“Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.” Nelson Mandela
This is a statement of fact which, like “Knowledge is Power” is potential because while education is truly the most powerful weapon by which change can be made to happen among a people and indeed in the world, the realization of it is an issue of deep consideration subject to effective performance.
It is the same thing as saying that creativity can lead to innovation. While this is true, there is a big hiatus between ideas/ideation and invention. This is the case with creativity [ideas] and innovation [invention]. Between creativity and innovation is indeed a whole lot of work and processes.
Nelson Mandela’s quote, to my understanding, presupposes that education must be geared towards providing practical solutions to the myriads of common everyday problems that humans face. But does our present educational arrangement, by its composition, ideals, and operations hold the capabilities to fulfil its promise of changing the situation from what presently subsists in terms of improvement of living standards?
What is Education?
The word education is a coinage from the Latin word “educe”, which means “to draw out,” “to develop from within,” and it has such synonyms as an extract, deduce, infer, pull, wring and think out.
We shall revisit this thought shortly. Today, we grapple with debilitating problems of general lack of infrastructure and basic amenities: power, alternative means of transportation, good roads; unemployment, food shortage, overpopulation, and lots more. This is the result of doing the same thing over time in the expectation of different outcomes – talking about the recycled education apparatus we have had in place for a very long time coming. Tony Wagner in his book The Global Achievement Gap outlined 7 key skills which he believes are germane to survival both in the present and future knowledge economy: critical thinking/problem solving, agility/adaptability, effective communication, collaboration across networks/leading by influence, curiosity/imagination, accessing/ analyzing information, and initiative/entrepreneurialism. We can add emotional/social intelligence, continuous learning, project-based learning, and leadership essence.
Talking about leadership, which is the kernel and crown of implementation and achievement, let us applaud the ingenuity of Fred Swaniker, Chris Bradford, Peter Mombaur and Acha Leke in pursuing the audacious ideal of leadership education through their establishment of the African Leadership Academy in the year 2004 in Johannesburg, South Africa, to arrest the problem of leadership in Africa via a well thought out 2-year Advanced Level programme with a strong bias for African Studies and practical entrepreneurial leadership education and values for teenage minds before the transition to college/university. It’s a huge success story of rethinking education.
While not making an attempt at relegating hard skills to the background, placing emphasis on soft skills development from early on is a key to seeing us succeed in our delivery and in every endeavour we embark on while putting hard skills to use. For example, if you had a choice of picking 1 from 2 or more equally academically qualified and experienced medical doctors to attend to you, which would you pick: the one with acquired extras like courtesy, emotional connection, panache, mortified ego and the understanding/appreciation of your humanity or the one who doesn’t possess any of such qualities?
Should we therefore not think of or really bother about infusing such lofty values and ideals into our curriculum and seek ways of testing and seeing them lived and practised by learners? It is very important that we seek to vigorously pursue the re-establishment of technical/crafts education, ensuring that its development is sped up to catch up with and strive to make up for the past losses of many years of neglect. This segment of education is almost completely erased from our educational system and this is one reason we are moribund with regard to resourceful artisans in our workforce. Can you imagine that we now import from neighbouring African countries such artisans as masons, painters, tilers, joinery men, carpenters and such like?
We all desire to ride in luxury vehicles but hardly think of service mechanics and repairers; we desire a modern railway system but think less of maintenance. This culture permeates every aspect of our lives as a people here in Nigeria especially. With regards to infusing soft skills ideals into our curriculum from the cradle, and living up to their attainment through a conscious and consistent process of execution, let me share Napoleon Hill’s thought about what education is: “Education is generally misunderstood to mean instruction or memorizing of rules. It really means development from within, of the human mind, through unfoldment and use.”
A closer look at Wagner’s 7 skills shows some degree of agreement with Hill’s thought; so that if we have to truly access the almost limitless benefits that education, as a tool, holds based on Mandela’s quote, we must dispassionately promote these skills as well as others, in our educational system.
Why do our schools not teach songs and dance to learners like other subjects are taught? Why not teach painting, public speaking, dressmaking, and all such skills to learners? Why do we relegate these to the background?
To give credence to Hill’s definition is an idea I usually pose to young and old alike each time I have the opportunity to do so. When you trim your nails and shave hair from any part of your body, you notice that barely 72 hours or even far less, they begin to grow. The fascinating thing is the fact that the majority do not think of the intelligence that is responsible for this act of regeneration, nor do we acknowledge it and its efficacy to deliberately and consciously connect with it and enlist it in support of all that we do. That intelligence is the awareness of the existence of the Higher Self, the Supreme Being, dwelling within, in our members and continuously working on and in us.
Rethinking Education requires that we put such profound thoughts into the reckoning and develop systems that will enable us to teach the same to the children from early on to help spark uncommon creativity, and to build processes and servant leadership with which to attain innovation for the improvement of mankind. Life can truly be more meaningful than it presently is composed and lived in this part. In this clime [the African sub-region], we may be very wrong if we fail to think disruption because, we are, as a result of our access to the world wide web, connected to the rest of the world and for this reason, it is instructive that we look critically into what the Top 10 nations [South Korea, Japan, Singapore, Hong Kong, Finland, United Kingdom, Canada, Netherlands, Ireland, Poland, Denmark, Germany, and Russia are doing in the area of foundation education and then see how we can evolve a workable system that will favourably and genuinely improve lives for us as a people.
Author: Joseph Ayeni: Cerebralthrust.com