Let’s ask ourselves: “why education”? Why do we spend so many years in the educational system when there are other available options? Flash to the past, Benjamin Franklin, one of American’s most respected and well-known entrepreneurs, inventors etc improves the quality of American life with his work. He founded the famous University of Pennsylvania and the first public library. He founded the library because, during the colonial times, Americans had limited access to books and people were interested in science, art, politics, economics, and social matters. Now, America is what it is because Benjamin and others like George Washington and Thomas Jefferson saw education as a crucial part of their lives and necessary to the functionality for American society. What then does education stand for? One educationist, Dr. Zakir Husain, defined education as – “the process of the individual mind, getting to its full possible development.” Also, according to a UNESCO study, “the physical, intellectual, emotional and ethical integration of the individual into a complete man/woman is the fundamental aim of education.” But, is the synthesis of the statement administered in schools to unlock the full potential of students today? Let’s recap on the short story entitled: “My Unfortunate Thought”.
In the 1950s, there lived two friends called Walter Smith and Jerry Brown in a village called Amanokrom. Both attended the same primary and high school, and throughout they were told to strive for the best grades to gain admission into the best schools.
One day, Walter questioned Jerry: “Why is our curriculum designed to prepare us to gain employment in the future without teaching us how to sustain within the recent global transformation?”
Jerry: “Surviving is the ability to get employment. So shut-up and let’s learn for the best grades, best schools, and best jobs.”
Walter: “Our institutions are not getting it right.”
Jerry: “Change your thoughts else you will end-up crowned as “an unemployed graduate”.”
In 1967, both successfully gained admission to same University (they always wanted to be together). At the University, Walter chose Finance while Jerry chose Engineering. Students in the business school were stretched beyond imagination to help them understand the contemporary world but the stereotypical way of teaching for ‘students to pass exams’ was still adhered by lecturers in the engineering department. This laborious situation faced by Jerry made Walter enquire to the Dean of students.
Dean: “Walter, an author William Feather once said, “Books open your mind, broaden your mind, and strengthen you as nothing else can” and that is what the education curricula are designed to do. However, Aristotle also said “The one exclusive sign of thorough knowledge is the power of teaching.” Therefore, it is our responsibility to ensure that your mind is strengthened for future endeavours. Moreover, it is also your responsibility as a student to articulate that knowledge into reality. Thanks for the alert, soon we will reinforce this style of teaching in the engineering school.”
Walter let the cat out of the bag to Jerry about the engineering school, but Jerry wasn’t bothered because he felt class modules were a piece of cake. In the heat of the moment, at the Business school, Walter was busier than ever and sometimes had to burn the midnight oil. In 1972, both completed their degree and got jobs in the same company based in Stockholm. Due to the vigorous training Walter experienced at the business school, he was soon known in the company as the ‘Catalyst’, Jerry started to regret not being able to meet the standards set by Walter since he had no such training from his department. After two years, the company bought new systems to replace the roles of some employees (to enhance productivity and reduce cost). Both friends knew it was time to exit but Walter knew he could survive; because his initiatives led to the acquisition of the new systems. The company held a pronouncement meeting and more than 60 staff were laid-off. Jerry and Walter were not an exception. But to the surprise of everybody, Walter’s laid-off letter (when opened) was an appointment letter for the new General Manager for the Company subsidiary in Oslo.
Walter told Jerry: “Preparing for a working life is not sustainable but with a broad mind you can sustain your working life despite the global transformation. So make a difference with your knowledge and you shall succeed.”
Jerry left in dismay after listening to Walter and reflected on this unfortunate moment in life.
From the story we understand that education is essential in equipping students for the real world. What then should institutions know in the 21st century? If teachers could reorganize themselves to revisit the dimension of students’ knowledge, skills, character and learning how to learn; this could predominately transform and prepare students for success in work and life. “Knowledge is power”. And because of it, you are able to read this article on your laptop, through the internet instead of waiting for several years before reading it in a published book. Knowledge serves as the gradient for organizational performance. And likewise, Students (employees) are the labour force for manipulating processes and technology in these organizations to realize their objectives. Actualizing this, Albert Einstein once said “it is the supreme art of the teacher to awaken joy in creative expression and knowledge”. This means students can grow in knowledge through education and that starts with a teacher. Most students in schools are not getting things right because they are not guided correctly. Education reforms, programmes and activities should be revised to enable students to distinguish between ‘knowing that’ and ‘knowing how’. This means pedagogical knowledge of teachers is necessary. The pedagogical ‘knowledge base’ of teachers includes all the required cognitive knowledge for creating effective teaching and learning environments for students. A study on teacher knowledge (Shulman, 1987) categorized teacher knowledge into 7 categories, among which were the concepts of: General pedagogical knowledge which focuses on principles and strategies of classroom management, these include;
Knowledge of teaching methods: having a command of various teaching methods, knowing when and how to apply each method;
Knowledge of classroom management: maximizing the quantity of instructional time, handling classroom events, teaching at a steady pace, maintaining clear direction in lessons;
Structure: structuring learning objectives and the lesson process, lesson planning and evaluation;
Additivity: dealing with heterogeneous learning groups in the classroom
Knowledge of learning processes: supporting and fostering individual learning progress by having knowledge of various cognitive and motivational learning processes
Knowledge of individual student characteristics: having knowledge of the sources of student cognitive, motivational, and emotional heterogeneity.
Moreover, pedagogical content knowledge integrates the specific subject content and the pedagogical knowledge for teaching that particular subject.
Therefore, when the teacher does this right, students are empowered with the knowledge to understand what knowledge management is; which has been described as a key driver of organizational performance (Bousa and Venkitachalam, 2013), and one of the most important resources for the survival and prosperity of organizations (Teece, Pisano, and Shuen, 1997; Kamhawi, 2012).
Meanwhile, Knowledge with no skill is still an empty vessel of progress. Isaac Newton once said “my powers are ordinary. Only my application brings me success”. For example, a theatre case can be administered successfully depending on the competence level of the surgeon. Thus, Competence here, refers to the integration of knowledge, skills, and attitudes into situation-relevant actions, in order to master relevant tasks (Taconis, Van der Plas, & Van der Sanden, 2004). Meaning that knowledge does not guarantee competence level but skills and attitude training could help actualize these traits. Get this right, competence is not something we are born with, but rather a quality which can be learned and improved through strong education.
Moreover, character and ‘learning how to learn’ becomes very influential traits that facilitates knowledge and skill acquisition. Having effective career guidance units in schools could guide students on ‘learning how to learn’ and characters to develop to enable them to improve the relationship trend between skills and knowledge needed in the technological era.
Due to strong educational backgrounds, famous Founders from companies like Google, Microsoft, EBay, PayPal, Facebook, CNN etc. have transformed the world to what it is today and are still pioneering efforts to making it even better. Likewise, Ex-Presidents; Dr. Kwame Nkrumah, Nelson Mandela, Mahatma Gandhi etc. facilitated independence of their countries; including 2017 Nobel prize winner Rainer Weiss. All these successes didn’t take hours, days or months but years of hardship, dedication and determination with strong education to achieve their goals. A successful College dropout, Bill gates himself believes in strong education and as such his foundation donates billions of dollars to improve the learning opportunities worldwide.
In conclusion, my dream is that educational institutions should be more responsive to expanding the knowledge tentacles of students and millions could be built up confidently to: describe situations without prejudice, interpret and discuss conceivable consequences of the world and hence taking strategic decisions rather than just passing exams. Together we could be building the bridge to promoting greater economic power and social good for all.
Bosua, R. and Venkitachalam, K. (2013). Aligning strategies and processes in knowledge management: a framework. Journal of Knowledge Management, 17(3), 331-346, doi: 10.1108/JKM-10-2012-0323
König, J., Blömeke, S., Paine, L., Schmidt, W.H., & Hsieh, F.-J. (2011). General pedagogical knowledge of future middle school teachers: On the complex ecology of teacher education in the United States, Germany, and Taiwan. Journal of Teacher Education, 62(2), 188 -201.
Shulman, L.S. (1987). Knowledge and teaching: Foundations of the new reform. Harvard Educational Review, 57(1), 1-22.