We are in a rat race to improve educational quality around the world. There is talk about some countries doing better than the others in academic scores. There is plenty of talk about improving standards of education in developed countries. There is talk about the disgrace of students failing the standards of learning in developed nations, and how the standards are being lowered to include the lower percentiles of students. It is all about statistics. But I wonder and ponder over what really education is.
Is it the ability to memorize a bag of facts from books to regurgitate it, although an impressive and necessary quality?
Is it the ability to be able to read before they can even talk, or walk?
Is it the ability to be able to spell difficult words without conceptualizing the connotation of the word?
Is it the ability to be a precocious reader?
Is it the ability to be able to stay the top of the class and amass awards?
Is it the ability to be able to go to a prestigious college?
It seems also ironic that all high achievers do not necessarily meet expectations of those around them when they are out of school or college.
Education in my opinion should be both well grounded and well rounded.
A well rounded education is a good balance between right brain development, left brain development, and development skills to integrate information efficiently between the two hemispheres.
We all know right brain development can be activities such as the fine arts like music. The left brain development can be activities that we all receive in our schools such as math, english, reading, etc. And integration activities are those that require a well coordinated system of motor, vision, hearing, skills to be able to execute the task such as playing piano, learning martial arts, sports, scouts, etc.
Most reputable schools seem to be doing a good job with this curriculum to the best of their abilities within their financial and personnel constraints.
We also know that Left Brain processes are responsible for logical reasoning, rationalizing, organizing, sequencing, analyzing, looking at details, and objective thinking. Right Brain processes are responsible for random associations, intuitive association, synthesis of ideas, thinking out of the box, looking at wholes, and subjective thinking. Integration of these skills using a well coordinated motor, visual, and hearing systems promotes a whole brain functioning.
However teaching the skills of a well rounded education is just the tip of the iceberg.
The foundation for a well rounded education is a well grounded education that is taught, encouraged, and reinforced mainly at home from the time they are born. It does not mean these skills are acquired in a day. It is a process and does depend on the maturity of the nervous system and connections in the brain. However the expectations can be set, and with consistent and firm boundaries, based on the age and ability, All these skills can be achieved over time. Children are more resilient than adults may think. Barring physical, emotional, and mental abuse they can withstand a lot more challenges than we think.They like boundaries and limitations. Providing them the boundaries of a well grounded education only improves their creativity and maturity contrary to the belief that it may thwart it.
Well grounded system requires:
Sense of ownership: Encouraging children to actively participate in daily activities around the house without expecting tangible rewards. To feel they are a participating member of the household and they share equal responsibility in all family activities. It encourages a sense of ownership. Earning money and getting an income is primarily to sustain the family’s needs and wants, and not to do chores around your own house. The child’s needs and wants are also met as part of the family unit. Wants are earned based on the participation as a member of the family as well as their best efforts demonstrated in school. This also teaches deferred gratification.
Self-reliance: To encourage them to be independent all their life. To fend for themselves. Not to accept hand outs. Always to earn their keep.
Self-regulation: To be able to regulate variety of sensory inputs even when it is mildly inconvenient. Extreme reactions to mildly uncomfortable sense of touch, taste, smell, sound, sight can be desensitized gradually to foster sense of adaptibility. This decreases extreme emotional behaviors when adaptibility is encouraged.
Self- awareness: Encouraging sense of environmental awareness in all daily living activities helps arousal, alertness, awareness,recognition,discrimination, localization of information around them. It helps with overall ability to be intune with nature and appreciate the world around them
Self-monitoring- It helps with the ability to self assess if their own emotional and physical reaction or behaviors to uncomfortable environmental stimulation are socially appropriate.
Critical Thinking: Helps with the ability to logically reason situations to understand the cause- effect, action-consequence and problem-solution relationships
Thinking out of the box: helps with the ability to come up with alternative ideas and thoughts, to deal with situations where the most plausible solution is not a viable option.
Developing mental imagery: Fairy tales and mythological stories are time tested. Children can easily learn to discriminate between fact and fiction. The stories are rich in language. They have rich vocabulary. It fosters a very strong mental imagery which is a very important stepping stone for reading, comprehension, and expression abilities
Memory Skills- Nursery rhymes are time tested. The content of the rhyme is not as important, as the ability to develop auditory memory. All skills that foster mental organization, sequencing, and mental manipulation skills eventually help in developing reading, writing, and math skills in later years. In addition nursery rhymes and poetry teaches rhyming, and rhythm skills that are important in the development of reading, spelling, and decoding skills. Development of auditory memory is very important because 50-75% of school life is based on listening skills. Strong auditory skills facilitates academic excellence.
Flexibility: To learn the ability to go with the flow. The ability to accept that life always presents with challenges, but to be able to regulate emotions to neutrality when tough gets going, is a trait of maturity. It helps with thinking through situations calmly without anxiety overwhelming the thoughts. Flexibility fosters tolerance.
Encouraging different food tastes, textures, and spices not only helps with flexibity it also helps speech development indirectly. It helps develop a body schema within the mouth that is not visible. This indirectly helps with speech articulation and clarity.
Multitasking: To be able to complete a task in the midst of distractions, to be able to complete multiple tasks simultantaneously helps develop strong divided attention skills.
Perseveration-Getting the work done even when it is seemingly boring or mundane helps develop strong sustained attention skills. There is no task that is too easy or too hard, too boring, or too novel. When extreme reactions are discouraged, the focus is on completing the task. Every task that is completed, (without the emotional taint), has some subtle learning experience and also teaches perservation.
Every life experience has a learning effect. Some may be more subtle than the others. Less resistance to the variety of experiences life has to offer, may have a life long educational outcome.
Spirituality- understanding moralities, and social etiquettes. Understanding that every action has a consequence. That all our actions big and small are equally significant, depending on the depth of hurt it can cause others or self, both emotionally and physically. So think before you act.
Hoping every child is given the education to be well grounded, a foundation for success in developing the well rounded knowledge in schools. Teaching the 3 Rs-reading, writing, and arithmetic is just as important as teaching them the 3 Ls-Life, Light, and Love i.e., life efficiency, light of true knowledge, and love for the creation, creator, and creatures. 3 rs and 3 ls is the best path for contentment and bliss