Sat | Oct 21, 2017

Parent as a consumer of education

Published:Sunday | September 24, 2017 | 12:00 AM

In the traditional framework, education is based on the 'ability of the average' to receive, understand, and reproduce a body of work.

As parents, this means that we may not consider how our children learn, or even what they are learning, until our children fall 'below average'. Then we introduce phrases such as 'tutoring', 'special', 'technical schools', and our conversations with our children are centred around 'settling down and buckling up'.

In reality, many of our children who are below average only need to be taught with a different method.

The challenge is in the existing framework. Too often, assessment drives instruction, which gives way to development of patterns - in the selection of institutions of learning for our children and in the delivery of instruction.

Yet we acknowledge that as consumers, the world as we currently engage with it has very little to do with patterns. These days, our economies are disruptive, demolishing established patterns that we may have used six months ago let alone six or sixty years ago.

So why do we hold on to these patterns in education as acceptable?

The world today values user experience over the high grades profile, which is a one-time test, where the test is only as good as the quality of the assessment.

 

USER EXPERIENCE

 

In other words, if you receive a Grade 1 in CSEC Spanish, it does not mean that you are now fluent in Spanish. It means you were able to answer a pre-established series of questions to receive a particular grade based on expected suitable responses.

In reality, a person who has never taken a Spanish literacy exam but through, for example, cultural immersion, has a working knowledge of or conversational Spanish is in today's world more valuable because they have the user experience.

If we were even to balance the argument for assessment, driven instruction, schools that include cultural immersion by trips to foreign countries as part of curriculum are most likely to have their students achieve the best exam results.

This is because cultural immersion engages the remaining five of our seven multiple intelligences, where formal education is structured to use only two.

The theory of multiple intelligences by Howard Gardner suggests that there are seven human intelligences, of which education focuses on two (verbal/linguistic intelligence and logical/mathematical intelligence).

However, by including the remaining five non-traditional intelligences - spatial, musical, kinaesthetic, interpersonal, and intrapersonal - a whole new world is opened up for the students and the teachers, and, by extension, parents.

 

A MEANS TO AN END

 

As consumers, we do not all like to buy the same foods, apparel, or methods of entertainment, yet we sit back and allow our children to consume instruction en mass, until the regime, as it were, no longer works for our own children. Then we as a community of parents agitate.

Isn't education important enough for us to want diversity, change, best practices, and is relevant and evolving given the needs of the world?

We do not view education so much as a commodity. It is a necessity, a means to an end, but all commodities are means to an end.

A toothbrush when used correctly is a means to an end. It prevents gum disease, the build up of plaque, and facilitates face-to-face conversations in a harmonious environment.

Education is a commodity, where our children are both influencers and the end users. Why are we accepting en masse a system that we acknowledge no longer works?

Take a hypothetical case. If students from top schools were placed in the lower-ranking schools, would they be able to get the same averages and grades? It is unlikely because the lowest-ranked schools lack access to faculty and facilities, PTAs, and alumni, who are the lifeblood of institutions.

It is important to understand and recognise the best practices that are in the world. Yes, the argument would be that in order to put those together, one would need to have the funds and the resources, but there can be a beginning, a little step towards the desired goals.

We need to recognise that today, we are preparing students for careers that have not been invented as yet.

The question is, why don't we ask questions about one of the most important decisions of life, as much as we shop around for the best deals from groceries to appliances? The traditional approach has, and will have, its relevance, but the need is to change the final delivery, which has to be innovative, current, and critically prepare students for the future.

All education is founded on the ability to access - access jobs, access futures, and access new ways of living. Access gives way to knowledge, levels the playing field, and forms a bridge between opinion and fact, transcending geographical limits and century-old legacies.

It is imperative that the schools allow access for the engagement of all children in all disciplines, not because legacy requires it, but because our duty of care for our children mandates it.

- Article courtesy of the American International School of Kingston (AISK). AISK is a global center for excellence in education. Send feedback to sreid@aisk.com