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September 2013 Archives

Deconstructing Education

There has been quite a bit about the education system on the news: whether or not our children are all expected to have private tutors in order to keep up with their peers. There is the general sense that we have gone too far, and the stress we place upon our young has reached levels tantamount to torture.

As Anne navigates herself through Primary school, she exhibits signs of stress: she quite often has problems falling asleep, worried that she isn’t adequately prepared for the next day’s classes; she has stopped drawing as much simply due to the lack of time. I am glad that she now reads very voraciously, so much that I tell her that her obsession isn’t that much different from her brother’s insistence that the iPad become an extension of his arm.

She chuckles. Somewhere inside she knows that I love my little reader of a daughter too much to mind.

Like every parent, Faith and I are concerned about the education our children receive. Having both worked in education we know that the system Singapore has is borne out of good intentions, and most of our teachers are really trying their darndest to ensure that every child is given the necessary guidance towards a quality education.

It is, however, the yardstick of what makes a “good” education that I have an issue with. I believe that education ought to equip our young with the tools and attributes necessary to operate effectively in the world. Our children’s educational journey should not be viewed as confined only to the school system, but should also include the home.

My observation is that two events conspire to rob our children of the best education they can have: one, that the education system, designed for the masses, is simply too massive to adapt to a world that is changing faster day by day; and two, parents have all but vacated their roles as educators. The home is devoid of education. Back then it was the television, these days we have the mobile devices. But I remember parents putting up more resistance back in the day. Most of us are simply too tired to fight the onslaught of our children’s demands, and the iPhone or iPad buys us relief.

With whatever little spare brain cycles at my disposal, I have been thinking about the skills and traits that are essential for my children to navigate the world today, measuring our education system against the list, and seeing if I can complement the system, or even replace it if absolutely necessary.

  1. Lateral thinking. These days we have so many tools at our disposal that the old one-problem-one-solution model is totally outdated. We need people who are able to wrap their brains around problems and forge solutions from every available angle. We need to be able to express ourselves laterally as well, not just with written text as our forebears did, but fully utilise the tapestry technology offers us: audio, video, interactive elements, informational graphics, serious gaming, industrial design…the list goes on. Our communication no longer lies solely in reading and writing - it is essential that we be able to take the abstract idea and fashion our expression transmedia.

  2. Be a manipulator of technology. Future generations will undoubtedly be comfortable with technology, never for a second knowing that the world was once without internet, imagining it to be dark and void; where we remember those days to be filled with more light and joy than they could ever imagine. While everyone would be adept at using technology, it is the ones who are able to manipulate technology — to code — who are able to solve new problems. The clichéd phrase “there’s an app for that” takes a whole different meaning for these guys. There’s an app because they can build the darn solution. They are the masters of technology, not customers waiting to pay for someone elses’ imperfect solution.

    Tynker looks interesting.

  3. A heart for the world. The education system our children are put through emphasises a lot on the acquisition of knowledge, but pays little heed to the identification of problems. We need to be able to not only look at the world around us, but feel deeply for it, channel that into prayer, and then into action. It is sad that so many of our best and brightest carry with them the knowledge of the ages, only to walk into swanky office lobbies, slaves to someone elses’ capitalistic vision.

  4. Courage tempered with discernment. Knowing the problem and feeling deeply for it is one thing, but action often comes at personal cost. I say this with some guilt as I wonder if I have been brave for my children, or if I have walked too safely. It is a fine line, and we need to be able to discern the things we can and ought to change, and the things we have to humbly accept. Humility is unfashionable these days, but it is so important to come before God for a dose of perspective.

The list goes much longer and the points all intertwine. As it stands I fear the education system does not fully address the development of these qualities, but we need acknowledge that we, as parents, are the first keepers of our children’s well-being.

It is our duty to equip them as best we can to solve the problems of their time, and live full, meaningful lives before God.

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