Notes on Education and Twenty First Century Teaching

Notes on Education and Twenty First Century Teaching
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Dr.Syed Javed Iqbal Kamili & Dr. Waqar Ul Nisa

Culture embodies the intellectual development of a society and includes knowledge, belief, art, morals, law, custom and other capabilities and habits acquired by man as the member of a society. The individual receives culture as a part of a social heritage and in turn may reshape it and introduce the changes which then become part of the heritage of succeeding generations. Since culture is a system of norms and values, a society is relatively independent, self perpetuating human group which occupies a territory, shares a culture and has most of its associations within this group. A society is an organization of people whose associations are with one another.
For centuries Kashmir has been a centre of learning and attracted scholars not only from different parts of India but from different corners of the world. Learning as a conscious activity of an individual was in, by and between institutions, organizations and communities where most of the learning goes on anyway. Lalla-Ded is the oldest Kashmiri author. Her verses known as Vakyas (wise sayings) are rich in philosophical theme and content. It is a difficult task to recognize the self and channelize the confidence. Lalla Ded chooses to break the mould of patriarchy in a stiflingly traditional society but not allowing her intellectual and spiritual freedom to be curbed. This involves wisdom to manage such a situation and needs creativity to form a vision of where to go and to cope with change in the environment, balancing one’s own interests with the interests of the others as well as with larger interests through the infusion of positive ethical values.
Since the advent of the human species, with or without schools, one keeps on getting, receiving and imparting education in some or the other way. It is the basic necessity for humans to be educated. An educational institution is a kind of an industry that is used to promote the economy. It has not been considered as a system that can change or effect through intellectual empowerment. The intellectual development of a student is vulnerable as the students are forced to remember what someone else has taught or is thinking. Remembering something could be knowledge. But, going by Albert Eienstein’s understanding of scientific temperaments, ‘imagination is more important than knowledge’, it becomes clearer, where the system of education lags behind. Acquisition of knowledge is alright but knowledge becomes useful when it is applied in real life situations. It requires presence of mind which is an ability to think and act calmly and efficiently, especially in an emergency. It requires self control in a crisis; ability to do the right thing in an emergency and the trait of purposefully controlling our own behaviour.
The current position of educational development in Kashmir demonstrates how the State manages an education system after significant conflict. There is currently no contingency plan for the continuation of education and schooling for children during the periods of strikes, an issue that State Education Department does not address in its current policies. The impact of conflict and traumatized conditions are ever present. Moving a decade back, when the present young generation would have been 8-10 years of their age. The children born and brought up have known situations which differ from those of earlier periods, from their parents’ experiences who knew the place through different conditions. The present generation grew up in circumstances interspersed with normalcy and protests; however, continuing conflict leaves fear extant in everyday life.
A decade ago, students were not actively voicing their protests as it came about in the recent years. Culture provides certain fairly uniform experiences for all members of any society. Experience develops personality similarities within groups and differences between groups; the unique experience of each person shapes his or her individuality. Personality development cannot take place in a vacuum and it is one’s total behavior tendency. The normal personality differs radically from one society to another. Each society develops a normal personality, produced by the total experience of a person raised in the society. Such cultural influences many kinds of experiences. Since the world is quickly advancing, education is becoming more and more of a requirement or necessity to get where a person wants to be in life. Recent turmoil, closure of schools, colleges and universities for months together followed by shutdown, protests against shootings, killings and imposition of curfew has turned Kashmir into traumatizing situation – added woes and worsened educational setup besides damaging peace of mind of people and academics. Even after two decades of conflict the beauty of the place can be misleading. It can almost make you forget the tension because it is superficial for the tension is palpable.
People in Kashmir live in a situation of extreme uncertainty when anytime anywhere life can change forever. According to census 2011, literacy in Jammu and Kashmir is 68.74 per cent (males: 78.26 per cent and females: 58.01 per cent), showing an increase in literacy in Jammu and Kashmir that was 12.95 per cent as per census 1961 and 54.46 per cent as per census 2001. A closer look at the quantitative gain, however, will reveal that the enrollment statistics that are as often projected as an indicator of educational progress hide a number of disturbing facts about quality. Quality is not just about standard(s). Quality alongside ‘a high standard’ means, or at least it should mean, an insight into nuances and subtleties of a subject. Such insight has to be the outcome of a sustained process of concentration and singleness of purpose. The quest for reaching a certain standard therefore is almost a never-ending process. As far as knowledge and quality go perfection is impossibility. Having a perpetual urge to seek the attainment of a certain level of quality makes more sense than claiming to have attained one. It is only natural that the assessment of such an elusive thing as quality needs a high degree of skill, intelligence and professionalism.
The 21st century, is an era of acute modernization and both the teacher and the students have to cope with the new changes and challenges. The roles and responsibilities of the teachers have multiplied and have found extension outside the classroom. Training provides an individual with an opportunity to learn specific skills, techniques and new instructional approaches. Further, it provides opportunities for updating the knowledge of developments in science and technology along with the teaching techniques. It helps to acquire improved understanding of generally applicable pedagogical techniques and those reinforcing equitable teaching practices. The teachers presented with new challenges must be trained in a proper way that requires specialized skills. A teacher must be able to increase conceptual understanding and analytical ability among students through the use of diverse media. Besides, due to availability of technology, the advance media have to be incorporated in the teaching learning process. Twenty-first century teaching demands a new set of competencies, which include not only ICT skills, but also such soft skills as creativity, critical thinking, problem solving, analytical skills, group learning, working in a team-based environment and effective communication to prepare students for real life. Time has added new dimensions to this profession which requires specified competencies and right attitude. If we look at the present educational scenario we see that any staff development and school improvement initiatives ignore the knowledge and expertise of teachers. Rather they rely heavily on water tight models of school reform that attempt to get teachers to comply with some externally generated solutions to school problems. According to the National Curricular Framework-2005, the process of preparing teachers in a new and improvised teacher education system should provide opportunities for self-learning, reflection and provide opportunities for understanding self and others. Thus reflective thinking must become an integral component in the teaching process of pre-service teachers in order to equip them properly.
With a view to bring a positive change in the society and inculcate leadership qualities among the students, trained and effective teachers are the key to student success in work, life and citizenship. Teacher is the key to the learning of all children. Today, we live in a technology and media suffused environment with access to an abundance of information; rapid changes in technology tools and the ability to collaborate and make individual contributions on an unprecedented scale. There is a growing need felt to encourage notions of viewing the teacher as a reflective practitioner who can directly improve the quality of teaching and learning and in turn produce better reflective thinkers. With the help of training, the overt and covert behavior of the trainees gets shaped in such a way that a balance of qualities is maintained. It influences the attitudes of the trainees and helps them to achieve the ability to make teaching interesting by using different teaching strategies. Further, it helps them to achieve the ability to control the class and includes technology tools in the classroom equipping the children wisely and effectively in a school environment.
Education involves not only mastery of the knowledge included within the formal school syllabus but is critical to the very foundations of human and social development and to a vision of social transformation. It is with this understanding that teaching should enable students to learn in relevant, real world twenty-first century contexts (e.g., through project-based or other applied work). Today’s students need to develop thinking skills, content knowledge with social and emotional competencies and teachers are responsible for setting of high expectations and directing student learning towards measurable ends.
To be effective in the twenty-first century, teaching must be able to create, evaluate, and effectively utilize information, media, and technology. The content matter and the focus of the teaching should be on student learning to realize the objectives of the ‘Reflective Level’ of teaching. This is the highest level of teaching which starts after the completion of ‘Memory Level’ and ‘Understanding Level’ of teaching. Logic and philosophy are taught to students to develop reflective power in them. This requires mental approach of teaching where imaginary problems are in use. Besides mastery of fundamental subjects, essential life and career skills include Flexibility & Adaptability; Initiative & Self Direction; Social & Cross-Cultural Skills; Productivity & Accountability and Leadership & Responsibility. Fostering such skills requires an education system that is flexible; basic education should provide the foundation for learning, and secondary and tertiary education should develop core skills that encourage creative and critical thinking.
In addition, it is necessary to develop an effective life-long learning system to provide continuing education and skill upgrading to persons after they have left formal education in order to provide the changing skills necessary to remain competitive in the new global economy. In a developing economy, expansion in education at all levels is inevitable. This is partly because of the need of the economy for educated and skilled manpower, and partly because of the government policies to universalize education and with the desire of the people to get themselves educated. This desire for education comes from the fact that education offers better job opportunities helping in the empowerment of youth.
This empowerment takes place through quality education leading to financial stability, to be confident enough to face the society and to gain prestige in the society. As in case of economic activities in general, investment and expenditure on education services influence income generation, distribution and consumption in the economy. The same is true of expenditure on higher education. The expansion of education services results in a demand for educated man power, raw-material and consumable goods. In turn that leads to income generation, distribution and consumption through the agents engaged in education. Education is an effective tool for youth empowerment not only from the point of view of literacy, but has inter-linkages with other social parameters viz. population growth, health care, education of children etc. It enables youth to acquire new knowledge and technology, required for improving and developing their tasks in all fields. Social, economic and political development of a nation depends on its educated youth.
Educated youth supply the required manpower to government, industry, business, banking and other areas of human activity. Since higher education is expected to supply the required personnel to take responsibility of equipping individuals with advanced knowledge and skills required for taking up such position, its quality cannot be ignored for two main reasons. One is its rate of return for individual himself and second for the society at large. It is easy to assert that the aim of education is to build the character and moral of mankind. But , after spending the invaluable twenty years of life in getting just the university rolls of degrees the young people fail to ensure their entry into the domain of public or private sector. The dissatisfaction of the youth mounts up with the realization that over the past years they did not acquire any vocational skill which could have enabled them to earn their subsistence. Education is specially designed to influence the development and growth of an individual. The development is specifically addressed to the issue of “access”, “quality”, “relevance”, “equality”, “gender” and “efficiency”. As a strengthening apparatus, education creates sensibilities among the people to respond to changing situations and enable the individuals to contribute to the development in the society. It can be understood to be a process of expanding human capacities to contribute to the making of a just and compassionate society. Simultaneously, the most effective instrument to create equal opportunities, reduce disparities, and allow for empowerment, education has the potential to minimize disparities in-between different sexes, social groups, religious communities; aiming broadly in some form of egalitarian social system.
Both the authors are working for the Empowerment of Youth through Education.
Dr. Syed Javed Iqbal Kamili is HOD Commerce and Management in G M College.
Dr. Waqar Ul Nisa is teaching as a Lecturer in Government of J&K Higher Education Department.

—The authors can be reached at: javedkamili@gmail.com & waqarulnisa@gmail.com

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