There have been several articles published in On Line Opinion recently on various aspects of education and the aim by the new Rudd Government to stage an “Education Revolution”; probably better described by an earlier contributor as an Education Renaissance. Where to start and what to teach are the critical issues for the future of the Australian population as it will be say, 30 years from now.
Three of us, all retired tertiary educated senior citizens, have been meeting intermittently for many months talking over what we see as problems for our grandchildren. We three believe that education really is a major key to the future. It is a route out of poverty for the underprivileged and is the key to a fulfilling life.
Our view is that the ability to think clearly is critical to the well being of individuals and the future of our society. Other essential outcomes of all education are an ability to use language and mathematics effectively and to understand basic science and the importance of science, ethics, economics, and politics, and the effects these have on our daily lives.
An article in On Line Opinion on August 21, 2007 by Stephen Law, alerted us to successes in achieving the clear thinking aspect of the above statement. Further reading by all three of us of books, other articles and web sites has shown that these successes have been noted by other education systems and momentum is developing elsewhere to have a new educational method adopted.
We also think that probably the best approach to having this new method of education introduced would be to educate teachers, and particularly parents, about the advantages of the proposed changes in the hope that their support would smooth the way for education department ministers and bureaucrats to introduce what is required.
Under what is proposed, children will continue to learn to read and write and so on, but they also learn to think about and discuss many things. They will find the things they think and talk about interesting, so that boredom becomes less of a classroom problem, and they will learn to think in a way which will help them throughout their whole life.
The proposal is a relatively new and very effective method to improve the intellectual capacity of the students in the school system. As a secondary effect what is proposed also results in a substantial improvement in the behaviour of all students, particularly those likely to become disruptive and antisocial.
Our present education system attempts to supply information and facts for absorption by students but the rate of change is now such that by the time students are due to emerge from the school system the information provided earlier is often of little relevance.
We are also aware of the problems magnified in state schools by the presence of students whose abilities and behaviour are such that they are or would be excluded from private schools. This is further compounded for comprehensive high schools in the New South Wales system by the diversion of many of the more intellectually competent students to selective high schools.
These problems have tended to encourage many parents to enroll their children in private schools, particularly those who just miss out on the selective school. This cannot help but mean that children miss out on interacting, in the educational environment, with other children from different religious, ethical and social backgrounds. This is to the disadvantage of them all and, ultimately, to our society itself.
What is proposed should reduce this drift and may make selective public high schools less necessary or desired. It will also help achieve the desirable outcomes as stated earlier.
In the aspects of the present problems mentioned above, our concerns are parallel to the concerns raised more eloquently in The War for Children’s Minds by Stephen Law, a philosophy lecturer and writer at the University of London, and published by Routledge. The article in On Line Opinion referred to earlier was written by Law who in chapter three of his book proposes a different approach to education best described as encouraging children to be more questioning.
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