The Critical Role Education

 If we are to build sustainable societies,  we have to inspire our children to embrace the kind of life-long learning that will unleash their enormous creativity

Lack of awareness plays a critical role in perpetuating the ongoing environmental, economic and energy crisis which now threatens human civilization. It is often said that the problem we face today is not so much  technological as it is social. The strength of diversity in a democratic system is that everyone is heard; the weakness is paralysis that results in inability to agree. For a long time, we have had the technology available to solve our problem. The problem is that we have not had the political or social will to do so. The reason for that is because of misinformation and a media unable to discern the relevant from merely distracting. The caveat for a functional democracy is informed voters.

Take just one example, that of anthropogenic global warming (AGW) as an illustration. Even though report after report is released showing that the vast consensus of climate scientists hold that CO2 emissions are the root cause of global warming, there is still a persistent and vocal small percentage of the population who do not believe this. What is beginning to dawn about this demographics is that their worldview is influenced more by religious or cultural ideology than by scientific education of AGW or climate science. This explains why we find so many professionally educated engineers, politicians and environmental activists who are AGW skeptics.

Climate change denialists are not one homogeneous group, but consist of a number of different subgroups, each with their own reasons for denying AGW. Without understanding the many different worldviews held by climate skeptics, it is not possible to devise effective education strategies. The Yale Project on Climate Communication has led studies to characterize the different demographics of climate change psychology and has discovered 6 major classes. A message that is effective for one of these demographics may prove ineffective against another. For this reason, knowing this demographic breakdown is critical to devising effective awareness campaigns to suit each of these demographics.

Fossil Fuel conglomerates oppose AGW for the most obvious reasons; their livelihood depends on dirty energy. For this reason, any scientific research results on AGW which is even remotely linked to fossil fuel industry funding must be investigates for potential bias.

For the class of hardcore climate deniers, recent research reveals is that their denialism is based predominantly upon religious and ideological grounds rather than scientific. If it were a simple case of misinformation, it could easily be remedied by better science education. However, decades of scientists sounding the alarm bell have had no effect, precisely for this reason.  as ideology is formed at very early age. Recent studies of  American evangelicals. From recent studies, we are gaining insight into how American evangelic interests may be undermining international agreements due to their worldview. Knowing just how they view the world will prove key to designing policies that they can accept.

Another example of deception that has led to global ruin is the financial industry bubbles that are bursting every year now. The public has been kept in the dark about the high risk shenanigans going on behind the world’s largest financial institutions. Recent revelations of manipulation of the most fundamental rates such as the Libor or ICAP scandal, and of the secret funds kept in the offshore tax haven industry exposes the level of rot in the global financial sector.

Fortunately the world  is waking up to the threat and climate change denialist views are increasingly seen as untenable, even by those who once adhered to them so strongly . Recent events of droughts, extreme weather events as well as studies from organizations such as Carbon Tracker who show the financial risk of the Carbon Bubble are changing minds.

 

Educating the Future Generation

The biggest untapped reservoir of positive change in the world lay in the latent creative energy found in our children. However, globally, education is in crisis.

From developed to developing countries, children are being underserved. In March 2011, UNESCO reported that 67 million children are still unable to attend basic schooling. Of those who are attending, many, especially those in developing nations are receiving substandard education due to poorly trained staff. Pauline Post, author of the 2011 UNESCO report Hidden Crisis: Armed Conflict and Education says that maternal education is “a highly efficient vaccine” against life-threatening health risks for children. If all women in sub-Saharan had secondary education, the death rate for children under-five would fall by 41 percent, saving 1.8 million lives per year.

The UN allocates only two percent of humanitarian aid to education and is the most underfunded sector with only 38 percent of requests met — half the average received by the food, water, shelter and health care appeals. In Failing the education of our children, we are effectively creating failing societies.

Even in developed nations such as the United States, education is in crisis. The education system is in the same state as it’s physical infrastructure, old and crumbling. The world’s current education paradigm is antiquated; an outcome of a bygone era of  industrialization. In hindsight, we see that along with all the good that industrialization has brought, it’s blind application has created many of the major problems that confront us today. It is ironic that it is the very success of industrialization that may seal its own fate. History has shown that traditional industrialization is based on unsustainable assumptions of limitless resources and limitless space to spew industrial pollutants.  In education too, we no longer have the luxury of fragmented education which is not holistic.

The starting point for education must be a continued appreciation of the preciousness and sacredness of life. From there, we can unfold compassion, wisdom and creativity naturally. Our children currently only learn ideas;  not how to create them and this puts them at a disadvantage. If we are build sustainable societies, first and foremost we have to teach our children the sacredness of all life. From that holistic starting point, creativity can be included naturally. When our children envision good ideas with strong social benefit arising out of compassion, if we nourish these, they will become the products, services and technologies which will become the cornerstone upon which a healthy society will be built.

As Sir Ken Robinson says, existing educational paradigms are designed in an industrial paradigm, churning out mass quanitities of the same minds. Socieities are diverse. What we need is a more holistic model more akin to an agricultural one  in which we provide the right climatic conditions and then plant the seeds and allow them to grow. We must provide the right educational conditions and resources and allow students to follow and grow their passions. They will then naturally find their niche and will be of greatest benefit to society.

The Natural Process of Discovery & Invention

While the human mind naturally acquires knowledge through an inductive process of inquiry in which general / abstract laws arise out of specific examples, too soon our children are presented knowledge deductively as general abstract laws. While deductive formalization is required to effectively systematize and preserve general laws, their premature and inappropriate use in education does a huge disservice to children, effectively helping to hide  their own natural creative processes from themselves.

The Existing Paradigm

Human knowledge arises out of the real world, inseparable from culture, human frailty.
Knowledge is not created in a vacuum, as textbooks would suggest. Instead, it is created by people no different than you and I interacting with the real world and under real world economic, cultural and personal conditions. Knowledge doesn’t magically appear on it’s own without any social context.  Yet, when one is reading a standard textbook, the artificial and sanitized presentation of knowledge cannot help but give that impression.

Within the de facto standard of the text book, the total knowledge of humanity is processed, filtered and reduced through a rather artificial editing process. Real-life knowledge from many knowledge creators is stripped bare of any humanity. The final work is missing the story, culture and history that produced it and compiled into a logical sequence whose dryness naturally makes it difficult for students to engage with.

The textbook is a highly abstract and artifical product. It is a diced, sliced, repackaged and sanitized knowledge which has lost the soul of all of it’s creator.
What would Isaac Newton or Galileo think of the repackaged form of the knowledge they have produced? Stories that tell of the creation of a concept, the human drama behind it, the challenges faced by the creator, the context in which the idea was born all help to not only engage the student, but teach them the very process of the knowledge creators themselves by peering into their mind.

Constructivist Education – The Need for an Approach that Frees Creativity

To teach students to be creators, they must proactively participate in acts of creation.

If you reflect back at your most enjoyable moments in life, didn’t those situations usually have a creative element present?  When we are listening to a new and enjoyable piece of music for the first time, watching our favorite performer, watching a new movie that we enjoy, creating a new delicous meal, laughing with friends and creating new stories and jokes, playing an exciting video game, discovering how someone we like feels warmly towards us…..all these situations involve elements of discovery and creativity. The link between creativity, enjoyment and learning has been clearly established by science, yet, our education system has not taken our own intuitive knowledge or scientific knowledge to heart.

Textbook and didactic learning is minimally interactive and teaches children to memorize rather than to create,  replacing a potentially immensely enjoyable experience with a difficult one. Yet this outmoded way of teaching persists in being the dominant form of pedagogy throughout the world. Children educated in this  way are conditioned to adopting the attitude that education is difficult, drudgery and not fun, an attitude which they will often continue to maintain for the rest of their lives.  Considering the many challenges all societies face and the need for creative solutions to challenging problems, this antiquated approach does immeasurable harm to society.

Creativity and discovery are a natural part of a  child’s innate wonder of the world. Unfortunately, as parents and educators, we are all partly responsible for gradually undermining our children’s sacred view of reality.  In today’s education system, the sacred view of human life is not explicitly emphasized to students. As a result, education has become a highly abstract and disconnected symbolic process; one which can have dire consequences. The absence of a globally compassionate perspective affects everything we do. A physicist can work passionately within the abstract knowledge realm of biological weaponry while sponsored by a military grant whose purpose may be to use such knowledge to create powerful weapons of mass destruction. While compassion is not part of science, technology or engineering, a sacred view of life can assist us to make more socially beneficial choices within each field.

To create creative minds, one must employ an inherently creative education process. We must create an environment that motivates our children to safely explore and reconstruct the knowledge of our ancestors. The best way to learn creativity is by doing it…children need to discover and create for themselves, a process called “constructivist” education.  If we continue to spoonfeed ideas from textbooks that are devoid of the students active participation then they can never own these ideas and ownership is what is required to really build new knowledge from foundational ones.

A Place For Stories

Education has a great need for stories. Stories are one of the most important aspects of human culture. They are engaging ways to learn about the nature of reality. Before written language, most cultures had an oral tradition. Stories were humanities tools for survival. Before written language, stories told of places that were dangerous or interesting…..told of food that were harmful and others that were not. As our forefathers walked the earth, their environment came alive from the remembered stories passed onto them by their forefathers, stories that helped them avoid danger and guide them to their destination.

Today, in many fields of education, especially in STEMs (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) storytelling as a way of teaching has all but disappeared, replaced by the deductive, didactic teaching approach. When knowledge is distorted and presented as sanitized, logical and machine-like, then the way it really arises is hidden from us. This is a great disfavor to society, for it hides the very human process of idea creation from students and greatly reduces the creative output of a society.

Knowledge is created by an inductive process. Human beings observe individual cases first and through induction extrapolate the general law.
The history of discovery and invention is no more noble than the history of any other field of knowledge. Often ideas and invention are motivated by same set  of human frailties such as large egos, insecurity, greed, jealousy and incompetence. History tells of wild guesses, dogmatism, blind alleys and stubborn adherance to old ideas. It is the drama of conflict between personalities and the lifelong struggle to find new paradigms to interpret old results. The famous BBC Series Connections, from historian James Burke is an example of the how story telling brings science, technology and invention vividly to life and illustrates how human such processes are.

When human stories are taken out of the textbooks, the soul of the book is lost and the students are denied the very real and engaging aspect that makes learning worthwhile. For education to be compelling, and therefore embraced, life most be breathed into it. If we want creative societies that generate a large amount of Intellectual Property (IP) that will develop new solutions for societies problems tomorrow, how can we produce such creative minds using a process which is inherently training minds to be dead?

The Critical Need for Creative Education in Africa

Policy makers must become aware of the important role that a constructive education methodology can play in effectively meeting Africa’s unique educational challenges.

For Africa to transform herself, it’s greatest long-term need is a well-educated workforce consisting of creative minds. Given the enormous existing challenges, the education strategy that is employed must be extremely well thought out.  What strategy will educate a generation of children in the face of  severe lack of human resources?  To draw millions to learning, there must be a strategy that makes learning desirable. The awakening of each students limitless potential is that starting point. For once the spark of creativity has been truly lit and if  it can be maintained, each student will provide their own energy to drive their own learning.  In an environment in which teaching resources are scarce, the autonomy and initiative of each student will be paramount to success. Applying this new approach, we must recognize individual passions and support our children with the resources they need to unfold those talents.

Education plays a critical roll in building Africa’s future but most African countries continue to face challenges that arise out of poor resources and capacity. In particuliar, South Africa faces many serious educational challenges. One of the highest priority is the NEET (Not in Employment, Education or Training) demographic segment between ages 20 and 40 and made up of 3 million citizens. In most countries, a population segment of this size would constitute the next generation of professionals necessary to support the nation. In South Africa, that entire population of replacement workers is effectively missing. South Africa faces a very real threat of social collapse without a new generation of professionals who have the skills to manage the country. Matric (Grade 12) pass rates are very low and this reflects the common knowledge in the South African school system that disadvantaged black children are denied proper education. This demographic has a historical context. Problems in education begin at the earliest level where children are not provided adequate education on the 2 building blocks of formal education: language and numeracy.

Hidden By Design

To become a member of the world community, African countries need to become informational societies. This depends critically on STEMs education (Science, Technology, Engineering & Mathematics). While STEM is ubiquitous and everywhere, it is hidden from plain view. This is because science, technology, engineering and mathematics is most prominent in the design stage of technologies, not in their usage stage. Consumer electronics technology, for example, embeds some of the world’s most cutting edge knowledge yet such technology is completely hidden from the user. A user can use a cell phone or computer without any clue of how many complex mathematical equations have been used to design it.

Focus Areas

InGienous Designs focuses on the following areas within education:

  • Constructivist Learning Systems
  • 3D Virtual Learning Environments
  • Human-technological education paradigms
  • Practical implmentation of remote education in developing countries
  • 1st world / 3rd world education collaboration models
  • Effective remote education teaching tools
  • holistic education across seamless communication networks
  • New education management paradigms for constructivist education
  • Ubiquitous learning for synergistic learning
  • STEMs (Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics) Holistic education
  • Holistic Numeracy and Language training
  • Motivating and Inspiring the next generation of students
  • Adult re-Education for NEET (Not in Education, Employment or Training)
in order to bring about a new paradigm of holistic education