After having had five years of experience as an assistant head, I would like to present a few thoughts on future educational strategies.
The importance of a holistic education cannot be overstated. It is as essential to a person’s well-being as breathing air. Without the latter, one would not be able to live, yet the absence of the former leads to mere existence, rather than a life fulfilled.
First and foremost, we have to truly comprehend what the term ‘education’ means, and see whether we are truly adept to the vocational calling of an educator. It would be futile to struggle with the complexities of education if one does not feel at home in the vocation.
Etymologically, the word ‘education’ comes from Latin word educere, which means emanating skills from oneself. So the school environment should be conducive to and promote each individual’s skills. The word educere also brings to mind our responsibility to elicit not exclusively one’s academic skills but also interpersonal and intrapersonal ones.
Inclusion has brought together many talents within the school community. But there is a salient issue which, I believe, has been ignored: the misinterpretation of inclusion. Inclusion does not demand that each student must attend classes of irrelevant subjects.
Let us say that a student does not need Latin. Therefore, the student should not, at all costs, attend Latin classes, given that it will not be beneficial to him in the long term. This may strike an emotional chord as parents may react defensively when they realise that their child cannot cope with all subjects they would like him to take. I realise that parents may believe that their son is perhaps skilled in every area, but this may be harmful to parent and child alike.
Teachers should provide students with levels of content that are adequate to address their needs, rather than weighing them down with excessive content, some of which may prove to be of limited value beyond the relevant exam. However, this is a double-edged sword as the educator, in his attempt not to weigh students down, might not address the skills of high-achieving students.
Differentiated learning is the ideal; but in order for this concept to be implemented, schools must have massive support from all the stakeholders concerned.
It is therefore advisable to reconsider decisions that have already been taken, which will affect the future of our schools and education provided to future generations. Despite all the good intentions that may have enlightened such major changes in the classroom environment, it may be that these decisions and subsequent practices are not conducive to the provision of a ‘better’ education.
Parents and educators channel a lot of effort towards the education of children, so we must reflect on the methodologies being used in our schools to ensure that these efforts bear long-term benefits that strengthen society. So the question presents itself: are our educational services reaching this aim? Is it nurturing this ethos among our student population?
The anything-goes attitude seems rife in our student population. It is also evident that our young population has a lack of respect towards authority, a lack of concern towards the common heritage and to some extent a lack of respect toward their parents who have striven to provide them a healthy upbringing, with the ultimate aim of providing better life opportunities than they might have ever dreamt of.
During ‘class supporting visits’ conducted regularly at our school, we provide support to our teachers who have to deal with a very challenging reality in the classroom. Such challenges are exacerbated by the difficult social and personal situations students experience at home.
When we become aware of the issues currently affecting our students, can we really put our minds and conscience at rest?
It is imperative that we, as educators, channel our efforts to provide a holistic education to our learners. But in order for these efforts to be more efficient and bear the desired results, we must take into consideration another major issue concerning the example set by professional practitioners at our schools.
Teachers must walk the talk, or rather, lead students by example. Learners not only need academic input but also that moral guidance that teachers may provide in the school environment. This may, to an extent, help to shrink the glaring loopholes in terms of conduct and decency in our ‘progressive’ society.
We need to refocus on that which transcends the fluid pedagogical practices Church and State schools. We have to recalibrate our focus on the core elements that lead to the solid and integral formation of young people’s character. We have to be led by the philosophical principle that underlines the adage – the conclusion respects the premise.
Decisions have been reversed in the past, so it is not at all impossible to do so in future. It would be wise if decision makers were to get in touch with the classroom environment while implementing changes. This might lessen the contrast between the demands imposed by the decisions and the reality on the ground.
Rev. Dr Joseph Zammit, JUD, is an assistant head at the Sacred Heart Minor Seminary, Victoria.