EMPLOYERS HAVE consistently expressed the view that the graduates of our school system are not equipped with the skills, aptitudes and in many cases knowledge to meet the demands of today’s workplace.
As a result they often have to expend significant amounts of time and resources to train workers to satisfy the demands of working environments.
This continues to be a major ignored indicator to our school system to adjust to a new paradigm – one that does not seek to train people to function on a factory line.
Any modern society will want schools to ensure that graduates can function effectively in the society in which they live, adding value to themselves and the society.
The nature and purpose of education must be clarified against the needs of the society and school graduates must be able to achieve a sense of social and economic independence.
Prospective employees must be able to adapt and adjust to a rapidly changing environment, failing which their capacity to contribute to the organisational good would be severely compromised.
If schools are to produce graduates who can adapt to a rapidly changing global order, they must themselves be able to adapt and adjust to the new order. In the world of business, organisations collapse and become extinct if they can’t keep pace with the rapidly changing global landscape.
Schools cannot afford to be dinosaurs. Their relevance must be brought into question. After all, it is hardly likely for schools to educate people to be adaptable if it in itself is unable to keep abreast.
The competitive nature of the capitalist economic model requires workers to be creative. Success in the business world depends to a large extent on the ability of companies to reinvent themselves. Again schools cannot teach people to be creative if creative education approaches are not the order of the day in its modus operandi.
Current models of schooling are actually guilty of killing creativity – fresh ideas do not come out of routine practice. Standardised testing, standardised curricula and teacher accountability systems all contribute to a school system where children are discouraged from being creative. Our schools insist that all children must learn the same things the same way and at the same pace.
Another major purpose of education is the cultural dimension. Recognising that the world has become increasingly complicated, competitive and ripe with conflict, different people see the world differently.
Schools must be able to teach people to understand how they came to think as they do, what their values are and how they pattern their life if they are to fit into the societal structure in a constructive manner.
The social dimension of education via the arts and humanities become as critical as traditional fields of study. In essence, every dimension of the child’s education including the social, cultural, emotional must be given equal prominence since these competencies are just as critical for the individual to exist successfully.
As John Dewey once said, every generation must rediscover democracy. In this regard schools must ensure that democracy is not taken for granted. We have seen the consequences of this complacency in the rise to power of leaders of democratic societies who are not afraid to espouse dictatorial philosophies of governance.
The modus operandi of schools must promote social engagement and civic discourse. Schools must be defined by a culture which embodies the art of discourse – a pillar of democracy.
It must always be remembered that schools are ultimately about people. People are different in terms of talents, passions, interest and motivation. This contrasts sharply with the conformity approach to education. Successful education systems around the world have acknowledged this as a key component in education design. Education is not a machine-age activity anymore.
Governments and societies must understand that education is not something you do to people but something you do with them. Education cannot occur by alienating and vilifying those who carry it out. Failure to acknowledge this fundamental principle continues to result in huge social and economic costs.
As it currently exists, there are too many peripherals in education causing major distraction from the teaching and learning process. At the core of the process is the teacher/learner relationship. Everything that is done to education must be done to enhance this relationship. Understanding the true nature of this process is the key to revolutionising the system to enhance economic outcome. A well educated citizenry results in economic prosperity on both the individual and societal basis.