OUT OF CONTROL? WHAT ELSE COULD BE EXPECTED? (Part 4)
By Clarence O. Perry
“How” can our culture of violence and man’s inhumanity to man be transformed?
Some of us may wish to argue that as children we spent only a small portion of our time in the school environment, while most of the time was spent with our families within a particular community. But, the members of our families and the community were themselves products of the Guyanese school environment.
The culture of violence and its traditions were passed on (or down) from one generation to the other. Witness the amount of violence that is present in many songs, television shows, videos, and movies. The big question is: “How” can our culture of violence and man’s inhumanity to man be transformed to a culture based on “cycles of relational dignity and respectful engagement?”
This is a formidable challenge, especially in a world characterized by violence. But, it will not be insurmountable if we were to develop a system of quality education throughout Guyana. In a system of quality education the environments, activities and experiences within schools can be structured and manipulated to facilitate the discipline of the ego – a source of much of the violence in schools.
Essentially, this means that future education in Guyana must be characterized by the following:
Quality Education Must Be For All Students.
At present our schools act as social sorters to determine who goes on to higher or postsecondary education and who becomes the labourer. This role is not appropriate for the twenty-first century.
With the requirement that all citizens become contributing members of society, it is necessary that schools provide learning skills for all students. It is simply not economically viable to have a large segment of nonproductive human beings relying upon or waylaying (robbing) others.
The emphasis must now move beyond academic excellence to educational excellence. All who come (students and teachers) must experience success. The school should endeavour to be a home away from home.
Multiple Definitions of Intelligence.
Different skills and talents must be recognized beyond our linear-sequential view of academic content. The health and viability of our society and our economy will be far more dependent upon the little recognized talents than it will be on traditional academic viewpoints.
Education research has demonstrated that individuals possess at least seven kinds of intelligences – linguistic, numerical, intrapersonal, spatial, psychomotor and musical. The extent to which each intelligence is developed varies within and between individuals.
Thinking, problem-solving, and information accessing skills must become predominant. With rapid change and obsolescence in the environment, schools that continue to focus on the memorization of inert subject matter will not provide the necessary knowledge or foundations for the twenty-first century. In the context of disappearing borders the emphasis must be on communication skills of all sorts (verbal, mathematical, artistic, foreign languages, etc.), and upon the ability to solve problems through critical thinking, and access to knowledge bases.
Active and Interdisciplinary Learning.
The problems that workers will face occupationally and in other aspects of life demand that be active life-long learners who reach across the traditional boundaries of subject matter or disciplines.
As old knowledge bases become obsolete, people must have self-directed capabilities to access new skills and knowledge. While the promotion of active learning through problem-solving is not a new concept, it is not normal practice in our schools.
The current pedagogical model has virtually no application for job performance, civic effectiveness or personal satisfaction.
An Emphasis on Cooperation.
Given the divided nature of the Guyanese society, the social benefits to be derived from greater cooperation among individuals holds tremendous promise for the future progress of our country. We should bear in mind that despite the emphasis on competitiveness in the business world, the most effective and competitive organizations are successful because of their ability to cooperate internally.
A clear body of evidence has emerged to show that the quality of products developed by groups is superior to that of individuals acting separately. Given the multiplicity of talents, coupled with the fact that strife and conflict in our society must be urgently reduced, Guyanese education must shift towards cooperative models of instruction, assignments and assessments.
Technology is now a primary means of communication and work channel. Any keen adult would observe how comfortable the youth are with all sorts of electronic gadgetry – as easy as ducklings take to water.
Students must, therefore, be provided with the means to access and use new technologies which includes computers and information networks.
Integration with Social Services
Education must cooperate more closely with other agencies such as health and welfare. Students and their needs are integrated wholes. As the number of child abuses increase, there is greater need for integrated action.
Education must be life long and lead to personal satisfaction and social contribution. The feeling of the lack of self-worth, lack of access to new skills, lack of empowerment, anomie, general disaffection and the resulting strife, conflict and violence represent strong threats to the health and well-being of our society.