The more I read, the more I hear  and the more I think about it, our current established education system leaves a lot to be desired.

I recently saw a  video interview (featured) by Noam Chomsky (professor at MIT), which outlines his views on the purpose of education. An interesting interview, I have to say.

To sum up the ideas in this interview:

The Purpose of Education

He states that there are two concepts of the ‘purpose of education’. The first comes from the era of the Enlightenment, where traditional thinking states that education is a process of ENQUIRING and CREATING constructively and independently without external control. It’s about seeking out the riches of the past and internalising the important parts – or the parts which are important to you.

This style of education has children questioning and challenging a standard doctrine and searching for alternatives.

The second concept of education is indoctrination, where children are taught to accept and not challenge a certain set of data given to them. They are taught to fulfil the roles given to them – that failure to follow those rules results in punishment. They are taught not to ‘shake the systems of power and authority’.

The Impact of Technology

Chomsky states in his interview that although the impact of technology is very real in our lives today, the effects are not as dramatic as, let’s say, the introduction of plumbing or the development of transport, which were born of creative inquiry.

His comparison of technology to  a hammer was interesting: a hammer does not care whether it is used to build a house or smash someone’s skull. His point, of course, is that inquiry provides a framework and directs ones questions and research so that we can find what needs to be pursued and reject the rest. This framework is needed in order for technology to be useful.

Assessments

Tests are practical only in the sense that they show what a child knows now and how much more he/she  needs to know – but they do not necessarily test UNDERSTANDING. A child can perform brilliantly on a test and not really understand a thing.

Tests can not only be meaningless, but they can do more damage in the sense that they can divert attention away from really meaningful learning. Tests can potentially mean nothing more than a set of hurdles our children need to jump – they are not the same as exploration.

Final Words

A gem from this interview is one quote:

“It does not matter what we cover (in class), it matters what we discover.”

We should be helping our children get to the point where they can think and learn on their own, not just regurgitate a set of given facts on command.

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