The education and formation that our young people require is that whicH focuses on developing basic skills at the individual level.
By JOHN OTIENO OREDO
Education is aimed at preparing the young to take responsibility for the world. We usually refer to the young of today as the “next generation” and leaders of tomorrow. Therefore, if teenagers are the leaders of tomorrow, their intellectual, physical, social and moral development should be carefully nurtured.
The young people of today are being formed in the present even though they live between the past and the future. In the first case, the past seems not to offer them any crystallised ideas on which to lay a strong foundation for life. The present, on the other hand, is fraught with confusion resulting from dysfunctional families, high stakes school system, distractions that include but are not limited to digital media and acute absence of role models.
The school system where the teens spend most of their time is already enslaved by the industrial revolution’s concepts of mass production and skills for the industry. How many times do we hear of calls about half-baked graduates from the corporate world? The challenge of the future is quite enormous. Our teens are being prepared for a future many of us cannot predict.
Digital technologies are transforming the world in a manner that keeps us gasping for breath. The education and formation that our young people require should be that which focuses on developing the basic skills at the level of an individual person. These skills will keep them hinged despite the ever-changing environment.
In order to meet the challenges of the 21st century, education policy makers must return to the basics. Educationists, must first focus on human development; the development of the person. This kind of education is most effective during the learners’ formative years; primary and secondary school levels.
In primary and secondary school, a greater attention should be given to the formation of character and mental powers. As a country, we must master adequate resources to fund an education system that treats every child as an individual.
One of the biggest problems of the school system in our country today is the malaise of the “eye of the need.” The exit examinations at both primary and secondary school levels became so high stakes that they attracted all forms of vices.
We gradually and systematically created a school system that rewards only a single aspect of a child’s development – academic potential. The system then demands that every child, regardless of their different abilities, must fit into this academic straitjacket. The school system, therefore, became a factory where those who fail to pass through the needle hole are rejected as waste.
Digital technologies are steadily changing the landscape of education. We can take advantage of the affordability of digital technologies to enhance teaching, learning, and accessibility of education. But at the same time, digital technologies should not lead us to technology determinism, a belief that technology is the panacea to all the challenges.
Digital technologies are like tools without handles. In order to leverage the technologies for education, their use in schools must be well thought, right from the time of curriculum design to the time of implementation.
Haphazard use of technologies in the classroom will not lead to any real benefits, both to the learners and the teachers. Digital technologies can only deliver their promise to education if they are placed in the hands of skilled teachers and responsible learners.
Teachers should not only be trained on the use of the technologies but also on their social implications. They will then not only teach learners how to use the technologies but also how to use them responsibly.
The digital technologies are presenting a unique challenge to both the teachers and the parents. While the learners today are digital natives, most of their parents and teachers are digital immigrants.
In the youthful days of the digital immigrants, the changes in society were not as drastic as they are today. These changes have made young people who are just a generation from their parents look quite removed from the experiences of their parents. This has led to a generation of young people who feel isolated and left to their own devices.
Consequently, this has created a false independence in the youth who have then resorted to social media to plug the gap. They marvel in virtual friends in lieu of real friends. Their role models and heroes are not in the family setups but in the cyberspace.
In order to bridge this generational and digital gap, schools should provide a platform where parents can share their challenges and be supported in terms of required skills for effective parenting in this era. We cannot assume that parents know what they are supposed to do with their children in the absence of the traditional family support structures.
Schools are expected to perform the dual role of educating children and having support structures for parents.
The challenges of education in this digital era require educators with a passion for young people. Resources should be availed for providing adequate training to pre-service teachers and continuous professional development to in-service teachers.
The training should prepare teachers adequately to enable them ground learners in the present while preparing them for the future. Further, the teachers should have capacity to not only teach but also reflect on the teaching profession.
In a nutshell, education of our young people should give unrivalled attention to the development of the human person. Primary and secondary school levels should aim at imparting life skills to learners through character formation and internalisation of human virtues.
The society needs to remember that the transition from childhood to adulthood has become so complicated for the young people and they need time, support and guidance in order to successfully cross the trench.
Dr. John Otieno Oredo is a lecturer and researcher in digital business strategies and holds a PhD in Strategic Information Systems.