Institute of Total Education
Teaching and Leading from the Heart and Soul

Blog

Where is education heading?

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Education is currently receiving a great deal of attention in the media, with the ABC airing a forum this week which focused on concerns participants had about where education was heading. Formal instruction in IT is about to start earlier, with the announcement this week that training in computer programming will be mandatory in Prep from next year in Queensland schools. At the same time,  concerns are raised about the stress and anxiety children are already experiencing. This prompted me to think about the purpose of education outlined in statement made in a seminar for teachers by Vijayadev Yogendra, founder of the School of Total Education. Whilst academic skills should be taught to a high standard, and need to be informed by  future workplace requirements, children need much more than this if they are to live happy, fulfilling lives. They need to  have emotional security and resilience, and teachers have a key role in this. But over and above this, our world  has a great need for peace. This will only come when the individuals who make up our communities have peace. Our educational systems need to adopt approaches that will serve this paramount need. In his statement which follows, Yogendra redefines the purpose of education as serving the fundamental need of society for harmony and peace.

The Purpose of Education - Vijayadev Yogendra

Past and Current Approaches

What I have in my own way conceived of an educational formula and principles, after  experience in my own studies and  observing children in my life, has been that the whole basis of society at large is based upon material involvement, material success and possessions. So what we have been doing in the school system in the last hundred years is to educate them in the three R’s so that they fit into the existing society and support the aspirations of business, support also national aims or ambition. So  education was designed to sustain those factors. The branches of science were developed mainly to assist the suffering of people through various discoveries and approaches, but they are also used for war. In the history of mankind, whenever there is a new discovery or a new thing happens,  it is used to enhance the financial position of the person who has a part in the company to get money out of it, or it is used by nations so that they can become stronger, so that they can dominate, they can conquer.

The Need for a Deeper Education of the Human Being

Why is it that human beings are so involved in hurting, plundering, and causing  pain? Mind you, it is not just a minority group, but the majority.  There is an anger in every individual that is dormant until they get an opportunity to express it. War becomes an opportunity. It is the circumstance in which they express their anger. A fight in a pub becomes an opportunity. A lonely person in the street becomes an opportunity for a gang to go and molest and hurt him, and you can go on from there. So therefore the conclusion I have come to over the years, is that these children who come to you have got this seed in them of anger. All that is wanted by them is an opportunity. Your job, the same as my job, is to see if we can somehow destroy that seed. Can you see the point of education now? That that anger that has been coming through centuries in the hearts of people, can we through our process of education overcome or eliminate it through the experience that the children get from us of our capacity for loving and caring?

So more work has to be done by the teacher on herself or himself in creating that loving, caring attitude.Not being loved precipitates anger: “Why aren’t I being loved? Why aren’t I being given that type of care?” Your children have the same question. “Why aren’t I being loved?” So children who have what I call a diminutive psychology are bound to have areas where they demand so much, want so much that we can’t fulfill it all. That’s where an intelligent parent or teacher can divert their thinking from the non-essential to the essential in a creative educational process. So therefore when they grow up they don’t have those needs. They can be satisfied. They can become content and accepting of their surroundings rather than getting angry about what they haven’t got.

The Teacher as Key

I’m sure you’ll teach the three R’s and I’m sure you’ll do the academic work and I’m sure you’ll fulfill the obligations of  the state system, but the subtlety is developing a human mind so that at the end that person is not angry, is content, and has the quality that creates the harmonious society.  We have to recognize that we are going to have these children grow up in a very hostile environment. But I always maintain that a person with a tremendous capacity, if we can develop it in them, can manage a hostile climate. Their own personality, what they have gathered within themselves, through their thinking, will give them that air of confidence, even discipline, even strength, that they won’t worry  and this as I say, is part of total education.

Jan Gudkovs  22/11/16

 

The inclusive power of community

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Yesterday I attended the funeral of a young man who drowned at a surf beach two weeks ago. He had been a student at the school where I was principal for over 30 years and I had known him all his life. He was in his late 20s. He was in the prime of life, he had a beautiful fiancée with whom he was sharing his life. He had a stimulating and fulfilling career and a loving family and many friends who couldn’t believe he was no longer with them. As I sat there in the sadness, sharing the celebration of his life, speaker after speaker spoke of the importance of community.

Community and the importance of relationships was one of the key things this young man had learned from his involvement in school and the community that supported it and which physically surrounded the school property. This sense of belonging, of knowing who you neighbours were and of sharing their lives and supporting each other was something he just picked up from his family, his friends, his teachers and the whole virtuous circle of the human scale education that he had experienced.

His employer and work partner spoke with great eloquence of the gentleness of this young man, his sense of community, his respect for others and the valuing of individuals and relationships that he had picked up from the culture of his formative years, and the tremendous contribution this made to the development of this business into something more than a business. His mother, his friends and his fiancée all echoed these sentiments. I couldn’t be more proud or humbled.

 

Richard Waters 12/3/2015

What does it take to be emotionally ready to learn?

Thursday, October 31, 2013

I was interested to read recently how brain research is telling us that we need to be emotionally ready before we are able to learn. This fits with my experience over many years of trying to help students to learn new skills or knowledge.

Learning anything new requires a belief that it will be possible, before a young person can take the first step. As Professor John Hattie, from Melbourne University, said in the article I was reading, “To choose not to learn something can be seen as rationally prudent, while choosing to learn can be risky – and taking the risky choice depends on high levels of confidence.”

So students who are reluctant learners are not just being recalcitrant. This is where the intuition and experience of the teacher comes in – creating the emotional climate where the student feels confident to take that first, risky step of learning something new. This is as much about a relationship of trust as it is about knowledge.

A colleague of mine, who is a wonderful tutor, always used to say the important thing was to take students back to the point where they felt confident in their knowledge. Then you could move forward a step at a time from the known to the unknown like stepping on stones to cross a creek.

Education for a Good Life?

Thursday, October 31, 2013

I recently read an interview with social researcher, Hugh Mackay, who was reflecting on the fact that, although Australia had done relatively well weathering the Global Financial Crisis, we still felt anxious and confused. He put this down to the distraction of materialism.

He referred to the idea that we are social creatures, and that building strong communities by treating others with kindness and respect is the goal on which we should focus.

It occurred to me that the only way we can build these communities is by showing our children how. The Good Life, that we all want, is still based on treating other people they way we would like to be treated. We need to make this central to the education of our children.

For parents, it is about how we treat our partners, the people with whom we work and the people we deal with through our work. For teachers, it is about how we relate to our students, our colleagues, school leaders and parents.

Teaching children how to treat others with kindness and respect doesn’t have to be a special subject, it is built into how we interact every day and it is just as important as the academic curriculum.

As someone once said to me, “Education is about what is left after everything we have learned has been forgotten”.

Children do not learn well where there is tension

Monday, June 17, 2013

There is a myth in Australian schooling that students learn better when they are under pressure. My experience, as a teacher and school leader, is that if you can create a relaxed, friendly but respectful atmosphere in the classroom, children will learn more easily.

Research on brain functioning indicates that, as we learn, we make connections between the synapses of the brain and that this occurs best in situations of low stress. Undue pressure causes the brain to freeze up and this makes it harder to absorb information or make new connections.

In Grade 4, we had Mr Woodberry. He was a tall, lanky type who was warm and friendly. He was consistent and very seldom raised his voice although he did wield the strap in those days of corporal punishment. Everyone learned and progressed.

Miss Styles, in Grade 6, however, created an atmosphere of fear and trepidation. She would shout and lose her patience frequently. As a result, the students would freeze up, particularly those having difficulty, and many students slipped back in their grades in the space of a year.

Tension doesn’t just come from teachers, it permeates a school created by the school leadership, pressure from government and expectations of the local community. We should be creating schools where the atmosphere allows the students to learn and to optimise their achievement.

Why the Teacher-Student Relationship is central

Monday, June 17, 2013

It was good to see the Premier focus on Teacher Quality in his recent press release on “Great Teachers = Great Results”. However, Great Teachers are not just those with the best academic qualifications because the most effective teachers are those that build positive relationships with their students.

Children need to feel that they are cared for and are not just physically safe at school but feel emotionally secure and this comes more than anything else from the kind of person their teacher is. A teacher’s character, perhaps an old-fashioned word, is as important as well as their intellect and their instructional skills. A teacher is more a mentor than a manager and they need to be able to establish an atmosphere in their classroom where children feel they belong and are valued.

What works towards the brain opening up and establishing neural pathways is as much emotional security as intellectual stimulus. What shuts down children’s thinking is fear and insecurity and feeling like they are not cared for.

We need to be concerned about children’s learning but an over-emphasis on results is a bit like all the hype and expectation placed on our athletes at the London Olympics, it can be counter productive. Raising the pressure and the stakes doesn’t always translate in to better performance.

Parents need to make a conscious choice about their children's education

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

I was thinking the other day, I wonder how many parents actually make a conscious choice in the schooling of their children. It is one of the most important decisions we can make, given the impact education can have on our children’s future.

It is easy just to do what the neighbours are doing or say, “Well this was good enough for me, why not for my children?”  The question to be asking is, “What kind of education does my child need in the world that they are living in now?” And more importantly, “What kind of education does my child need for the world they will be living in when they become young adults?”

The world of the future will require creativity, adaptability, flexible thinking, self-confidence, the ability to collaborate, a capacity for empathy and a strong sense of values. As society changes and the economy morphs into a knowledge economy and the rest of the world increasingly interacts with our society, these qualities will allow the young adults of the future to adapt, to make a living, to build positive relationships and also to contribute in a positive way to their community.

Is the education you have chosen for your child going to give him or her the knowledge and experience to make their way in this world? Will your child look back on the choice you made for their education and say, “Thank You”?

Professional Standards for Teachers could have a broader focus

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

As from this year, the Standards devised by the Queensland College of Teachers will be replaced by a set of Australian Professional Standards for Teachers which are to be used to assess teacher performance and plan professional development.

The seven standards use straight-forward language and that is good. Things like ‘Know your students and how they learn’  and ‘Know the content and how to teach it’. However, each standard is broken down into 5-7 subsets and is specified for graduate, proficient, highly accomplished and lead teachers. So in the end they are a lot more detailed.

One aspect from the Queensland standards that is not covered in the Australian ones is ‘Support personal development and participation in society’. This indicates less focus on social and emotional development. This is a weakness given the problems many of our young people are facing.

 The Queensland Standard of ‘Foster positive and productive relationships with family and community’ gets less emphasis in the new standards and this too reflects a narrower view of our profession.

Schools in the 21st Century need to be more holistic in their aims and practices if they are to meet the needs of young people and families. The new standards could reflect this more, so perhaps the report card on the writers of these standards should be “Could do better”!

Are we graduating students who can be contributors to society?

Friday, November 23, 2012

It is that time of the year when our schools say good bye to their Year 12 graduates and it always gets me thinking about the purpose of education.

Some schools call it Speech Night or Awards Night and it often has a focus on the winners of prizes for academic, sporting and artistic achievements. However, it is not just the winners who have completed their schooling and while it is great to recognize talent and hard work it is also worth pondering about the kind of people we are putting out into the community.

Hopefully, if we have done our job properly, we as educators are graduating people who can contribute something to society, who have a level of maturity about them and who are basically good citizens. This does not just mean people who can get a job and vote every three years. A good citizen is one who can build relationships with others in the work place, in the families which they will be creating and with the people they meet in their everyday lives.

This doesn’t just happen. Good citizens are nurtured by their families and it is on this foundation that schools can build. Schools need to make creating good citizens one of their key goals as it is indeed one of our National Goals of Schooling. Schools need to have programs that help develop awareness in students that they are not just pursuing their individual goals but that they are also part of a society that needs their positive input. This could also be described as empathy and the ability to connect with others.

So let’s celebrate with the Year 12 students the end of their schooling but let us also reflect how we can ensure that we are handing over to society young people who can be contributors as well as consumers.

Are Schools the new centres of community?

Friday, October 19, 2012

This week I spoke to Rob Mohloek, the Assistant Minister of Child Protection, at Parliament House about his concerns related the huge numbers of children coming to the notice of the Child Protection authorities; one in four Queensland children over the course of their young lives.

One of his main interests is the need for a more comprehensive approach in the social emotional education of children and the development of their awareness and skills in these areas. There are good programs in some schools and the Queensland Government’s Student Well Being Framework is a good step in the right direction but schools are being left to select and implement their own programs. What’s needed is a comprehensive and integrated program that equips all children and especially those at risk with awareness and skills that give them greater resilience to manage life’s most important challenges.

The other area of need is parent education and the Minister was very interested to hear about the comprehensive approach to this at The School of Total Education in Warwick. There parents are supported in their parenting by attending regular discussion groups and have timely input from experts and guest speakers. There is further individual support through the Centre for Healthy Living.

Many years ago it was the church which provided the most important moral guidance and focus of community life but now only 4% of the population are regular church attenders. By default, Schools have become the centers of community life, and for some children school is the only place they really feel safe. Schools are yet to realize the reality of this profound cultural transformation and the responsibilities that come with it. Neither has government.

It was refreshing to meet such a sincere person as the Assistant Minister with a real concern about the young people in our community who are so important to all our futures.

Recent Posts