May 20, 2014

ROAD TO EXCELLENCE

THE ROAD TO EXCELLENCE


Formal education is always a dynamic process between theory and hard reality. The central idea of the “The-Cat-Doesn’t-Speak French” Fallacy in economics that intends to strike the balance between reality and the evolution of formal education concepts and theories only tends to reinforce that no other better test of the latter exists than the experiences that are encountered in everyday life. It explains that it would be wrong for anyone to think that concepts are made without the thought of real-world experiences.

It is an absolutely wrong idea that education and teachers exist by themselves in a world created by and of their own. Education is never creating reality out of imagination but rather it is the conception of grounded imagination that springs from some of the “unrevealed secrets” of the world.

When the Greeks created the very rudiments of formal education, it would be wise to think that they neither thought of it as a beginning nor an end in itself. When the foundations of the first School were set-up, it likewise envisioned its future – the expansion of progressive thought and the formation of new knowledge.

Today, there exists a long debate on the issue between schooling and education, between morality and legality, and the friction between good and excellence. At the end of all these is the distinction that education, schools, and teachers are expected to make.

For the average Filipino family, the need to send their children to school is never a matter of choice and privilege but an obligation. And, more often than not, families think that schools will make the ultimate difference in the quality of persons that will be made of their children. The latter deliberately diminishes the important role of families in the entire formation process of growing individuals.

The traditional focus on the training of children for citizenship is never passé. Schools are, after all, the cohesive forces that rationally bind life encounters to sensible paradigms. If likened to the study of anatomy, it would be logical to refer to schools providing the framework with the theories, and society supplying the necessary flesh with real-life experiences thus, the holistic individual.

It is never without reason that schools carry the heaviest load in the individuals’ formation process: culling life encounters into existing rational frameworks or evolving new concepts from emerging situations. In the end, those who are tasked with the responsibility must have a logical grasp of reality and the indispensable ability of rational and critical thinking. With diminishing interest to blend reality into reasonable learning frameworks and the seemingly unreasonable adherence to theories with neglect of experience, the gap in the learning process widens and which can only be blamed on those who are tasked to teach.

The task of undoing the “error of forming” is a responsibility that requires the dismantling of an unreasonable practice – the unnecessary fidelity to traditional learning materials that further alienates the learner from the learning continuum. While books are traditional references that provide information, the emergence of new media only reinforces the idea that the boundaries of learning are endless, never defined, and always a process of discovery. But who must first discover? Children have minds that are eager to be filled – empty enough to accommodate new information. Again, who provides correct information?

Over years and various information settings, the need to design new education pedagogies has been a major concern. However, sadly, the concern for pedagogical design has largely remained in the level of intellectual discourse and has not successfully trickled down to those who must receive it. In the end, its fate would be the archives where it would soon be part of the rich repository of literature review – read about, quoted, talked about, but with little credit for the change that it was meant to effect.

Schools subject themselves to change – but are these changes those that reflect the very dynamics of society? And if so, have teachers also changed according to the needs of the times?

The necessary push for change must define its starting point. If educational paradigms have changed, new pedagogies formulated, new instructional forms infused, and yet no change is seen, then learning facilitators must be the next focus for reform. TEACHERS MUST CHANGE.

Excellence has become cliché in a situation where emphasis for it is utterly defied by the deterioration of quality instruction. An almost anatomical analysis of the entire educational system can only point to the classroom condition as the ultimate culprit when all preconditions that are meant to churn out quality are provided for. Certainly most of the gaps exist in the very process of the classroom and ultimately, much of the questions must be answered by the learning facilitator.

However, where does the real gap exist?

Every year, thousands graduate from teacher training schools hoping to find their niches in classrooms and schools. The same numbers troop to examination centers to take the required licensure examination that would be one more passport to landing a teaching assignment. With both requirements satisfied – a degree and a license – new teachers feel ready to legitimately take on title “Teacher.” However, the genuine test is the classroom and the evidence is in the students.

With thousands ready and only a meager share to be accommodated, the hiring of new teachers can only be a result of a careful selection process. It is never to say that only a handful are good but there could only be room for the best. The boundaries of a competent learning facilitator have considerably expanded. While it is still necessary to have shades of the ”traditional teacher” with the competence of the required teaching methodologies, the ability to blend real-life situations with concepts to infuse meaningful experiences is becoming more desirable. It would be important to realize that the approaches to learning and education are widening and is growingly becoming more “radical.” After all, schools cannot and should not be virtual ivory towers where teachers only peek from the window at its apex.

For teachers, the pain of trekking the road towards the classroom is long and arduous. Unfortunately, only the best deserve the classroom. True enough, the influence of the teacher and the effects he creates span across generations. The effect of doing in the classroom means undoing not only in the same classroom but in the entire society. The “fear” of that effect should explain the uncompromising resolve for excellence as much as the need to expunge undesirable tradition over the choice of emerging cultures to new learning approaches.

The present generation only has the future to address – the start what is right and, no matter the pain involved, must face it with resolve. The response-ability of those tasked with charting a better future rests not only with the present generation but with a caring vision for the many more generations to come.

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