The Purpose of Education – Creating Responsible, Productive Citizens

“The whole art of teaching is only the art of awakening the natural curiosity of young minds for the purpose of satisfying it afterwards”. – Anatole France

The purpose of education is to create responsible, productive and socially contributing citizens – people who can provide for their own families as well as contribute to their communities. As Toffler says, education in the 21st century should allow people to learn, unlearn and relearn. But I am not sure our schools and colleges are committed to this.

Education is one of the most unscientific human endeavors. You do well in school to get into a good college and earn a good degree. A good degree is supposed to be a passport to a good job. Based on your educational qualifications, you can climb to a reasonably high position without having to demonstrate any exceptional ability.

Beyond that, however, you may have problems. There is no established link between your performance in school and your performance in a job. Even more importantly, there is no link between your performance on the job and your performance in life.

To be true to purpose, education should support a child develop three fundamental capabilities:

1. Discover, develop and continually evolve a vision to become a useful member of society:

Many of us have an advantage – our parents envision our future for us, driving us to work towards achieving this vision. However, this is not as common among the poor. The education system has to step in to help everyone create this vision, and to build even the poor child’s confidence to pursue the vision.

Balaji Sampath, who runs Eureka Child – an NGO committed to improving literacy and math ability in government schools, told us a touching story in this context. Coming back from the US to do something meaningful in education, he immersed himself in local issues by spending a few months in a village. He was in a village classroom when a child asked the teacher whether it was possible to travel to the moon. “You and I cannot fly to the moon,” the teacher answered. “But scientists in the U.S. can…” We must stop robbing our children of goals and dreams.

2. Understand that questions are more important than answers:

Our education system places undue emphasis on providing answers – often to questions that children do not have. In other words, too often we teach children concepts without context; we need to show them why learning is important. We need to focus on awakening kids’ natural curiosity and teaching them to love learning. A good way to do this is to place children in natural experiences or in games where they can ask questions. In these settings, learning is immediate and strong. Learning can be a structured discovery process, offering students varied learning outcomes – just as our situations and decisions later in life offering different outcomes.

For example, an NGO in Mumbai went to schools with an experiment to teach students about water conservation. The pupils measured the amount of water consumed while brushing their teeth with the tap open, and then again with the tap off. Imagine, if we all learn this type of lesson in school, how we can apply the principles to so many other aspects of our home and work later in life.

3. Learning to Learn:

The world is evolving too fast for schools and colleges to keep up. What is being taught is inadequate and outdated, or will be soon. It is important that children are encouraged to discover answers on their own – through the Internet, through experimenting and by having access to experts on the cutting edge of every field.

It is important that students learn the scientific method –

(a) creating a hypothesis based on observations,

(b) designing and conducting experiments to prove or disprove these hypotheses and

(c) arriving at conclusions while recognizing that the conclusions could change with additional information.

With the level of knowledge available in the world today, it is also important to exercise judgment what to learn, and how and when you need to learn it. We need to teach kids when to rely on their own judgments,, and when to rely on the expertise of others. Our children must learn that even when you outsource the effort, you retain responsibility over the result.

What do you think? Do you agree with these ideas about the critical capabilities that our children need? Is our educational system addressing this? Do share your thoughts and experiences with all of us.

Role Of Robotics In The Progressive Education System For The 21st Century

With a specific end goal to instruct in the 21st century, educational institutes and instructors need to develop and keep up a student’s enthusiasm for the curriculum by demonstrating and inculcating skills to transfer bookish knowledge to the real-life applications.

Robotics – An Applied Science

Before we even begin to understand the need for inculcating Robotics in the Education System of today, we need to be thorough with what exactly a robot is.

A robot is a machine that can perform complex actions based on the programs fed to the computer. It can perform a series of tasks, replicate many human movements and functions, but is essentially unemotional.

About Robotics

Robotics is that branch of technology that encompasses the start to the end of a robot. It not only deals with the designing aspect of a Robot, but applies technology for the construction of the same, considers the aspects of its operation, and further application of the robots.

Robotics is not a fad; it is far from that. It is a gradual progression from the old-school contemporary education and is more of a phenomenon that allows an integrated approach to the knowledge of mathematics, science and other technological content.

In the fast-paced world today, Robotics allows emphasis on problem-based learning, encourages learning in groups and outlays perfect integration and application of knowledge.

Robotics And Student Connect

Realizing True Potential: Since Robotics is essentially an application-based study, it allows students across levels to learn on the go. They may also get to realize their potentials and seek assistance where they see an opportunity to build their career in the long run.

Taking New Roles: In an interactive classroom environment, while working on a robot, student teams interact with each other. Some come across to be great speakers, while others as great thinkers – virtually breathing life into thoughts. They can rather code, perform specialized tasks and additionally ensure the group remains focused.

Going Beyond the Books: Today, the Education system is focusing beyond the bookish knowledge and while students get interested in a new domain like Robotics, they will also get an opportunity to get involved and learn other interactive platforms like social media to spread a word about their word.

Theory to Application: As the students begin to see, the theoretical knowledge coming to life in the manner, they would want it to, where they have a role in the actual control. They begin to enjoy the power of control and subconsciously start excelling in the respective domains as well.

Stretching the Boundaries: It allows an opportunity for critical thinking in a steady and self-inspired way. The learners encounter fulfilling accomplishments immediately and can rapidly proceed to establish complicated programs and challenges in a robot.

Quality of Education and the Recruiters

I studied engineering in Shivaji University which is a reputed university now but at the time when I was growing up the engineering students from this university were ridiculed for their lack of knowledge and ability. Generally, the recruiting process of headhunters places an overwhelming emphasis on the final interview deciding the fortune of a fresh candidate. This was unfair to the candidates from smaller cities as their English was not up to the mark and despite being fluent engineers and qualifying through rigorous tests they were getting rejected in the interview. This thinking by the recruiters of selecting the best among equals was clearly defective. I do agree that when the candidates are almost equal in their qualifications and knowledge and ability some criteria have to be there for selecting a candidate right? Adequate speaking abilities are needed even for engineering jobs, but my English speaking abilities deciding my chances of getting an engineering job is really ridiculous. Now that I have become a writer my chances will be really good right? Just kidding!

Similar such defective procedures which are in place in various fields need to be corrected for various appointments. There are many kinds of jobs in general such as, government jobs, private jobs and the jobs in charity organizations etc. All these jobs will have different requirements, facilities offered and remuneration. But nobody tells this in any syllabus I know of. Why are students not intimated officially that they will face this environment and they should know about it. The reality is that they find out, but this inclusion in my syllabus makes it quality education for me especially when you are opting for professional courses.

Education cannot be just practical or theoretical when a student joins the school at a tender age. It has to such that all students need to be given equal opportunity to understand, interpret and most importantly execute what they have learned. It has to be fun as well as disciplined in its approach. The person imparting this education needs to be a personality that children would like to be with. We already have a lot of stress in our lives and it must be reduced. So, start with the new generation. Teach them the importance of breathing in the fresh air first. Then, if needed they will learn about technology. It is all here, no need to become desperate about learning and using it.

Remember there are several great career opportunities in place now such as professional sports, art, event management, farming even and what not. So the parents just gearing up for their child’s education need to calm down a bit. It’s the child who is taking the education and not you. People often talk about the bygone days and they wish that they will come back. Do you wonder why? The mechanization has slowly but surely slowed down the importance of the development of human qualities. Please remember various options have to be available to the child when he is about 15 years old. That’s when he will realize what he would like to do with his future. So, the education must have supported him in such a way that he knows all the options at that time. Well reasonably at least. A mindless emphasis on formal education induces stress and boredom in the minds of youngsters after a while.

I know we will probably have some businessman opening an event management business course and make even more money. Why doesn’t the government do it with the tax payer’s money? That is a good investment. A quest for world-class education is not possible for everyone. The Indian education system mostly has to develop syllabi that will eventually be useful for Indian environment. Find new employment opportunities especially in the agriculture sector and develop students with information at the college level. Homeschooling is also different and a sort of “old is gold” concept. Vocational trade schools, online education etc are some of the several different modes of education available which is great.

I was in Australia for a while. A job in a metro such as Adelaide probably paid me around AUD 15 per hour. If I went to a smaller town such as Naracoorte the same job would give me AUD 17. Why? They are trying to move the large influx of job hunters in cities to smaller towns where they could make more money and live a peaceful life. It is a win-win situation. More money, fewer expenses, all facilities and a peaceful long life. The city dwellers, you don’t want that? You got be kidding me!! Anyway, the point is that such clever government initiatives make alternate lifestyles more attractive by the time you finish school. So these updates have to be available during professional courses to the students officially. That is quality education. Not how many hours I spent at the desk. Why should a person be required to work 12 hours daily unless there is something seriously wrong with my work system? Now if a student is from such university/organization which takes all these pains I will give him/her preference as a recruiter. Opinions definitely solicited!!

New Conflicting Trends in Education

There was a time when the basic needs of human beings were only food, clothing and shelter. With the rise of the industrial age, education was added as one of their basic needs. And now education is one of the major industries of the world, producing graduates to manage and run the economy, politics, and the transmission of culture. But with the information age gaining more and more ground in our society, we are seeing conflicting trends in the educational system.

The first conflicting trend is in the area of cost. While the cost of formal education in colleges and universities is rising, the cost of education through the Internet is getting lower and lower. In many countries the observation of educational managers is that educational cost is rising higher than the inflation rate of a country. And yet getting information which is the raw data of education is becoming cheaper and cheaper through the Internet. Students can connect cheaply to the Internet through Internet cafes and access information that before would cost them much. They can now download ebooks, many of which are free.

In the Website Personal Money Store an article is written about Academic Earth. It says that while Academic Earth is not an organization that can provide a learner with college credit, it can give him or her nearly all the same material he or she could receive in a traditional college classroom, at a time when he or she wants it, without the hassle of transportation and dress expenses. There is an advertisement in this Website of “Great College Lectures, for FREE.”

The second conflicting trend I see is in the area of methodology. With more information to digest and more books to read students are getting more and more burdened with reading, memorizing and comprehending the content of the books and lectures of professors. And yet on the other hand there are so many individuals and groups trying to make learning fun and enjoyable, not a burdensome experience.

In the Website DNA Read the World there is an article entitled “New trends in teaching that make learning fun.” In this article we read, “To make students enjoy and understand at the same time is the key principle on which education institutions should work on.” There are also online experiments with mnemonics to make memorization fun.

The third conflicting trend is in the area of results. Almost everywhere in countries with Western kind of education the complaint has been that the educational system produces unemployed or underemployed graduates. There is no assurance that upon graduation employment is there. And yet jobs are being generated through the Internet. Some get jobs by writing reviews of books, of programs, by creating websites, by programming, etc., not to mention the many scams online.

The Website Engines for Education is trying “to raise consciousness about the changes needed in our educational system.” Hopefully these changes will also solve the problem of unemployment or underemployment of our college graduates.

What do these conflicting trends tell us? It seems that the following trends are possible.

As the cost of formal education goes higher and higher and the cost of non-formal education through the Web goes lower and lower, only the wealthy will be able to access formal education while the not so wealthy will be content with non-formal education through the Web.

As the process of education becomes more and more burdensome to students more and more educational games will be put on the web where the students will be spending more and more of their time. There are already indications that students cut their classes in order to spend their time playing games in Internet cafes.

As more and more unemployed and underemployed are produced by our formal system of education, more and more jobs will be created through the Web.

The changes in the educational area are not so clear at the present time but it seems clear that there are indications of substantial changes in the near future.

The Future of Educational Technology and Education 3.0

Thinking of what education might look like in the next decade, one quickly realizes that the trends in technology are leaving a large number of our students behind. We no longer live in an age of visible movement when it comes to progress and innovation. Today is an age of exponential change. New and ever-improving technologies are popping up every day and in every corner of society.

Educating the best and the brightest in this brave new world will take a new and improved educational paradigm. Allowing our educational tools to age in the corner of the classroom will be the mistake that may cost us our future. Throwing away masses of children to inequitable access will ensure that we languish at the bottom of the global pool of employable workers for decades to come.

The New Toolbox

I was at an auction a few years ago and noticed a few old woodworking tools that I thought I could use. For a few bucks, I was able to snag an assortment of hand tools that may have been in someone’s toolbox for a generation or more. As the next decade passed, I used these tools in my shop for a wide variety of projects until my projects outgrew these old, dull tools. My woodworking creations continued to improve as did my skills and artistry. I quickly discovered that using improved tools would translate into improved craftsmanship. As any woodworker will tell you, new tools require new skills.

Woodworking is a great metaphor for shaping and molding students. There is simply no good substitute for a sharp tool. If you want to build the best projects possible, you need to use the best tools possible. Thinking in terms of the next decade for our country, we will be sorely disappointed in our projects if we fail to improve our tools.

Within this article, I will try to paint a picture of how technology will shape the way we educate students in the next decade. I will attempt to show the amazing possibilities that lay before us if we will simply walk through the doorway of opportunity that is open to us. My focus will be this idea: Transforming the student from being a passenger to becoming a “user.” You may be wondering what I mean by this. Let me explain.

Ask yourself what it means to be a “user.” A user is not simply a person who uses. For the student, being a user should involve using the latest technology in a free and autonomous manner. This new-found freedom will allow the student to become an active participant in his/her education instead of a passive passenger. No other time in history have we been so able to make this a reality.

In our current technological society, being a user also means being tracked. Tracking has become a major part of our daily lives and is precisely the engine that should drive our educational process for the foreseeable future. Tracking a student means having the ability to target education toward weaknesses and strengths. The ability to accurately customize curriculum to the individual has been the holy grail of educational philosophy for many years. This golden age of technological development may soon enable this dream to become a reality.

Current educational curriculum and individual assessment is arbitrary at best. Being able to accurately asses a student can only be achieved by using modern tracking and database technologies. The means by which we can make this a reality is readily available and only needs to be taken off the shelf to be used. If Congress is looking for a shovel-ready project, this may be the one.

Imagine a world where every child has a tablet computer with ready access to the App of virtual photographic memory (internet). Further, imagine that every student can access all the knowledge of humankind freely at any moment in time. Continue to imagine a world where a misspelled word brings up a spelling challenge application instead of an auto correction. Try to contemplate what it would mean for a teacher to have a database of every misspelled word, every misunderstood concept or every missed equation for each of their students. Try to envision a teacher with the ability to customize the experience of the individual “user” with minimal effort. Imagine the curriculum being automatically targeted to the user through an intuitive educational platform that knows every strength and each unique weakness. I could go on, but I think you get the point.

The company that makes this standard available to the educational community will be the company that shapes the future of humankind. Will it be Google, Apple, Microsoft, or some other yet unknown pioneer?

Continuing from the thoughts in my last post, I would like to elaborate on the idea of the student as a user of a new standardized educational platform. It is obvious to me that the future of education will always mirror our everyday lives in one way or another. If you examine how technology has influenced your daily life already, you begin to put together a snapshot of what it will mean to be educated in the next decade.

In the last few hundred years, most individuals would consider an education as something you receive. You often hear the question asked, “Where did you receive your education?” As we proceed through the next decade, education will slowly move away from reception and toward being custom designed for the individual user. New technology will not only allow us to receive an education, but also develop an education. The question we might ask in 10 years is, “How did you develop your education?” The question of where will still be important, but the how of the matter will be the focus that defines the individual.

To make this a reality we will need a standardized platform from which to develop a student’s unique education. This standardized platform will allow us to tailor a custom curriculum that will be matched to talents, interests and life goals. For the educator, a standardized platform will create a way to assist the student in discovering a true purpose in life through a unique educational experience. The basics of reading, writing and arithmetic will not be taught as much as they will be discovered and used. Learning will become a reciprocal experience between the teacher, the student and the machine.

Under a standardized platform, each of these three participants will have a role to play. The teacher will be the facilitator, assisting the development of the curriculum and inspiring the direction the student takes. The student will be the user, gathering resources, skills and knowledge in an efficient and measured sequence. The machine will do the work of data gathering and analysis, which will assist the teacher and student in refining the curriculum. This data gathering work of the machine will also free the teacher from the burden of record-keeping and tedious tasks that currently distract from the real job of teaching and learning.

Under a standardized system, grade level will be far less important. Achievement and progression will be measured by accomplishment and intelligence as a benchmark for success. The question of failure or success will be irrelevant and replaced with a standard and consistent measurement of potential and overall intelligence. Information will no longer be missed but continually rehearsed and monitored for retention by the machine.

In our current educational paradigm, the teacher is in charge of arbitrarily constructing curriculum. This approach to curriculum development is based on inexperience in some cases, outdated materials, inadequate funding and a shortage of time. Measuring the success of a specific curriculum is currently impossible. With a standardized system, comparisons of curricular success can be made across the entire spectrum of education and then continually reformulated and enhanced by the machine.

Sadly, teachers today are bogged down with an assortment of mind-numbing tasks that would be better suited to an off-the-shelf automated system. Tasks such as data tracking, reporting and record keeping are currently accomplished manually. These tasks could easily be delegated to an intuitive database. Developing a standard to follow would eliminate these tasks and free the teacher to do their main job of teaching students.

Education 3.0

Throughout history, man has sought to pass on knowledge to the next generation. This process started with oral tradition, storytelling and writing. With the advent of the printing press, knowledge and information slowly became available to the masses. The amount of information that could be gained by one human in a lifetime was severely limited by his access to printed materials and wealth. The majority of learning was gained through observation and imitation. We can call this Education 1.0.

Education 2.0 starts around the late eighteen hundreds with universal literacy movements throughout newly industrialized regions of the world. Improvements in education slowly transitioned from apprenticeship to formal education and training. Despite our movements toward universal education, access to knowledge and opportunity continues to be inequitable throughout the world. Even with the arrival of the computer revolution, access to the tools of learning continues to define the learner.

The next decade may mark the moment in history when all men are granted equal access to the greatest treasure a soul can possess. I use the word may in the last sentence because there is the chance that we will miss this golden opportunity. Access to Education 3.0 will only be gained through investment and universal standardization. If we continue to divert wealth toward fruitless goals and corporate greed, this opportunity will be lost or hopelessly delayed.

Education 3.0, when it arrives, will be the age of universal enlightenment. Platforms for education and learning will slowly standardize and become globally accessible and affordable. The poorest to the wealthiest will have access to the machine that runs the platform.

The thought on your mind at this point is most likely wondering what machine I keep referring to. The machine in question is the one we have been so busy teaching and training since roughly 1969. You’ve probably guessed it by now that I am referring to the internet. The great cloud of knowledge that we call the internet is precisely the mechanism that we will use to build the platform of Education 3.0. When the platform is finally in place, the decade to follow will see the greatest amount of wealth, discoveries and use of human potential that we have witnessed during our time on this earth. The only question that remains to be answered is the point at which I will leave this article.

When will we allow the user to use the machine to its potential?