change, seeking ways or lines of development which are consistent with the traditions and customs and will at the same time raise society to a more complete fulfillment of itself.
TRADITIONAL EDUCATIONAL INSTITUTIONS IN SIERRA LEONE

History reveals that there were no formal schools where children were educated in Pre-colonial Sierra Leone. The Poro and Bondo/Sande Secret Societies were looked upon as institutions to train children. They were bush schools. And the education these bush schools provided was informal. Children who went through these secret societies were considered capable of carrying out their civic responsibilities. They became adults and can marry and start life. They considered themselves as one family. In other words both Secret Societies created a sense of comradeship and unity among members irrespective of family, clan or ethnic affiliation. It was therefore considered that children who had not gone through these secret societies were not fully matured.

The Poro Secret Society is for boys. The spiritual head of the Poro Society is Pa Gbonu, seen only by the older graduates or members. The physical heads are the Pa Sama Yorgbors and Pa Somanos. They direct the activities of the institution. The senior instructors are the Pa Kashis, who generally teach and give instructions to other initiators. The Pa Manchiyas serve as teachers to the initiates while the Kachemas are the scaring spirits. They scare the women and children alike together with the new initiates. The Rakas are the errand boys carrying messages around. The Yambas are the head boys. The Bomos are the senior prefects while the Sayboms are the prefects; and the monitors are the Gbanaboms. Informal classes are held in the Secret Poro Bush. The subjects taught include Creative Practical Arts, Performing Arts, Practical Agriculture, Medicine i.e. use of local herbs for the treatment of different ailments), warfare and other skills. In Creative Practical Arts initiates are taught how to make fishing nets, baskets, mats, and carving wood and soap stones into different objects such as animals and humans; in Performing Arts initiates are taught singing, dancing and the use of Poro musical instruments. In Practical Agriculture initiates practice farming. Boys are taught to bear hardship without complaint and grow accustomed to it. Thus they are taken to the farms of their teachers and elders to work on pro bono basis. However during the harvest season initiates could pass through these farms taking whatever they need and eat without being questioned by farm owners. Initiates are taught to respect elders and use of guns to kill animals. In a similar vein initiates are taught how to use guns in fighting in defense of their communities. Other skills initiates are taught include making fish traps, fishing and hunting net, and basketry. In the use of herbs initiates pay money (some freely given) for healing various sicknesses as well as for protection against enemies, evil spirits and snake bites. Initiates who want to cause harm to others using herbs could ‘redeem’ the herb/medicine concerned. Over all initiates are taught a new Language spoken only by members called Ke Sornor. For example fonka trika meaning I am talking to you; fonka bonomi meaning Talk to me. The use of this new Language makes graduates very proud and feel different from non-initiates. Graduates come out with new names such as Lamp, Langba and Kolerr. A graduation ceremony climaxes the event.

Parents make massive preparations including sewing dresses for the graduates. To mark the graduation ceremony there is feasting, drinking, dancing and singing praise songs for the graduates and their parents. Those qualified for initiation must have been circumcised and grown to age of puberty. They have to live on their own during the period of training which ranges from one to seven years. Graduates are fully admitted to the general Poro society through another ceremony called Enkorie, which lasts for four days.

The Bondo/Sande Society is the institution where girls are trained for womanhood. Its spiritual head is Na Bondigba. The Na Gboyamas and Na Wulus are the physical heads. These have spiritual powers used to foretell the future and catch witches. They are the senior teachers. The Na Sokos are the service teachers. They can initiate girls even up to the advanced stage of the Society. The Digbas are the general teachers and stay close to the initiates. The Sampas are the skillful dancers and errand girls/women. They make announcements about the progress and activities or programs during the graduation ceremony.

The Na Fets, as the name implies do not know all the secrecy of the institution. They carry the institutional implements and regalia. The Karr Ayeamus are the ‘waiters’ to be initiated into the higher status of the institution. Girls admitted to the Bondo/Sande Society are trained informally. Classes are held at Kantha or sacred home. The teachers are largely concerned with the transmission to these adolescent girls the skills and knowledge which adult women are expected to possess in order to function properly and intelligently in their community. The subjects girls are taught include Cooking, Performing Arts, Fishing, Husband and Child Care, and Home Management. In Cooking girls are taught how to prepare food through observation and participation in the preparation of various dishes and are later allowed to have a go with little or no supervision. Those who could not cook properly are allowed to repeat. In Performing Arts girls are taught how to compose and sing songs and how to beat the Bondo/Sande drums (sambories). Alongside singing girls are taught how to dance and those who dance well may join the hierarchy of the Sampas. Girls are also taught how to fishing, make fishing nets, fishing baskets, sleeping mats from bamboo and palm leaves. Further girls are taught how to help their prospective husbands and how to take care of children especially those of senior members. Like the Poro Society graduation ceremonies are marked by massive preparations. Both parents and prospective husbands would buy new dresses, slippers, perfumes, powder, and beads to make neck laces. On the day of the graduation ceremony the new initiates are arrayed in white with coronets. They come out with new names such as Burah, Yeanor, Rukor and Yainkain. This demonstrates a sign of maturity. Initiating girls into Bondo/Sande society lasts between a few months and three years.

CHALLENGES

If education has the vital function of perpetuating the traditions and values of society, of adapting them to a changing environment, and of raising them to richer and more fruitful expression then both the Poro and Bondo/Sande Secret Societies, as traditional agents of this process should enjoy a position of the highest esteem. Through these secret societies the nation’s culture flows from one generation to the other and the aspirations of society are focused with intimate and telling persuasion upon the young. They stand at a point where the energies of children are released into new and creative possibilities. Through these secret societies children remember the past activities of their predecessors. They help in behavioral training patterns of society. These societies are institutions of inspiration and both politicians and chiefs use them to advantage. That is to either gain or maintain power. Major and binding decisions are taken in the Poro Bush of which only members are allowed to attend and take part. The Poro Secret Society acts as a check against the abuse of power. In crisis ridden situations major decision are taken in the Poro Bush. The Poro society even acts as arbitrator in chiefdom disputes and could promulgate general laws and regulate trading practices. It is also involved in the burial of chiefs and other important local officials (Alie, 1990).

Western education has existed in the country for long and is now so integral part of the civilized life that there is a tendency to assume that it is the main or sole means of imparting skills, knowledge and social values in children. This is not the case in Sierra Leone. The importance of the Poro and Bondo traditional secret societies cannot be over-sighted because of their enormous potentiality in educating children for life in society. Fundamental is that respect for persons as persons is the basis of traditional society. Linked with this is courtesy, sensitivity to the needs of others, cooperativeness, self-discipline, moral and physical courage, hard work and high standards of achievement. These are passed on to children in the environment in which they are part of their daily experiences. Notwithstanding, these traditional institutions as agents of education are currently faced with many challenges there-by forcing their demise. The practice of female genital circumcision is of international concern and in Sierra Leone people are agitating for its total ban. Currently girls are allowed to be circumcised at age eighteen during which time a child is perceived to be matured enough to choose whether or not to be initiated into the Bondo/Sande secret society. In addition the period of initiation is perceived too long and is being challenged. Besides children these days no longer have to be initiated into these societies to be taught how to be clean, cook, rear children, practice agriculture, and inculcate morals and virtues to cite a few examples. All these could be learnt either in or outside formal schooling through reading. What is more Religion, especially Christianity and Islam, western life, as well as rural-urban migration are forcing these secret societies to obliteration.

Besides the activities and work of these traditional societies are not in curriculum form and documented. Neither also is the use of herbs documented. Therefore by discontinuing these traditional secret societies Sierra Leoneans stand to lose their cultural heritage. If however, education has the vital function of perpetuating the traditions and values of society, of adapting them to a changing environment, and of raising them to a richer and more fruitful expression then these traditional secret societies, as agents of this process should enjoy a position of the highest esteem. Through these societies the national culture flows from one generation to another and the aspirations of society are focused with intimate and telling persuasion upon the young. These secret societies stand at the point where the energies of children are released into new and creative possibilities.

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Strategies to Transform From a Trainer to a Workforce Educator

Corporate training has tremendous potential to promote learning in organizations. There are two primary elements that are responsible for how much potential is realized within the corporate training classroom, and those elements are the materials provided and the method of delivery. An instructional designer, or someone in a similar role, can develop engaging materials but if the delivery is not well executed, the training will not be as effective as it could. In contrast, if the training materials have not been designed in the most engaging manner, or the material is technical in nature, it is the trainer who can still create positive classroom conditions that are conducive to learning.

There are two types of trainers that can be found within organizations that choose to invest in learning and development. The first is a trainer who adequately delivers the required training materials and meets the minimum requirements for their role. The other type is a trainer who has evolved into someone who has a much greater impact on the learning process within a training classroom, a trainer who has transformed into a workforce educator. While it may seem that both are performing the same function, and to some degree they are because they work with the same materials, one disseminates information and the other brings the class to life and connects the information to participants in a meaningful manner. Becoming a workforce educator does not happen automatically and requires making a conscious decision as a trainer to improve upon existing skills, acquire additional knowledge, and develop new instructional strategies.

The Work of a Corporate Trainer

In general, a corporate trainer will view training from an outcome-based, task-oriented perspective. Participants are required to attend assigned classes and their willing compliance is expected. The role of a trainer involves preparing to instruct participants for what they are expected to learn or complete by the end of the class, whether it involves acquiring new knowledge or developing new skills. They also understand that the primary responsibilities for their role include providing materials, giving instructions, showing processes and procedures, and answering questions. A trainer knows that the learning objectives or outcomes, whether or not they have been directly involved in developing them, determine what must be accomplished and the final results at the end of the class are somewhat within their control since they demand involvement but they cannot force participants to learn.

Of course there are certainly exceptions to this general rule and there are trainers who have taken workshops and classes to advance their knowledge of corporate training methodologies and processes; however, someone who holds a task-centered view of learning still fits within the typical definition of a corporate trainer. Professional development is available through a variety of resources, which includes professional associations devoted to this field. However, professional development requires more than a membership to an organization or group, it must also involve a genuine interest in the growth of the trainer’s own skills. It is easy to believe that if classroom observations and/or performance reviews are adequate, and students respond in a mostly favorable manner to the training instruction, that no further learning and development is needed. That belief only sustains a trainer’s current role and mindset, which can limit their future potential.

Corporate trainers may also be called facilitators or instructors. The words instructor and trainer are generally thought to have the same meaning and they are used interchangeably. Some organizations refer to their trainers as facilitators as it suggests that a trainer is guiding the class rather than leading the process of learning. While that is certainly possible, taking this type of approach still requires advanced instructional experience and strategies, which would change the role of the trainer beyond someone who delivers materials and expects that participants will comply with their instructions. Unless a trainer has acquired advanced knowledge of adult learning and pursued their own professional development, what they are usually most skilled at is the art of corporate training.

What it Means to Be a Workforce Educator

The word facilitator is really not enough to adequately describe a trainer who has transformed from someone who delivers information to someone who educates. A corporate classroom is still going to be instructor-driven, given the nature of how most training occurs, which means the instructor is going to do something more than facilitate a process. Unless students are given the materials in advance, allowed to prepare for discussions before the class begins, and given an opportunity to demonstrate what they have learned through written projects, a trainer is going to do more than guide the participants – they are still going to lead and direct the class. However, what can change the process of corporate training is a trainer who has purposefully transformed and become a workforce educator.

An educator is someone who has developed a different view of how employees as participants are involved in the learning process. In addition, an educator understands that learning begins within the mind of the participants, not with the materials they need to deliver. They are not going to just give participants information that must be assimilated – they understand the basic process of adult learning and through knowing some of the most important adult education principles they will help students learn, apply, and retain new knowledge. A workforce educator will develop instructional strategies that are learner or employee focused, and they will partner with the instructional designer or person who is involved in curriculum development to make certain that all learning activities support the participants’ overall progress and development.

There is another important distinction made between a corporate trainer and a workforce educator. A corporate trainer believes they know enough and are well-equipped to train employees. In contrast, an educator is someone who is focused on their own professional self-development. Regardless of whether a trainer was hired because of their experience rather than their academic accomplishments, they possess a genuine interest in learning how to educate adults. They continue to learn from classes and workshops they attend, they read materials and resources that further the development of their own knowledge base, and they use self-reflection after each class to assess the effectiveness of their instructional strategies. It is possible to be a natural educator without having an advanced degree in adult education because what matters most is the pursuit of some form of ongoing professional development, along with a willingness to continue to learn and adapt for the benefit of the employees as students.

Strategies to Transform from a Trainer to an Educator

The most important characteristics needed to make the transformation from trainer to educator is a mindset that is focused on teaching rather than telling participants what they need to learn, along with an attitude of ongoing development and a willingness to learn. An educator is someone who views themselves as a lifelong learner, even if they have not acquired advanced education. There are many resources available now for educators, especially online, which will anyone to acquire the knowledge necessary to improve their craft. But if someone believes they have already learned enough or know enough about learning, that thinking is going to cause them to get stuck and their developmental capacity becomes limited over time.

Once a trainer has decided they want acquire additional knowledge about adult learning, they can begin to conduct research and read about some of the most important adult education theories. This is going to serve as a pivotal turning point in an educator’s career, becoming well-informed about the process of learning as an adult. One theory that can inform the work of an educator is andragogy, which is about the process of teaching adults who already have experience and knowledge that shapes how they are involved as students or participants. Additional topics and theories that are important to research include cognition, learning styles, critical thinking, transformative learning, student motivation and engagement, multiple intelligences, constructivism, academic skills and academic preparedness, and self-directed learning. There are numerous online websites and blogs devoted to adult education, along with articles about adult learning that can be found online or in print through an online library database.

Ongoing professional development can continue by connecting with other professionals, and LinkedIn is a helpful place to begin searching as there are numerous groups and associations that can be found through this professional networking website resource. As a member of a LinkedIn group it is possible to become involved in discussions and share resources with like-minded professionals who have similar interests in adult learning. Another helpful social networking website that can be used for sharing resources with educators worldwide is Twitter. Your ability to connect with the right audience will depend upon the manner in which you establish your profile and indicate what your professional interests are. The purpose of being involved in ongoing research and connecting with other educators is to inform your work and help you develop instructional strategies that are effective in creating conditions in the classroom where learning can occur. The more you transform and improve your instructional style, the better outcomes your students are likely to experience as a result of attending your corporate training classes.

Corporate Training is Necessary, Workforce Education is Developmental

Corporate training will always be necessary for any organization that needs to provide skill set training or relevant job-related knowledge. There are many individuals who have made a successful career from their work as a trainer, skillfully delivering information in a manner that reduces employee resistance to the training process. Those same individuals may believe that they offer the best possible classroom experience and no further training is required, and they may well be correct. However, everyone who is involved in corporate training has an ability to become more than a trainer, regardless of whether they provide technical training, soft skills training, or other developmental forms of training. Workforce education changes the perspective of a trainer and focuses on the potential of every employee. An educator can help employees obtain the maximum possible benefit from the training classes, while helping them transfer what was learned in the class to their job. This brings out the best in the trainers and the participants as employees, as both experience the transformative nature of learning and being fully engaged in the process. The result of a trainer becoming a workforce educator is that they will likely be more effective in their role, which means that employees (as participants) will gain more from the learning process while improving their retention of knowledge and engagement at work.

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The Montessori Education System and the Desire to Learn

In Pedagogy of the Oppressed, Paulo Freire talks about what he calls the banking system of education. In the banking system the student is seen as an object in which the teacher must place information. The student has no responsibility for cognition of any sort; the student must simply memorize or internalize what the teacher tells him or her. Paulo Freire was very much opposed to the banking system. He argued that the banking system is a system of control and not a system meant to successfully educate. In the banking system the teacher is meant to mold and change the behavior of the students, sometimes in a way that almost resembles a fight. The teacher tries to force information down the student’s throat that the student may not believe or care about.

This process eventually leads most students to dislike school. It also leads them to develop a resistance and a negative attitude towards learning in general, to the point where most people won’t seek knowledge unless it is required for a grade in a class. Freire thought that the only way to have a real education, in which the students engage in cognition, was to change from the banking system into what he defined as problem-posing education. Freire described how a problem-posing educational system could work in Pedagogy of the Oppressed by saying, “Students, as they are increasingly posed with problems relating to themselves in the world and with the world, will feel increasingly challenged and obliged to respond to that challenge. Because they apprehend the challenge as interrelated to other problems within a total context not as a theoretical question, the resulting comprehension tends to be increasingly critical and thus constantly less alienated”(81). The educational system developed by the Italian physician and educator Maria Montessori presents a tested and effective form of problem-posing education that leads its students to increase their desire to learn as opposed to inhibiting it.

Freire presents two major problems with the banking concept. The first one is that in the banking concept a student is not required to be cognitively active. The student is meant to simply memorize and repeat information, not to understand it. This inhibits the students’ creativity, destroys their interest in the subject, and transforms them into passive learners who don’t understand or believe what they are being taught but accept and repeat it because they have no other option. The second and more dramatic consequence of the banking concept is that it gives an enormous power to those who choose what is being taught to oppress those who are obliged to learn it and accept it. Freire explains that the problems lies in that the teacher holds all the keys, has all the answers and does all the thinking. The Montessori approach to education does the exact opposite. It makes students do all the thinking and problem solving so that they arrive at their own conclusions. The teachers simply help guide the student, but they do not tell the student what is true or false or how a problem can be solved.

In the Montessori system, even if a student finds a way to solve a problem that is slower or less effective than a standard mechanical way of solving the problem, the teacher will not intervene with the student’s process because this way the student learns to find solutions by himself or herself and to think of creative ways to work on different problems.

The educational system in the United States, especially from grade school to the end of high school, is almost identical to the banking approach to education that Freire described. During high school most of what students do is sit in a class and take notes. They are then graded on how well they complete homework and projects and finally they are tested to show that they can reproduce or use the knowledge which was taught. Most of the time the students are only receptors of information and they take no part in the creation of knowledge. Another way in which the U.S. education system is practically identical to the banking system of education is the grading system. The grades of students mostly reflect how much they comply with the teacher’s ideas and how much they are willing to follow directions. Grades reflect submission to authority and the willingness to do what is told more than they reflect one’s intelligence, interest in the class, or understanding of the material that is being taught. For instance, in a government class in the United States a student who does not agree that a representative democracy is superior to any other form of government will do worse than a student who simply accepts that a representative democracy is better than a direct democracy, socialism, communism, or another form of social system. The U.S. education system rewards those who agree with what is being taught and punishes those who do not.

Furthermore, it discourages students from questioning and doing any thinking of their own. Because of the repetitive and insipid nature of our education system, most students dislike high school, and if they do well on their work, it is merely for the purpose of obtaining a grade as opposed to learning or exploring a new idea.

The Montessori Method advocates child based teaching, letting the students take control of their own education. In E.M Standing’s The Montessori Revolution in Education, Standing says that the Montessori Method “is a method based on the principle of freedom in a prepared environment”(5). Studies done on two groups of students of the ages of 6 and 12 comparing those who learn in a Montessori to those who learn in a standard school environment show that despite the Montessori system having no grading system and no obligatory work load, it does as well as the standard system in both English and social sciences; but Montessori students do much better in mathematics, sciences, and problem solving. The Montessori system allows for students to be able to explore their interests and curiosity freely. Because of this the Montessori system pushes students toward the active pursuit of knowledge for pleasure, meaning that students will want to learn and will find out about things that interest them simply because it is fun to do so.
Maria Montessori started to develop what is now known as the Montessori Method of education in the early twentieth century.

The Montessori Method focuses on the relations between the child, the adult, and the environment. The child is seen as an individual in development. The Montessori system has an implied notion of letting the child be what the child would naturally be. Montessori believed the standard education system causes children to lose many childish traits, some of which are considered to be virtues. In Loeffler’s Montessori in Contemporary American Culture, Loeffler states that “among the traits that disappear are not only untidiness, disobedience, sloth, greed, egoism, quarrelsomeness, and instability, but also the so-called ‘creative imagination’, delight in stories, attachment to individuals, play, submissiveness and so forth”. Because of this perceived loss of the child, the Montessori system works to enable a child to naturally develop self-confidence as well as the ability and willingness to actively seek knowledge and find unique solutions to problems by thinking creatively. Another important difference in how children learn in the Montessori system is that in the Montessori system a child has no defined time slot in which to perform a task. Instead the child is allowed to perform a task for as long as he wants. This leads children to have a better capacity to concentrate and focus on a single task for an extended period of time than children have in the standard education system.

The role which the adult or teacher has in the Montessori system marks another fundamental difference between the Montessori s Method and the standard education system. With the Montessori Method the adult is not meant to constantly teach and order the student. The adult’s job is to guide the child so that the child will continue to pursue his curiosities and develop his or her own notions of what is real, right, and true. Montessori describes the child as an individual in intense, constant change. From observation Montessori concluded that if allowed to develop by himself, a child would always find equilibrium with his environment, meaning he would learn not to mistreat others, for example, and to interact positively with his peers. This is important because it leads to one of the Montessori Method’s most deep-seated ideas, which is that adults should not let their presence be felt by the children. This means that although an adult is in the environment with the students, the adult does not necessarily interact with the students unless the students ask the adult a question or request help. Furthermore, the adult must make it so that the students do not feel like they are being observed or judged in any way. The adult can make suggestions to the children, but never orders them or tells them what to do or how to do it. The adult must not be felt as an authority figure, but rather almost as another peer of the children.

The consequence of this, not surprisingly, is that a lot less ‘work’ gets done by the students. Nevertheless, the students’ development is dramatically better in the Montessori system than in a standard education system. But how can students who have no obligation to do any work possibly compete with students who are taught in the standard system and do much more work in class and at home? I believe the answer lies in that while students taught in the standard way are constantly being pushed towards disliking school and doing things mechanically without really thinking about it, Montessori students are led to actively explore their interests and enjoy doing so. Furthermore, Montessori students are constantly engaged in cognition. They are continuously learning to think in different ways and creating solutions to problems from scratch, as opposed to students in the standard method of education who only solve problems with the tools or information that the teacher gives them to use.

The final important aspect of the Montessori Method is the environment in which the student learns and explores. As mentioned before, it is of utmost importance that the children feel like they are safe and free to do what they want for as long as they want. It is also important for the children to have a variety of didactic material to play and learn with. These can be as simple as cards with different letters which the students use to make different words with. In this way the student can get the idea of the letter being a physical object which can be moved and manipulated to formulate words as opposed to simply an abstract concept which he must write repeatedly on a piece of paper. Montessori describes a copious amount of didactic materials that she used. She also describes how effective they were at helping the children grasp concepts such as the formation of sentences, square roots, and division. The didactic materials do not just help the students grasp the concept of different abstractions from reality, they also make learning a game and this makes students develop a natural joy for learning and thinking about abstract concepts. In The Montessori Revolution in Education, Standing talks about a young girl who was learning to read and played a game in which she attempted to read words from cards containing different words marked with different levels of difficulty. Standing states about the girl, “She was fairly rushing at this intellectual food. But even in Set 2 most of the words seemed beyond her. At last she had made out one, M – A – N, MAN. How delighted she was! With what joy did she place the card triumphantly under the picture of the man!”(173). This aspect of the Montessori method, in which children are left to play different learning games at their will, creates a hunger and excitement for learning.

Especially at a young age, it is much easier and enjoyable for children to learn with didactic materials instead of simply sitting in a classroom and taking notes when the children are wishing they were somewhere else or doing something else the entire time they are meant to be learning. With the use of didactic materials and by allowing students to use them or not use them whenever they want to, the Montessori system gives the students the freedom to learn what they want to when they want to. This is especially important when we think about how the standard method of education, like the banking system, forces students to ‘learn’ even when the students don’t want the information being shoved down their throats, and this leads to a form of artificial learning where students memorize information or to a mechanical process where students do not internalize the information and forget it as soon as they are not being graded on it.

Montessori criticized the standard method of education greatly. In addition to seeing it as inefficient and outdated, Montessori, like Freire, believed that it was oppressive to the students. In her book The Montessori Method, Montessori writes, “The principle of slavery still pervades pedagogy, and therefore, the same principle pervades the school”(16). Montessori then goes on to describe a simple example which illustrates her point. She talks about how chairs are especially designed for classrooms. These classroom chairs, Montessori posits, are made to restrict as much movement as possible, force the children to look forward towards the teacher, and make them as visible as possible to the teacher so the children always feel like they are being watched and must behave properly.

Montessori views the standard method of education as an antagonistic model in which the teacher is basically fighting the student, constantly trying to control him and repress his childish behavior while attempting to force feed him knowledge that the student does not want. Despite the many studies which have shown that the Montessori Method is more effective and humane than the standard method, and even though more than 100 years have passed since it was introduced to the United States, very little has changed in the way children are educated here.

In Pedagogy of the Oppressed, Freire says that education is used as a tool to manipulate and control masses. He proposes that the banking system of education exists and persists not because of its effectiveness at getting students to learn, but rather its effectiveness at indoctrinating children into believing something that the people who control the schools want them to believe. This leads to an important question. What is more important for the United States: that children grow up being able to think for themselves, or that they grow up believing what others deem correct? Here, especially in public high schools, there is a strong emphasis on nationalism and many ideas are taught as inherently inferior to others. For example, it is not only taught in schools that capitalism is better and more humane than, for instance, socialism and communism, but rather students are also taught to fear these concepts and to fear the very idea of questioning or thinking about social structures other than capitalism and economic models other than the free market. Furthermore, teachers often promote the false portrayal of the United States as the hero and police of the entire world. The U.S. education system is not meant to liberate students and inspire them to seek knowledge, but rather it is meant to keep them in line and is used as a tool to shape a kind of person who thinks only as far as is socially acceptable. How much our education system is manipulated by the interests of the people who control it is questionable. However, it is clear that whether or not our education system is being used to control the masses, it lends itself well to do so and can be used to sway people’s opinion and repress ideas that might go against the establishment.

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Education and the Complete Individual

Education is something that many have said much about. Most of these are complex or vague. Consider the Greek philosopher Aristotle’s saying that education is ‘an ornament in prosperity’ and ‘a refuge in adversity’. There have been a great many attempts to explain this description, but none have quite succeeded in satisfying my curiosity. Alternatively, this is what the English essayist Joseph Addison has to say on education: What sculpture is to a block of marble, education is to a human soul. This too, has a great many explanations and elaborations. But does it really tell us what education is? Does it tell us why we need education? Not really, since the concept of the soul is, till date, a shadowy area. So how can we begin to comprehend what everyone claims is essential to life nowadays? To put it simply, education is a process of training our mind so that we can apply it in a field of our choice: which is why we have education not as a single seamless entity, but as a whole made up of various divisions: music education, scientific and technological education, art education, even teacher education!

Education can be considered similar to picking and eating a fruit. Picking a particular fruit on the tree is akin to choosing a field to get an education of. When we bite into it, we get our first taste of the subject. As we chew on the bitten portion, we begin to understand its various aspects – the tastes, textures, intricacies and complexities of it – and when we are ready to move on to the next portion, we swallow what we have assimilated so far so that it can be used for further application. The tree we get the fruit from is the entire body of past thinkers’ teachings and the voice that tells us which fruit to pick is the interpreter of that knowledge: the teacher.

Throughout the lifelong course of education (no, it’s not like school or college which ends after a fixed period of time), we get to know about things that always were, still are and always will be around us, waiting to be recognized and acknowledged. Light plays a central role in education – both literally and metaphorically – for visual inputs are the best learnt and without light – of the sun or electrical – we would be missing out on a whole world of knowledge. In fact, this is where phrases like ‘light of knowledge’, ‘throw light on the matter’, ‘kept in the dark’ and so on came from.

You might be thinking, how can we narrow the infinite field of knowledge to select what we will need or want to know? This is where the part on ‘training the mind’ comes in. The mind, as psychology tells us, is the centre of cognitive faculties which enables consciousness, thinking, perception and judgement. It is the kitchen for the information we acquire, where we can season and prepare the bits and pieces of data into comprehensive knowledge. Like any good kitchen, the mind has infinite capabilities (which is often the reason for confusion among us youth when it comes to deciding on a particular field to ‘specialize in’ for higher education) and therefore needs to be trained in order to make this choice clearer as every good chef needs to know what to or not to use for a dish. Unfortunately, the world we live in does not allow us to experiment with our capabilities without being ostracized or reduced to penury. Thus the need for specialization. And thus the need for education.

Another obvious question would be: how can we get education? It’s easier to use metaphors and analogies when describing something like this, but a parallel in the real world is sometimes hard to provide. One answer could be a school, college or university. There are also other means to formally get education. Such as home-schooling, distance learning etc. All of these provide us with a forum to exchange knowledge – where we can gain as well as give. This is a guided and restricted form of education, especially in the Indian scenario. It is difficult to find a good school where we can tailor our education according to our needs and interests. Often, we fail to avail of the opportunity even if it is within our reach. Peer pressure, our parents’ and elders’ wants, whims and wishes and societal trends all play a role in influencing us. And this very often has an adverse effect with the student being unable to cope with the contradictory inputs and buckling under the combined pressure. An educational system where students can fulfil their desires and not bow to transient trends is necessary for proper development and realization of one’s full potential. An example of how this can help could be the famous English poet John Keats. Trained to become a doctor, Keats renounced his apothecary’s license to follow his desire, eventually creating a path for himself that no one else has quite been able to match.

Education is not just a pathway to money, as is often considered nowadays. The fact that it provides a doorway to affluence is secondary. Education is first and foremost, I believe, a source of joy and pleasure that is also a means of enhancing our capabilities. It is a landing that provides us with infinite doorways to choose to continue into, each leading to a different yet interconnected walk of life (after all, how can we forget that science and philosophy, despite being ‘at odds with one another’ go back beyond human comprehension?).

The needs of the human in order to lead a productive and satisfactory life have long been debated. Yet one point stands clear in this debate: along with the basic necessities of food, clothing and shelter, education is extremely necessary, especially in today’s material world. After all, without education, one cannot gain employment and without employment, one cannot fulfil his/her basic needs and is considered a failure by modern society.

The knowledge we gain through our guided education is definitely useful for life in the sense that they will be required to succeed in gaining and maintaining employment, a must to be accepted in society. Not having a job is enough to have you labelled lazy, a failure, even weird or odd. And any employer will require you to have a thorough knowledge of your field, which is easily available for the taking through education.

Education provides us with an endless canvas. How much of it we put into use is up to us. New fields seem to emerge everyday – parapsychology, particle physics, noetics, to name a few. Although relatively ‘unknown’ or ‘obscure’, these have as much importance as the others we know of. The flood of engineers and accountants that India is facing seems to know no end. Easy money is apparently all people seems to think of. They are becoming flat characters in the play of life: although given names like ‘security of future’, lust for a fat wallet seems to be the only motivation.

On the other hand, there are billions of people around the world who want to get an education but are unable to due to poverty, geographical isolation, familial conditions or ignorance. Like the Lady Law, education is blind to the faults or favours of those who take a sip from its pool. The people who are not able to get to its banks because they are dragged back by the brambles of shortcomings – economic, social or cultural – have to endure a life full of superstition, fear, hopelessness, helplessness, poverty and exclusion. The literate but uneducated are considered equal to the illiterate as their life pretty much goes to waste (not everyone is the Old English poet Cædmon, after all). We must, however, keep in mind that this ‘education’ is totally career-oriented – a trait that has emerged in the past decades.

Let us now consider another angle. So far we talked of the relevance of education in the tangible corporeal world. But, being human beings, the intangible yet equally expansive world of our feelings is equally important. Education plays a major role in helping us find our niche here as well. We humans are inherently social. Even ‘loners’ have at least one person in their confidence. In fact, the more solitary one is, the stronger the bond is with those that person does interact with regularly. Even those who have large friend circles have an inner circle of those who they trust. So, where do these friends come from? Most of our friends and acquaintances come from school, college and our workplace and education is the line connecting these dots to one another. We go to school and college to get an education, as do those who become our friends. We talk about things that we have learnt somewhere down the line: academically, through music, film, news bulletins, books, etc. These, too, are an important part of our education. Academia alone is not enough to make us a complete person. It is definitely important, but our character and personality depends on our education as well. As we grow up, we learn new things and experience various feelings and emotions. Events and situations, too, play a part in education. Growing up, we have quarrelled with our parents. These sometimes go downhill over time and ruin the parent-child relationship. Alternatively, it can also teach us to give people space and motivate us into trying to understand before blindly contradicting. Regardless of that outcome, it teaches us what not to do when we take up the mantle of parenthood. Whether we put it to use is, of course, a completely different question altogether.

Besides academic information, schools also impart social education. They teach us, sometimes by pointing out our mistakes, what we should or shouldn’t do in a particular situation. For instance, we learn to stand up and greet a teacher when he/she enters our classroom. We also learn to respect our higher-ups and when to follow instructions without question. This gives us an idea of the norms of society.

Education teaches us control. It tells us what is acceptable behaviour in a certain environment and what isn’t. Experience, which is yet another form of education, often also teaches us when to exercise caution and when to be spontaneous. For example, at an informal gathering like a house party, it is acceptable – even expected – to wear casual clothes. Also, we can be freer in expressing ourselves: we can talk over one another, raise our voices etc. In an office party or a similar formal gathering, on the other hand, a certain code of conduct is expected to be followed. A professional front – in both mannerism and appearance – has to be maintained. Formal attire is required and an unruly or unkempt appearance must be avoided. We also learn these things through books, entertainment, word of mouth etc. Education and its imparting is therefore an intimate and implicit part of our social life as well.

Education is a major source of mental contentment. There is a simple, innocent pleasure in gaining knowledge. As sentient living beings, we humans are inherently curious. And fulfilling that curiosity paves the way for further questions to be answered, for the thirst for knowledge to become a quest for more. Also, considering the level of competition nowadays, any and every little snippet of information in addition to what our peers know gives us an edge in the rat race of modern life. And success because of that little edge gives us a great deal of satisfaction, joy and pride: the boost to our self-esteem that is essential to our well-being, mental and, thereby, physical.

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Online Education Eradicates Illiteracy All Across the Globe

The impact of computer can be seen in every respective field either in business or jobs. The computer has brought several changes in various fields. Now one can communicate with other by internet via mail, chat or webcam. The education has brought revolutionary change in educational fields. The education with the help of internet based training program has open door for online education. The online form of education has helped in reaching education to every niche of world with the help of computer connected with internet connections. The electronic form of education has eradicated illiteracy and work for better in economic growth and improving infrastructure. The online form of education features electronically supported learning and training. The curriculum is simple and comprehensive and education approach is possible through modern devices and latest gadgets. The content of learning is delivered via internet, intranet or extranet, audio or video tape, satellite TV, and CD-ROM in the form of text, image, animation, streaming video and audio.

The online educations courses can be delivered by web-based learning, computer-based learning, virtual classroom opportunities and digital collaboration. The education is supported by electronically supported learning via internet, intranet audio or video tape, satellite TV, and CD-ROM. The material is available in the form of text, image, animation, video and audio. One can attend orientation classes or watch training program conducted by virtual instructor. The advancement in technology has brought rapidly change in education and now one can gain pick comprehensive learning program available in online education colleges according to their conveyance or need. The candidate can acquire desire education of famous university with the help of online form of education. The global form of education has solved out the barriers of education of remote locations. Now they can gain knowledge and attend virtual classes and take help of world class faculty via mail or text chat message or other means of social networking sites.

The courses offer multiple options to choose or select. One can do management or complete their engineering degree or diploma by online university. The online education has made possible for getting education of secondary school or higher qualification. One can get job all over the world with the help of online degree courses as it contains value and recognized all across the world. For professionals, online degree offer opportunity for better career options. The employee can improve their job profile or can bring changes in it. They can get promotions with degree of higher qualification. As earning an online education degrees would not bring any barriers in working profile, same time you got degree of higher education while working. So one can feel that such degree give learning while earning. Also it add bonanza in profile as experience keep on persisting with degree educations. The professional can bring improvement in job profile and can gain promotions in designations and increment in salary. As individual growth counts for nation development so country can improve their educational structure and count economic growth.

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