When the New Year begins it’s a good time to consider our objectives for our children’s education as we would make resolutions.
Normally, objectives for education are based in a very long-term future, focus on things outside the child, and are generalised. They often go something like this: test passes, good grades, qualifications, university, well-paid job; ‘success’! Certainly, educational politics are based in these outcomes but I would dispute whether these are for the good of the child or for the good of the politics! Maybe we should rethink.
If we think about our children as individuals, maybe life-skills (respect, communication, decision making etc) would be more important to them than grades. Maybe confidence is more important than qualification (and it’s debatable which comes first). Maybe, with the rise in fees, minimum contact time in Unis and increase in educational opportunities on the Net, we should be asking whether Uni is the best route to higher education now. And with the employment market so uncertain we perhaps need to look at what makes a person really employable, besides grades.
Certainly, we need to define success. But more importantly we need to consider our objectives for now.
When they are very young children need learning experiences that are enjoyable, stimulating, inspirational to them now. Everything they do needs to show that learning is a pleasure not a chore of chasing long term objectives that have no meaning to them. And as they grow it needs to show that education is to build them up not grind them down, to sustain a future by being meaningful in the present, rather than be something to get over as quickly as possible.
Making it enjoyable doesn’t mean that they should never do things that are challenging, but if education is enjoyable then they rise to the challenges themselves. For this to happen young people need to feel respected, valued, supported. They need to feel that they matter more than other people’s objectives for them. They need to feel that what they do educationally is for their sake not for others.
If we can do this, if our objective is to make an enjoyable education, that is relevant to them, we will provide an experience that keeps kids engaged. Then they will use it for life, set their own objectives for their own education, and eventually make their own success.