It is not rare to hear people question the purpose of schools. People always wonder why they learnt what they learnt and how relevant what they learnt is to the jobs they do and to their well-being, yet you will find that their children are going through the same education system and still learning what they learnt.
Should we attribute our inability to solve our education system challenges to lack of problem solving skills?
We have waited for decades for the education system we dream of to happen. A system that produces an all-round individual and promotes lifelong learning; a system in which the learning process is more important than the examinations; a system that extends learning beyond the walls of the classroom; a system in which character qualities and competencies are as important as subject content; a system that appreciates that learners are unique individuals with different learning styles and potential; a system that connects what children learn to the world of work.
Well, the current education system has proven to be change-resistant. So who is responsible for its transformation? Some say the schools and teachers are responsible while others think it is the government. In reality, parents and students are the most sufferers of the outmoded education system, and should be the leading force to its transformation.
Unfortunately, many parents still believe that rote learning is the only path to academic success. They often confuse the learning process with assessment.
To be called a good school depends on how many first grades a school gets in national examinations. Pressure is mounting onto schools to produce better grades at the expense of learning. Schools are increasingly taking a market-based approach, focusing on examination results and competition in order to survive. Students are expected to learn the same way, think the same way and answer the same way. Children are hardly given opportunities to explore and learn, but to answer questions.
A child spends a typical day answering questions; examination questions, class work questions, homework questions, revision questions, topical questions and more. Yet every school claims to produce holistic individuals. Every teacher claims to be an expert at instilling knowledge and nurturing talents but students continue to come out of school without the desired character qualities and competences.
Have we lost it completely? Not completely. Transformation is happening and is being led by a group of thoughtful and committed citizens. Thanks to the liberalization of the education sector.
There are so many innovative curricula being offered by different schools and some are revolutionizing. Parents are becoming more selective about the kind of schools they take their children to. Like any other industry, transformation in education is being determined by the market, in this case parents and children.
For example, today many people own smart phones, use the internet to communicate through Whatsapp and Facebook applications, not because they are required by the government to do so but the platforms are naturally compelling to use due to how fast and efficient they are, compared to the traditional methods of communication. Likewise, parents are gradually adapting the education systems and the curricula that meet the demands of the 21st century education. Systems that are relevant and exciting to the learners.
Systems that enable learners to think, reason, question and problem solve. It’s no surprise that the idea of international education is shifting from an experience for the few to an imperative for the many and it is predicted that its adoption will continue growing due to its relevance and the opportunities it creates for students.
Even as an individual and a private student, one is able to prepare and sit for international assessments such as the International General Certificate of Secondary Education (IGSCE) here in Uganda. I have worked with parents who have decided to take individualized education pathway for their children through the homeschooling programmes offered by Kampala Smart School.
With growth in adoption of technology in education, we shall see Artificial Intelligence-powered platforms making formal and informal learning more powerful and accessible. One may wonder where this parent-driven shift shall live the schools and teachers still inclined to the ‘static’ education system. Such schools will need to adapt so fast, learn best practices from the international successful school systems, improve the teaching practices, retrain teachers and refine the curriculum content or else they will prepare their way to obsolescence.
Mugarura is the founder of Kampala Smart School