Tag Archives: education reform

WHERE DID ROTE LEARNING GO?

12 Jun

Two one’s two, two two’s four, two three’s six….

 

Here it is. Do you remember having one of these?

Do you recall saying (or should I say singing/chanting) this after lunch while you were in primary school? It was the highlight of the day. During that time, our little exercise book had them laid out in detail at the back. Without fail, you could enter almost any school compound after the lunch break and there would be at least two classes reciting timetables…I seldom hear this anymore.

Do you recall reciting poetry? The teacher would write it on the board or on a chart and you would have to learn it by heart. One of my favourite was “The Revolt of Chief Tacky” by Alma Norman. There were slots allotted for reciting the poetry in class. At that time the teacher would tell you to say it with lots of facial expression. He/she would help you interpret it so you understand it so you could find the right expression. Thus, learning poetry was fun…I seldom hear this anymore.

I still remember my timetables; I still remember some of the poems learnt then…So I ask the question, is rote learning bad?  With reform in education, so-called experts ruled that using rote is not learning and students need to learn higher order thinking skills. I wholehearted agree that children must be made to develop higher order thinking skills early but I also contend that there are somethings that are best learnt through rote. Some persons may disagree with me but that is okay.  I was recently  doing some calculations with a student and when I asked her seven times seven (7×7), she paused and it took her a while to give me the answer. Out of curiosity, I started asking her some others in the same way they were asked of me in primary school and she was stunted. She did not know.

The fact is, despite higher order thinking being the best way to go, rote learning has a place and serves a valuable function in our education system. We should have found a balance between the two; instead, we threw out the baby with the bath water. We aim to improve numeracy but how will we do that when our students do not know timetables? How are we going to improve literacy when our students do not read and are not having fun learning poetry, prose and short stories?

There are some things that as educators we must revisit and implement; see their worth and determine where they best serve their purposes.

Did you recite timetable regularly and do you still remember them? Do you recall poems learnt in primary school? Is there anything you learnt through rote and you still remember it? Share your thoughts here.

 

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“PRACTICAL EDUCATION”: POSSIBLE PRESCRIPTION

27 Aug

 

 

 

 

 

 

  The recently concluded IAAF World Championship has once again created a wave of euphoria for Jamaicans yaad (yard) and abroad…and ‘our’ fans across the globe.

Jamaica entered the championships with a cloud over its head. The industry was rocked with the news that several of its athletes (platinum athletes) tested positive for banned substances. This news placed our little nation under the microscope and was viewed by several pairs of eyes with varied expressions- shocked, sympathy, sadness, happiness, unkindness, you name it. The nation was subjected to much insult and scorn, BUT….Jamaicans are resilient.

Our athletes went out and represented.  They answered the insults on that track. The black, green and gold flooded and permeated the stadium in Moscow. Even in events where medals were not won, the athletes left an impression. In short, Jamaica dominated the championships.  The team that went in with a cloud, exited with glow that oozed the type of radiance unique to Jamaicans.  What more could we ask for?As we celebrated and bask in the glory that once again showed us off to the world, I couldn’t help but reiterate the call for a reformation in our education system…a reformation that facilitates holistic development of the child….a reformation where our children can discover, own and develop their talents

 

Two of the areas that bring us great fame, recognition and continue improve brand Jamaica are sports and entertainment, NOT mathematics nor English, history, business, etc…  Mind you, I am not saying having mastery of these subject areas is unimportant, because we want our children to be literate and have the competence to manage their careers; I am saying that they are not the end all.  We have cultivated an unhealthy culture and brain wash our children into thinking that education and success is about passing math and English. Too often we have allowed our youths to feel belittled and a lack of self-worth because they did not score the grade one, two or three on the math and English examination. We must realize that some of us were not meant to excel in the traditional academics but that does not make us less brilliant than those who do.  We need to start focusing on what I call “Practical Education”.   I call it practical because it is about doing and is much more applicable to life after high school especially for those students who are blessed with the aptitude for this.

The unforgettable golden silver finish….

 

The anchor leg of the 4x400m relay ran by seventeen year old Javon Francis continue to be the talk of the country and the highlight of the championship. This young man has challenges with the traditional academics, BUT, look at the stalwart performance he gave on that track.  This BOY CHILD solely and fearlessly took on a field of MEN-his seniors- and took Jamaica from fifth position to a silver medal position.  Isn’t this success?  What, did he count the number of strides the other men were taking and tried to decide how many he needed to take pass them?  Was there math or English at play here? No. there was focus; guts; passion; discipline; competitive spirit; drive; you name it.  Nothing of the academics Yet, this is a major achievement.

 

 

 

Recently, I heard an advertisement where a training institution was offering training in specific skills and their requirement was for individuals to have passed math and English? Does this mean because I did not pass these subjects I will not be able to learn the skill?   How about offering the training without marrying it to these subjects? If the skill area is directly linked to the subject areas then I can understand.  This goes to show the extent to which we have tied the success and achievement of individuals to traditional academics.

Some students are often labelled dunce, disruptive, rude among other things. The reality is, sometimes these students feel ignored.  We fail to tap into their strengths because we cannot recognize them. We cannot recognize them because they do not always fit into the schema that society has created.   When students are allowed to participate in the things they love and are good at, it is amazing to see the excellent work they produce. We need to help them own these skills and talents.

 

All education stakeholders need to start implementing programmes that caters to the development of skills.  The curriculum within each institution must be designed to identify, harness and develop talents. People do not earn from academics only but from skills. Several of our high schools lack a skill base area.  All arts, vocation, sporting and any other skill based programmes in school should be heavily invested in. If we are preparing students to be global citizens, we have to reorient our thinking.

 

It is important to note that the students who participate in these activities do not only develop or own their skills and talents but they life skills that are imperative to attain success when they get into the wider society.  Here are a few:

 

 

  1. Team work.  When an athlete runs a 100m it is done individually but he also runs as a part of a larger group. There is the relay, this is done as a team; when you play football, basketball, volleyball, it is all about a team. Not a one man glory.   Each person on that team must play their part to be successful.   Have you ever watched a game of football and see the pain the players feel when one of their fellow team-mate is down on the ground with an injury? Do you notice what happens when an altercation happens?  No man stands aside and look; they all become involved, protecting each other, guiding each other.   Our memories can recall when Usain Bolt false started at the world championships in Daegu how it affected the fellow Jamaicans in the race.   YET, Yohan Blake came from behind to win the 100m.  Why, Bolt was out and as a member of the team, he had to take up the challenge.

 

  1. Discipline.  To do well as an athlete or an artiste, it requires lots of work.  Long hours of training and rehearsal.  Most track clubs, football clubs have a training programme and athletes are expected to follow this.  If we allow our children to engage in these activities from early, they are bound to develop a commitment, dedication and discipline that WILL later manifests itself in other aspects of their lives.

 

  1. Leadership qualities.  All teams have a captain. If you are a musical band there is a band leader. It you are a performing arts group, there is a leader.  Students learn to own these leadership skills and from early identify their strengths and weakness as a leader. They also learn to take directives and respect positions of authority regardless of age or gender.

 

  1. Time management.   As a student, there are so many things to do at school and several deadlines to meet.  Assignments must be completed and handed in on time.  Most teachers will not accept the excuse that the child had to train or rehearse.  Most coaches and advisers do not tolerate delinquency in their students.  Therefore, youngsters do not have a choice but to ensure they manage their time properly to ensure that they meet all deadlines without short changing themselves.

 

  1. Inter-personal skills.   Students who engage in these activities, tend to be popular.  Popular in this case means well known. This because there is no age limit on talent or the development of them. Therefore all these students will interact with students across all grades as well as most staff members.  Even the shyest student, upon becoming involved in these activities, will eventually come out of their ‘shell’.

 

 

I could discuss Self- confidence, self-worth and many others.   You get the gist so I will not list anymore.  The bottom line is, if Jamaica is going to create a first class education system, we have to move from our antiquated way of thinking and embrace the reality that is staring us in the face.  Let us stop living our dreams through our children; let us stop thrusting traditional academics down their throats even when we realize they are not excelling at them despite their best efforts.

 

Let us not wait. The future of Jamaica is ripe with possibilities. The door is ajar so we do not have to pry it open.   Let us enter the space of Practical Education.

What are some areas you believe would make up this “Practical Education” curriculum? Please share with.

 

THE ARTS: HEAVY-WEIGHT OF ALL CURRICULA

21 May

Welcome to the curricula, a heavy weight championships where four competitors butt ‘heads’  for dominance.  Fighting out of literacy corner wearing a robe of vocabulary is heavy  English language,  from the numeracy corner wearing a robe of numbers is  mathematics; from the experiment corner wearing a robe of microscope and formula is Science;  and out of the  entrepreneur corner, wearing a robe of technology, the only middle weight  challenger,  Business!!!.

And they are bouncing and dancing around each other…English language throws a punch, its dodged by mathematics who responds with a solid right…English staggers against the rope and recovers quickly…Whap! Ohhh, a solid right, and a follow up left catching mathematics who unsuccessfully attempts to block them.  Here comes science with a fast right to mathematics and a left to English language….it dances in the ring…science is now being challenged by business.  Business throws a cautious jab and backs away, shielding as it moves around the ring…English language is open, business moves in and lands a solid punch but English responds with a double right hand…its getting exciting… business intends to prove something…it goes throws a jab at mathematics, it backs away dropping its guards, in goes business again, one right, one left, another, another left…..english language throws a punch at science and misses; another and ohh it connects beautifully…. (the bell rings…)

This challenge has been happening for years, yet none has emerged the victor.  You know why?   The victor of this academic boxing challenge has no competitor.    What is the victor?  THE ARTS!!!   All other subject areas lack flexibility, scope and range to make a spread and reach all people.   Let us examine it.

Most teachers, in an attempt to impart the English, science, mathematics and business, utilize the arts in their classrooms.  Students are dramatizing, composing, visual arts, dancing.    On the other hand, if you walk into any of the Arts classes, you will not see them using these other subjects to impart content.  While there may be a fusion, they will not be methodology.   It therefore means, if the arts is such a powerful methodology, why isn’t driving curricula across the world; why isn’t given more respect; why does society try to ignite and fuel a senseless fight among mathematics, English language, science and business for dominance?

Whenever there are attempts at intervention for troubled youths, the arts become the medium through which the intervention takes place.   Whenever entertainment is being sought after, arts become the medium of entertainment.    The life skills that is needed to ensure students function effectively as global citizens are best developed through the arts: teamwork, discipline, socialization, self-confidence, etc…  I would like someone who disagrees with me to share with me how mathematics, English language, science and business adequately teach those life skills.

When you feel sad, your facial expression becomes sad; you sometimes listen to music that reflects your state of mind;  some people will write what they feel; dress how they feel, draw what they feel.  You become expressive.   That IS theatre.

symbolic representation of the arts in curricula

symbolic representation of the arts in curricula

The arts is the nuclei of our education system.   There are some parents who continue to coerce and massage their children for these more traditional academics even when the children do not have the aptitude for it.  Society need to erase the MYTH that it is persons who are ‘dunce’ or less capable pursue the arts.  We cry for education reform but this reformation will not happen successfully until society acknowledges the power of the arts- the heavy weight of all curricula.

 

Need training/workshop or ideas how to use The arts to improve your institution or organization?

Need workshop regarding curriculum restructuring?

Contact rainereid@gmail.com