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Needed: Education evolution

Rhona Canoy

SO… This is not the first time, nor will it be the last, that I write about my woes and laments on the different aspects of our educational system. I still refuse to believe that almost everyone who is invested in it—parents and students, teachers and administrators, most especially DeafEd—are complacent or, much worse, buying into the current ridiculous situation we find ourselves in.

As a school administrator for almost a quarter of a century, my biggest frustration is the state of stagnation which academe has decided to wallow in. Yes, I am going to raise a ton of opposition to my views but, hey, this is still a free country and I can still tell you what I think, albeit in a manner less moronic than others.

Until people realize that the manner in which we are educated has a lot to do with our current state of affairs, nothing is going to change. What most don’t realize is simply this: the evolution (or should I say mutation?) of our society can be traced back to how we as a people are molded and shaped through our educational system. Our attitudes, our ethos, our view of ourselves and the world—all these are absorbed during our educational journey.

Don’t get me wrong. I don’t place all the responsibility on DeafEd. But having parents who are products of the same ensures the propagation of this bizarrely distorted mindset we call Filipino. When we have an educational system that places ALL value on test scores, observations and rankings, our system obviously does not aim to propagate learning. Rather, our system aims to teach to the test. What does this mean?

Teaching to the test means all aims and goals of education is to chase after ratings, grades, numbers, ranking. Standards which are set by external power figures. When the goal is to rate high in numerical standings, students will no longer be encouraged to develop learning and curiosity but rather to know the subject matter and items which will appear on an externally designed test. Parents will no longer focus on developing and nurturing their children’s ability to grow and thrive but rather to secure a place in the “top ten”.

No matter how we see it, the world will never be a better place if people aren’t intrinsically happy. And happiness does not prosper in an atmosphere dominated by competition, self-aggrandizement, the relative size of one’s paycheck, and most of all the lack of encouragement and support from people one values most.

Look at the atmosphere we live in now. People are driven by envy, insecurity, anger, fear (not just of bullying but of everything). There is a dearth of creativity and cooperation, support and compassion, generosity and empathy, initiative and determination. In short, we live in a world filled with negativity, to say the least. Now look at our educational atmosphere. Doesn’t it look the same?

A school principal in Singapore wrote the following letter to parents just before exam time and I think it is worth sharing:

“Dear Parents,

The exams of your child are to start soon. I know you are all really anxious for your child to do well.

But, please remember, among the students who will be sitting for the exam, there is an artist who doesn’t need to understand Maths.

There is an entrepreneur who doesn’t care about History or English Literature.

There is a musician whose Chemistry marks won’t matter.

There’s a sportsperson whose physical fitness is more important than Physics, and doesn’t like schooling.

If your child does get top marks, that’s great! But, if he or she doesn’t, please don’t take away their self-confidence and dignity from them.

Tell them it’s OK, it’s just an exam! They are cut out for much bigger things in life.

Tell them, no matter what they score, you love them and will not judge them.

Please do this, and when you do, watch your children conquer the world. One exam or low mark won’t take away their dreams and talent.

And please do not think that doctors and engineers are the only happy people in the world.

With warm regards,

The Principal”

The Prime Minister of Bhutan (a country certainly smaller and poorer than ours) spoke recently at a conference and shared his thoughts. His little country is ranked number one in the world for having zero carbon footprint! They are also moving towards stabilizing and growing their economy. They have free education and health care for ALL their citizens (something we direly need). How have they been able to achieve this?

The country’s development is driven and measured not by GNP or GDP but by Gross Happiness Index. The more innately happy the Bhutanese are, the more positive their desire to improve their country’s condition. Simple. Basic. Effective. Which makes me wonder, when I look around, just how deeply unhappy we as a people must be.

We are not connected. And we cannot see past our own backyards. We lack investment in the betterment of everyone. So somewhere in all this, we need to look at how we are being educated. Because between home and school is all the shaping and learning that is to be had.

So now you’ve gotten to the end of my column. Look around. Tell me what you see.

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About Rhona Canoy

Rhona Canoy
Rhona Canoy is the president and head administrator of International School CDO. Bon vivant, raconteur, epicure, mental voyeur, occasional Yoda. You may address her as "The Intelligent Loquacious Wildly Eccentric Sometimes Inebriated Honest But Sarcastic Essential B*tch."

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