The Oldest Surviving School
Most institutions, particularly in Africa, teach using textbooks, most of which were printed about a decade ago and updated 2-3 years ago. Even with the editing, the changes introduced are less than 10% of what the older version contained. The content of the main course book is now called a syllabus and once the teacher has covered it page one to last, and the student has crammed it all, he is ready for the next level. Never mind if the mastered content will stick all through the succeeding levels.
This kind of teaching happens in primary school, secondary school and even university. Except in the tertiary institutions, the students use fewer textbooks and are allowed some research.
By the end of the course, we end up with a finished product that can be likened to a bottle of beer just from the conveyor belt. What are the characteristics of this bottle?
- It’s final. You can’t add some more drops of liquor, or change the label a bit. It’s going to be like that.
- It is the same as a thousand or a million others from the same conveyor belt. There’s almost no difference or uniqueness.
- The bottle has one destiny, a drunkard. If the drunkard is not available, no one else can take it. It can’t turn itself into juice or coffee to fit into the available markets. Consequently, if the drunkard is not there, the fate of the bottle is sealed: to the bin, meaning it is useless.
Since today’s world is very dynamic, the bottle-of-beer graduate enters the market only to find few slots available for chaps such as him. His skills are less relevant.
For heaven’s sake, we are in the information age, not the industrial age. Our education has to be dynamic in order to match the requirements. What I mean is the classes should be teaching real time stuff. If you are training to be an engineer, the hottest topic in the industry and latest developments should be finding their way into your classrooms.
The internet should be a major enabler in the learning institutions and the teachers/lecturers should be more of moderators and less of ‘a standard of measure of what’s right and what’s not’.
Exams should test foresight, scalability, sustainability, flexibility and such. You get?
The system should mold learners to become adaptable to change and long-life learners on top of being qualified.
In my head, the ideal institution should: have less textbooks and more networks, especially internet, be more open-minded in its approach to teaching, cultivate more mental skills like analytical, critical and creative thinking and less cramming.
Cheers to all those institutions giving more leaning and less schooling to their societies