I have now been going to school events – formal and informal – for about 5 years in my capacity as a parent. My 5 year old and my 10 year old are being programmed to show respect, listen attentively and obey authority by the school system.
The way of doing this is to make doing yoga or finger-on-your-lip drills, asking children to repeat words they have heard, prompting them to show appreciation as a group – in the process trying to divert their attention from their immediate neighbours and focussed on what’s hot on the stage or at the blackboard.
For those irascible and lovable souls who cannot bring themselves to conform, a private session with the Principal is the ultimate rebuke (at least for most), but being singled out publicly is also common.
But children, free willed as they are, are not machines that can be programmed. And respect is not an affordance of power & authority for teachers and administrators but something that they have to earn.
The school wants help from parents. Help us make them better listeners, they say, after all parents have a shared responsibility.
I cannot understand how I can help. I am guessing the students get so much content that there is no possibility of their engaging with it in a meaningful manner. Teachers face the same problem. And homework – there is always tons of it, so even trying to engage meaningfully with it at home becomes a huge, if not impossible, challenge.
If students cannot engage with content in a meaningful manner, one can assume that most of it is going to be rote learning – memorization before the exam. A few talented ones would go the extra mile because they are faster learners or memorizers or have tangible interest. But the ones who are playing catchup are flying around in a downward spiral, perhaps leading to more truancy and less attentiveness.
I think the key is to drastically reduce content and sequence it across and through the years in a much more efficient manner. I think it is time that educators realize that this is a system for the few not for the masses. You cannot have universal education for all if you multiply the content with every change in curriculum.
What would the benefits be of reducing content? Greater engagement, greater scope for personal attention, higher effectiveness in the learning process, flexibility in learning methods, higher retention…I could go on.
The challenge is upstream to Higher Ed and vocational training. Is it conceivable that curriculum can reduce in such a way that modern ambitions of a skilled workforce and intellectual horsepower still be achieved? Is there a 20-80 principle here that can be leveraged (20% taught, 80% self learnt or adapted as per requirements)?
Or is it just some really weird and wishful thinking?