One who walks into the future facing the past has no control over where he is going.
- Ackoff R, “Redesigning the Future”, Wiley, 1974.
Today we live in a Global village [thanks to ICT revolution] and walk into the future at increasingly speedy manner. Does it mean that we don’t need to look back at our past? What is the role of education in the present scenario? This article attempts to answer these two questions.
We are witnessing very fast changes so much that most of lives are digital and governed by `chips’. We don’t have time to enjoy our weekends or holidays by communicating with nature like it used to be even 2 decades back when people had time to spend the weekend in a rural area. `Stress’, `PC related ailments’ etc. are becoming common vocabulary. Even the erstwhile small towns are becoming unsafe to live in, at least in highly populated developing countries, due to industrialization and people migration.
In countries such as mine, India, changes have been brought about to a far higher magnitude in the quantity than quality of lesson material that a school kid is expected to assimilate [except in IT related subjects], despite the fact that a country’s development depends upon its quality education system, as reflected by classroom processes. Though more and more K-12 schools are using multimedia in their classrooms, the Net is still not feasible in countries such as India where there are rural schools without even proper chalkboards.
Is there a way out? Yes, to some extent, this problem can be addressed by using local culture and tradition, be it a school in Africa, South Pacific, Asia or anywhere else. All countries have their own culture and traditions, elements of which, I think can be used effectively in teaching our kids.
For instance, when teaching the primary school science concept `solids expand on heating’ in a rural classroom, the classic `ball and ring’ experiment [a model which is still found in many textbooks but non-existent in school labs] cannot be effective. When teaching this concept, I used to take my kids to the village craftsman who makes cart wheels. There the kids see the craftsman keeping the iron rims in fire for some time and then fitting them on to the wheels. As he does it, I ask my students the reason why he does that. After some thinking, they come with explanations such as `He does it so that the rim expands at first, and as it it fitted, it shrinks and hence fits very tightly. Can textbook pages or even dynamic web pages teach the concept as effectively as `live’ demo? Surely, cannot. Dry straw roofing in village huts can be a very effective teaching aid to teach `heat conduction’.
Many of us who are raised in villages would know as to how dried bottle gourd is still used to teach swimming to people. I have used this fascinating aid to teach concepts such as `buoyancy’ and `laws of flotation’ with great ease.
The need of the day in our rural science classrooms is that teaching learning methods should be not only user friendly but also respect the local culture and traditions.