Education for excellence - is it a pipe-dream
Education for excellence is it even possible?
Education for excellence seems to be the last thing on the minds of educators and students alike. The trend shows that our systems are geared towards education for competence, not excellence. As far as I am concerned this would be one of the major challenges that the educational systems face today. Excellence in education should aim to transform students into well-rounded adults who are ready to face life’s challenges in innovative ways. Do our educational systems encourage this kind of growth they simply geared to allow students to smartly use the system to score well and pass exams? Should this be the priority of any educational system? Are our students today prepared to face the challenges of life? Can we answer some simple questions sincerely and come up with the answer that are truly journeying in search of excellence in our educational systems?
Does Education for excellence stand a chance under these conditions?
In India, a huge number of students enrol in schools and colleges and the teacher student ratio is as high as 1:60. With such high ratios, it is really difficult to reach out to children who are struggling with academics. It is also impossible to attend to children with specific problems. Teachers seem to teach more for competence than for excellence today because schools are more interested in grades and ranks than on the actual learning of the child. Education is geared towards helping the child get better marks, rather than helping the child to have conceptual clarity. The number of tests during the year not only tests the patience and the stress levels of students, but also of the teachers who are already burdened with so much correction and grading of papers.
Huge enrolments do not allow for the teacher to actively engage students in the class. Research proves that children who are actively engaged in class activities are the ones who really learn.
Is passion the missing link?
Years of teaching the same lessons could become a hindrance to adopt innovative methods of teaching. This could be compounded by the fact that teachers are already loaded with enough work and a huge number of students to handle. Indiscipline and behavioural problems that arise due to the fact that the teacher is unable to give individual attention, could be another reason why the teacher cannot focus on teaching for excellence, but needs to be satisfied with completing his / her lessons in time. Unless a teacher is driven by passion to teach and work through all the problems, excellence in education would remain a dream for a long time to come.
With many students unenthusiastic attitude towards learning, it has become a problem for the teacher to engage such a student in a serious and meaningful learning process. The whole classroom exercise and the purpose of learning gets diluted with the different objectives that the teacher and the students have.
Preparing the students for state or countrywide exams often take the focus away learning for excellence, leaning instead towards the race for competence. Learning that is focused on multiple choice questions and objective type questions seems to have side-tracked the application of what is being learned.
With the focus being on preparing for exams, students are less inclined to research or read material that is not part of the prescribed texts. Children learn smart ways of handling test papers rather than learning concepts for future application.
Are teachers equipped to work towards education for excellence?
In a class of huge numbers and students with varied skill levels, it may be truly impossible for the teacher to have a plan or activity that can equally engage all the students at the same time. Also, with such numbers, the teacher may never be able to concentrate weaker ones, to the extent that he or she would ideally like.
In this scenario, it is a challenge to assess the students individually on their own merit. Without proper assessment tools or enough time to observe students, the teacher may really be at a loss to guide each student to reach his/her fullest potential.
Distractions that arise from the use of technology is another major challenge for the teacher. Children are so engrossed in their gadgets and are hooked onto their i-pods and phones which bring down concentration and attention span. Related behavioural problems also abound.
Lack of parental support, guidance and collaboration is a major challenge that teachers face today. Parents are usually unaware of how their child is behaving or performing at school. Most parents have the attitude that teachers need to be responsible for everything that their children do, thereby shirking responsibility on their part and over-indulging their children to compensate for their lack of attention. This gives the teachers and the parents no common ground to communicate, agree upon and work from, as far as their wards are concerned.
Compromise or excellence in education
In this micro climate, I believe the teacher is more interested in saving his / her job, playing things safe and compromising on quality to keep up with the vastness of the syllabus that is to be covered than in education for excellence. Whether the teacher is aware of it or not, the challenge today for the teacher is in the area of the pursuit of excellence. This results in a generation of students who are so unsure of their foundation, having many behavioural issues and being mediocre. I would tend to believe that a couple of generations ago people did not have much education, nor the advantage of technological advances that we have today, yet they were very strongly grounded in the three R’s of education. Does that say anything of our education systems today? Isn’t it time we fine tune our educational systems towards excellence instead of grades? Perhaps it is time to think.