Education in context
Challenges of education were and still are, however, the rate in which they are increasing is alarming.
“Education is the greatest weapon with which you can change the world,” said Nelson Mandela. Education, when administered properly, is the single greatest weapon that any nation can wield. All the great nations of today have wielded this weapon with varying degrees of remarkable skill. But one doesn’t just become a master of skill, especially one worth learning, in a day.
Education isn’t a magical button that can be frictionlessly pressed. It comes with its own challenges. For example, what method is best? What is the opportunity cost of choosing one model over the other? What is the political cost? How much will a particular model cost?
It is impossible, perhaps to the vexation of most teachers, to directly open the heads of students to impart knowledge directly into their brains. Students must be ready to learn. How does one achieve that? Is there a tried and tested method?
These are questions that plague educators, policymakers and stakeholders all over the world, in varying degrees of course. While a teacher in developed countries might worry about the mental state of their pupils, teachers in not so developed countries might be worried about getting basic materials like biros and pencils to their students. Which creates a natural bridge in the overall approach to be employed.
What is the point of this? Big or small, challenges of education exists.
Challenges of education today
Some of these challenges and possible ways around them are highlighted extensively below;
1. Sustained interest in education
Perhaps the biggest of these challenges can be found in developing countries. Developing countries, usually so afflicted by several problems at once, never really have much of a sustained interest in education. This makes in the profession of teaching unattractive to a majority of qualified people. Of course, this has a two-fold consequence. The first being that unqualified persons would be employed as teachers, creating a ripple effect in the educational system – bad teachers, bad students.
The second being the inadequate treatment of teachers which would result in the profession being noticeably understaffed. This would result in the creation of a disturbingly unhealthy teacher to student ratio. Situations, where one teacher is responsible for over a hundred students, become common. It takes no genius to see that education, at least the quality variety of it, cannot be achieved in such an environment.
2. Assessment-based systems
Challenges of education can be reduced by clear policies, however, this is not the case. Because of the nature of policy makers wanting quick results, they often fail to note the subtleties involved in education. Focus is placed primarily on assessment and not the mastery of concepts. Standardized tests are used to determine the effectiveness of a particular model, and of course, this leads to the profligacy of rote learning. Students are encouraged to cram without understanding, hereby impeding true mastery of concepts taught. In an era where big data and assessment are rules, it is easy for students to lose their passion for learning.
3. Profit making based sector – privatization
If the government can’t provide quality education, who takes up the mantle? The private sector of course. And while the private sector provides quality education (conducive learning environments, qualified teachers, adequate teaching materials, healthy student to teacher ratio), it all comes at a cost. Education has now become an enterprise for profit making. Big data and performance indicators are now more important than ever. Rote learning, cramming, and standardized test scores are becoming much more important than the concepts that students are supposed to learn. Education now has a sterile, sort of unnatural hue around it. Progress is determined by test scores, leaving students who aren’t capable of competing in the high region of academic success behind. Sadly, policymakers forget that education doesn’t just begin and end in the classroom. Like a wise man once said, if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will spend its whole life believing that it’s stupid. Students who are not particularly gifted in core courses like Maths, Sciences, Literature, and English, are being left behind. This is a challenge that must be tackled properly if proper education is the goal.
4. The purpose of education
In the 21st century, the purpose of education, or the model of it, in fact, has changed. Rather than being a task whose sole aim is to impart knowledge, it has now become a corporate activity taken on by capitalists who are seeking to line their pockets. Of course, this isn’t the same in all cases. Nations like Germany, Iceland among others, with their policy of keeping education majorly under the jurisdiction of the government, have avoided this unfriendly trap. But other nations haven’t been so lucky. Governments have been found wanting at the task and the private sector has all but taken over. Private universities, private secondary schools and primary schools are now on the rise. Education has now become an industry to be serviced by money.
5. Evolution of systems in all sectors
Evolution is one of the main challenges of education for the traditional classroom education culture of today. The world is, as people say, a global village. Things that were not feasible ten years ago are now commonplace. How easy is it to maintain the traditional education structure within such rapidly changing parameters? Information is created at a frightening speed and traditional concepts are being edited almost continually. How does the traditional classroom structure deal with these changes? How does the syllabus cope when what is correct today might not necessarily be so tomorrow? This challenge is a tough one because it attacks the core of what education is all about. What sort of knowledge can be passed on to students when the knowledge has taken on a volatile nature? Knowledge is no longer in a relatable static state. To deal with this challenge, teachers would have to attempt to keep up with the pace of change. The classroom-teacher structure is no longer feasible for the sort of rapidly changing world that we have. Internet technology has to be put to good use in the classroom. Assignments should deal less with the content of the material, but with the thinking that gave rise to the concept. With that, if the concept evolves rapidly, students would have the ability to keep up. Another unintended effect of the evolution of knowledge, so to say, is that information has become too big to be taught within the limited avenue of classroom interaction. The body of knowledge needed to be learned has become so big that it is now impossible for students to properly grasp concepts before moving on to the next topic. Ideally, parental supervision should be an adequate stopgap measure to tackle this problem, but this sadly isn’t so. Many parents, because of increasing competitiveness in the workplace, have to work for longer hours and hereby leaving children entirely to their own devices.
Coping with the evolution
Evolution needs not only to affect the material being taught. Evolution should be a welcome development to the classroom too. Concepts like distance learning, already being used in some education models, could be incorporated in the mainstream education sector. The world has become so close knitted via the Internet that teachers need not physically see their students teach them. If appropriate digital platforms are available to students, teachers as well as Parents, it is possible to begin to see some positive changes in patterns of learning.
6. Effects of technological development
This is not to say that introducing technology into the classroom does not have its own side effect if it could be called that. Technology is one of the key challenges of education. Learners could be easily distracted by the many wonders of the Internet. As it is, many students own cellphones and laptops that easily connect to the Internet. If technology is introduced into the classroom, it might become a herculean task for tutors to get students to concentrate on the task of learning. It becomes difficult for teachers to maintain a productive learning environment with so many distractions holding the student’s attention. However, the classroom of the future will not exist in the traditional form. The digitalized world, while having its own inherent disadvantages, is getting bigger by the day. Eventually, Policymakers would come to the foregone conclusion that getting the entire process of education out of the traditional teacher-classroom setting is an inevitable development and is the cheaper and more viable option. This is not to say that this process will be as rapid as the movement from slates to paper for instance. It will be a slow one, but pointers such as University distance learning models, are already being tried out. These models have been reasonably successful and there is no reason to think that classrooms won’t become increasingly digitalized.
Today’s challenges of education seem to multiply even in the near future, the teachers of the future will have to deal with problems relating to how to monitor students and keep them away from distraction. Motivation and dedication are two traits that the teachers of the future will have to be able to teach their students. They will have to be able to keep the attention of students long enough to impart knowledge whilst simultaneously filing them with the desire to explore the great mass of information available to them. The future will be at their fingertips, only if they are interested enough to reach out to grab it.