Coordination, Innovation, Celebration

21st Century Education and Role of Teachers - by Rupendra Pokharel

We have nearly grown 12 years old as the citizens of twenty first century. However, it looks controversial to claim whether we are only 12 years old in the context of Nepal as we are running ahead of the universally accepted and acclaimed measurement of time. Nevertheless, we still have some more time left to proclaim ourselves the citizen of 22nd century though we have travelled nearly two decades ahead of first half of the 21st century. By the time the world reaches to what we have measured with our calendar, the world education will have managed to cross another threshold. A question strikes my mind 'will we be able to define our won education system and educating methods by the time the next millennium turns?' The base for this question I have found is in the present status of our education system and educating methods which still, I suppose, remains far behind the world education benchmark. However, viewing ourselves as the global citizen, we are just 12 years old in the timeframe of 21st century and it seems that we have to speed up systematically to keep pace with the world education, let us leave alone for the time being whether we will have our own definition of our education system.
If I am not wrong to say our education system has some lacking which pressurize our children and us, I want to point out to two of the major shortcomings: a) lack of entrepreneurship education, and b) absence of vocational education. Our education system has failed to realize that putting in the same frame what we produce is an identical product. For instance, whether you put a huge rock or a stone in a stone grinder the outcome that you get is nothing other than similar sized pebbles. The bricks produced with same frame are identical in every aspect. What I mean to say is whether our child is a huge rock or a small stone, the only way we have is to put them into the ‘perceived’ grinder of the education that produces identical product such as doctors, engineers, etc. or high-salary fetching career. In doing this, have we respected individual differences? Of course, every child is endowed with unique potentiality which is not my saying but the findings of those researchers who dedicated their entire effort to reach the conclusion about children. Then, have we done justice to the potentiality possessed by our children putting them in the same frame or same grinder?
Let’s take an example here. Ask a child, who has just passed through babbling stage and hardly has learned to combine a few phrases haphazardly, what s/he wants to become in life, the most probable answers you are supposed to get is "I want to be a doctor, engineer, pilot, staff-nurse, CEO" or something which is fetching good salary in the job market. By being one of these, the parents think their children turn out to be a self-reliant person and live a happy life. However, the question how much realization the children possess with their answers needs no further explanation for it is clear that what they say is not something what they have realized but what their parents have taught them to say. There may be various reasons why the parents nurture their children this way but psychologist believe that the children are the vehicle for the parents to realize their missed dream as a boy or girl. It sounds one of the most sensible logics.
Once the child is big enough to step out the door of his household to enter the door of a school, he has additional pressure. As parents, it is our pleasure and pride to speak out our dreams about our children and without giving much thought to what we are saying, we communicate our dream regarding our children to the school authorities as well. Now, at home they are kept knocking by their parents about what they have to be and at school by the teachers. Then, when will the children find their own expression? When will they find time to explore what they possess? How will they realize what their real interest is? And most failures lie in absence of the answers to these questions.
Therefore, the time is knocking us for paradigm shift.
Blame-shifting is not a solution to any problem nor can we get to any remedy by running away from it. Therefore, our contribution as a teacher, educationist, student, guardian or policymaker even in bits can work wonder to patch the snag lying wide open in our education system thereby adding a stone to the foundation of 21st century education if we have some knowledge about what it is. Though this article may not be an appropriate space to furnish the details of 21st century education, it can somehow contribute to formulate a different concept with the realization of its gist.
Let's begin by seeing the characteristics of the 21st century teachers so that on the basis of which we can act properly in our classrooms. But it is worth knowing that it is highly challenging time to become a teacher because of the fact that the world is changing by leap and bound and if we fail to update ourselves with the latest knowledge emerging in the everyday changing world, we as teacher neither can thrive nor can we survive. So the first characteristics we have to develop or annex to our personality is to remain active and develop hunger for changing knowledge. Of course, ability in technology is an obvious characteristic of the teachers of the present world as the thrust of the 21st century education lies in the technology itself.
Various literatures have pointed out to various characteristics of 21st century teachers among which I have chosen a list of most adaptable ones in the context of our country:
Adaptor: The 21st century teachers are efficient to match their students' most preferred learning style to various ICT (Information Communication Technology) tools available. The approach of 'chalk and talk' no longer meets the aspiration of the students as it fails to touch all of the senses- auditory, visionary and kinesthetic. They further need to be dynamic in their teaching for the reason that technology, though dependable, may go wrong in the process of teaching rendering bafflement to teachers what to do next. Therefore, besides developing the skills to fix them, they should be able to continue the class to the assigned time without the technology as well.
Visionary: Vision creates the pathway to proceed ahead. With regard to visionary teachers, they are capable of adopting the ideas from cross disciplinary fields and are able to successfully and suitably integrate them in their classroom teaching. Besides that, they are capable of incorporating web-based knowledge creating an ICT friendly environment in their classrooms. They make imagination and adaptability the prominent aspect of their characteristics.
Collaborator: The teacher in the classroom is not the final authority but s/he plays the role of moderator or facilitator encouraging their students to take part in conversation and discussion. S/he often leads the class with examples. They are capable of restructuring materials in such ways that even the hesitant, shy and reluctant students find their expressions in the classroom. They make use of the online blogs and communities. A collaborative classroom teacher makes use of the learning pyramid which resembles as following:
Risk Taker: The 21st century teachers are prepared to take risks and try to make use of the students' knowledge on technology. They involve the students in teaching each other. The learning pyramid shows that the highest retention of knowledge which is about 90% comes from teaching others.
Learner: As aforementioned, updated knowledge is the most essential to keep pace with the changing knowledge, the 21st century teacher is a life-long learner as a result of which s/he remains exposed to the emerging concepts and adapt to it quickly.
Communicator: The 21st century teachers are tactical communicators, having the best and appropriate knowledge that enable communication and collaboration. They also know how to facilitate communication, stimulate and control it and moderate and manage it.
Model: Teachers are the role-model of many students who follow each and every character and style of the teacher they take as their role-model. Knowing the fact, the teachers model their own behavior that they expect from their students. Another thing that the teachers know is they are expected to teach their students the value of learning and they know it is their duty to model this value. Such learning values may abide beyond the curriculum and the technology which may be:
· tolerance and respect
· acceptance
· a wider view than just their curricula areas
· global awareness
· reflection
· human values, to name a few.
Leader: The 21st century teachers have the characteristics of a leader. They are visionary on the basis of which they set goals and objectives of learning, they apply strategies to motivate their students and encourage their students to achieve their goals. Apart from this they are counselors, administrators, managers, etc. in the classroom and outside.
(These characteristics are based on Andrew Churches (n.d.)- Education for the 21st Century: The Basics)

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