TED Conversations

Shahzad Alam

Program Coordinator, New Era Teacher Training Centre

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Schooling must develop in the students the capabilities required for being engaged in a life-long process of learning.

We are at a very critical juncture in history. We have resources available to us unimaginable in the past- financial resources, knowledge, technology, human resources, wealth of experience etc. We are also facing crisis very unique to our age. Everything we thought we knew about ourselves and our universe is constantly evolving and/or changing.

The most important role schools can play now is to prepare individuals who know how to learn and who take ownership of their own learning and development of the society around them. The schools themselves need to be in the process of constant learning and they also need to learn to create environment where individuals can learn to learn- both individually and collectively.

The question to ask ourselves are: what changes are required in the structure of schools? How can schools start focusing more on capacity building rather than information accumulation? What kind of environment encourages ownership in learning? How can schools be themselves involved in learning?


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    Nov 14 2013: Naturally, it is important to set directions for schooling, but presently a more important question is not WHAT, but HOW. There is a superfluity of well-tailored ideas for schooling, but no one came up with specific solutions.

    As you described it, knowledge has a cumulative character. This is why schooling and parenting are processes that happen over a longer period of time, or - to be more precise - we learn unendingly till our last breath. I guess it would be much easier if we could profile schooling from the early stage. In this way we could sustain a healthy deal of interest in the subject and educate better specialists.

    Let's be honest, with our current pace of informational flow, it is impossible to be an erudite. We need to give up some of the general knowledge and dedicate our efforts and time to more specific subjects. I still believe intelligentsia proper is characterized by at least basic knowledge in the most fundamental areas, but it will be increasingly more difficult.
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      Nov 15 2013: Every "what" will have a different "how". Unless we have some understanding of what the purpose of schooling must be we cannot even start thinking of how schooling must be. I completely agree that schooling is a process and that our understanding of how and what must constantly evolve and advance. But right from the beginning we need to simultaneously talk about what and how of schooling. Without destination we cannot set direction and means of getting to destination. But again education is a process with no end but we still need to constantly ask ourselves, "what am I educating myself for"?
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        Nov 15 2013: Certainly, we need to have some kind of background to implement the system into the bigger picture. Without a shadow of doubt, a theoretical foundation is essential. However, there are many WHATs already, but almost no HOWs. This is what I was trying to highlight.

        Schooling itself encompasses many complex process, covers vast areas and employs a plethora of efforts and people, so tweaking the mechanism is not easy. Of course we can speak of more localized teaching endeavours, but since you pose more general questions, I think we should consider much wider contexts. Shaping the attitude of a prolonged learning process is multi-level and cannot be done in separation.

        Hence, the knowledge transfered during class must be not only attractive and fascinating, but also applicable and fathomable, mainly to create a chain of interdependencies between knowledge and life to enunicate the significance of the latter in our existence. Now imagine our contemporary school and its financial potential, let alone teachers who are very often unsuitable for the position and they have little idea how to handle the whole thing.

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