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

 

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.

Parents value more than test scores

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Ben Jensen, Director of the Grattan Institute, reported last week that his research had shown that the publication of NAPLAN results on the Commonwealth’s My School Website had not led to parents changing schools for their kids or increased competition between schools. So what has all the fuss been about? Why is so much of taxpayer’s money being wasted on these projects of dubious educational value?

This is a damning admission for the great “Testing, Scoring and Comparing” regime established by governments around the world in the last few years. Teachers and other educators have been arguing that this approach is not what was going to improve education and they have been proved right.

Jensen’s research also showed that parents valued a lot more about their schools than the outcomes of narrow cast tests like NAPLAN. They value things like “school culture and discipline, religious affiliation, reputation, the state of buildings and school grounds, and visible classroom characteristics such as class size” (Grattan Institute Report).

So apparently competition is not that relevant a value in education. In that case, let’s do away with the paraphernalia of competition between schools, and focus on co-operation and collaboration between and within schools and concentrate on providing the best education we can for the children and the communities we serve.

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.

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”!

How do we get our best to want to be teachers?

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

There was more news coverage recently about the problem of how to attract the brightest and best into the teaching profession. It is an important issue because the main driver of school improvement is the quality of teaching.

One of the main suggestions is to have a higher minimum standard for entry into university courses in education. Currently, the entry OP score for teaching courses can be below OP 15 because it is based on the number of places available versus the number of students applying for entry. A quick look at the QTAC website for last year’s cut-offs for education courses will confirm this. It doesn’t mean just because you haven’t done brilliantly in Year 12 that you won’t make a good teacher but it is a concern.

Another idea is to have face to face interviews as part of the selection process to assess candidates suitability for the challenging nature of the classroom where an ability to relate to young people really is a prerequisite for surviving and thriving as teacher. It could be like the auditions used for entry into music and drama courses. This would be labor-intensive and there are all kinds of ethical hurdles about how to rank candidates, but the idea has merit.

The main issue though is our community’s attitudes towards the teaching profession. In Finland, teaching is ranked with law and medicine as an important and vital occupation that deserves high status and respect, so high achieving and talented young people see it as worthy of their aspiration. We are some distance from this situation in Australia. Teachers hold the future of our country in their hands and most teachers are dedicated and work very hard in school and after hours to see that their students achieve their potential. That is surely worthy of respect.

Do you give a Gonski?

Friday, August 31, 2012

Gonski is in the news again with the politicians are fighting it out over who is the most generous party when it comes to school funding. Julia Gillard has said that no school will be disadvantaged by the new system based on the Gonski Report and that in fact all schools will get increased funding. Tony Abbott is trying to match this so his party doesn't lose votes over the issue. An implementation of the Gonski funding reforms would cost around $6.5 billion at current estimates. The way the main parties are talking about it, it could cost a lot more. If no one is going to be disadvantaged, why not leave the system alone?

Education is such an important issue in Australia that it should not be an argument in party political terms. Education should be a bipartisan issue. The parties should stop bickering and put the good of the country ahead of party political advantage. That may be a vain hope but it is what is needed.

Most people agree that all schools should get some base funding and that there should be a supplementation of this on the basis of socio-economic need since that has been established as the main disadvantage in children's education, at least on the academic level. Of course, more money alone won’t improve academic performance.

The main problem with the way the Government plans to implement Gonski seems to be that the they are intent on extracting even more information from schools with such measures as value-adding. These measures will simply distract more attention away from teaching and put it more onto reporting and massaging the figures so schools don’t lose funding. Governments need to get out of the way and let schools do what they do best, which is teach children.

Should we be focussing less on competitive sport and more on health?

Thursday, August 02, 2012

With the Olympics in full swing and our attention riveted on our elite athletes in London, it was disturbing to hear former marathon runner Rob de Castella on the ABC radio recently talking about how unfit Australian kids are becoming. He was talking about the unprecedented obesity rates and how some kids don’t know how to run, jump or even skip!

A lot of it is put down to children becoming fast food consuming, computer addicted, couch potatoes. However, maybe we should also be looking at our fairly narrow view of health being driven by the myth of Australia as a nation of sporting legends.

In schools, the focus is often on periodic carnivals in athletics and swimming and the emphasis on being the best, fastest, strongest and the way the winners are applauded, lauded and awarded. It is no wonder, a lot of kids conclude that sport is not for them and even the winners leave school never to pick up a racquet or a bat again.

Maybe it is time for a focus on health rather than sport. It should be about physical education classes where all students and teachers spend 15-30 minutes every day in enjoyable physical activity accessible by everyone.

Health is also about a nutritional diet and learning about how to make tasty meals that are good for you rather than having to buy it ready-made. It is about learning how to refresh your mind with quietness and how to de-stress with recreation in the fresh air away from computer games and Google and Facebook and videos.

If schools could focus more on health and less on competitive sport we might just be able to win the battle for our children’s physical well being

Student Well Being is Everyone's Concern

Friday, July 20, 2012

Education Queensland is about to launch its Well Being Framework which all schools will be expected to address. They are doing it in style with a barnstorming tour of the state by psychologist, Michael Carr-Gregg, who is well known in the media for his insights into adolescent health and well being. I am sure this will be valuable but it is important to build local capability to support student well being through our own doctors, psychologists, counsellors and teachers.

There has been growing concern in the community about student well being, especially adolescents, with issues like bullying, anxiety, depression, body image, eating disorders and self harm as well as underage drinking and drug use. Schools see the results of these problems on a daily basis in students inability to engage with learning and many teachers, trained with a purely academic focus, are ill equipped to manage the fall out.

Parental influence is so important in supporting children’s well being but they struggle with other influences like the peer group, the media and the ubiquitous internet. Parents need help with what to expect in adolescent behaviour and to realise the importance of staying involved with the lives of their almost adult children.

Schools for their part need to be places where kids experience a sense of connection and inclusion. The mainstream ethos of competition and adulation of winners must leave a lot of young people feeling like second-class citizens; uninvolved and disconnected.

It is great that Education Queensland is recognising the importance of student well being because it marks a broadening of the aims of education to be more holistic and to focus on the development of students as people and not just scholars. Schools need support from the rest of the community if this more rounded goal of education is to be realised.

Recent Posts