OUR DIFFERENCES

We are uniquely made, uniquely different in our needs. Some prefer the hot weather, while some rejoice in the cold. Our needs can never be the same, what matters is our ability to understand and tolerate the differences in our needs. A child’s need is quite different from that of an adult. Even amongst his peers, his needs seem varied. He may sometimes be seen as an isolate, often neglected amongst his group, he is shown the picture of not been wanted, he belongs where he does not, yet, he never chose his condition, for he is wonderfully made.

Many a times, our expectations about what a child should be able to perform makes it intolerable when he is unable to meet up to our expectations. The society expects more than what the child can offer. Tasks and expectations are usually age ranked. When a child is unable to meet up to the social demands, such child is often seen as been irrelevant, inadequate or one who is not fit for any competitive tasks. Usually, this operates in our homes, schools, workplace and even around us.

It is no news that twins share similar traits and attributes, but usually there exist a slight or noticeable variation. This makes it possible for identification. While one might be highly intellectual, the other might be intellectually retarded, one might be outspoken, the other an introvert, these situations exists. It does not mean, these individuals who possess limited or inadequate skill are not fit, it only entail that they are uniquely made.

Often times, parents and teachers are confronted with these unique being. Individuals enrolled for knowledge acquisition, a raw material brought into the industry for processing. The school in this case serves as the processing industry, with the teacher playing the role of an industrial worker. The aim of any business is usually to maximize profit. However, the school’s structure does not necessarily give room to identification of unique features amongst students, they are usually presented with placement tests, once successful, these individuals are enrolled into the school system. What happens if they are not? They are rejected, often to be neglected, they are presented with an outcast imagery.

The teacher usually is saddled with the task of completing a set of content over a period of time. He visits the classroom only to discover the child’s inability to cope with his peers.  The teacher’s opinion in these situation often times do not count, he is seen as a school’s staff, one saddled with the responsibility of content delivery. In instances where the teacher’s opinion count, how often are his presentations/ ideas utilized in the teaching and learning situation. Usually, he is seen as a toothless bulldog.

However, if a teacher should exist in such environment, he should rather see that as a great challenge on his part. The real question of his teaching should be answered. Is he on the job for the money or for qualitative life improvement? If he can answer this question accurately, the barrier in his workplace is gradually eliminated. A teacher’s happiness is in his products, his impacts on the child’s overall development and growth. He is never discouraged based on the society’s perceptions of his profession. His driving force resides on the smiling faces of his products.

He goes into the classroom, bearing in mind the variations existing amongst his students. He tries all his possible best to ensure that his teachings are well understood and utilized by all his students. These he achieves by applying all the pedagogical skills of teaching. The notion that anybody can teach no longer holds water, for this notion as for many years sent our educational system into years of ancient traditionalism.

Whichever level one operates, it is pertinent to understand that as teachers or parents, the optimum benefits exist in seeing our students/children learn and succeed. To achieve this however is a daunting but rewarding quest, a quest not easily attainable, only available to those who present themselves worthwhile. Even when the teacher becomes readily involved in the overall development of the child, the task should not be limited to the four walls of the school.

This however is the case for most unique individuals. Many a times, they are neglected even at their first point of contact, the home. They are either shouted at or abused. They often forget that even if the child loses public friendship, the home should be there to provide the child with constant re-assurance, a re-assurance that all is well. It is not as easy as it seems, but indeed, it is a situation one must learn to live and cope with, it is essential that one faces reality.

It should be added that some famous individuals whose names now become synonymous with one invention, event or the other did not find it easy growing up. Some suffered from inability to identify alphabets, some could not perform simple mathematical operations, others where socially unfit, while some operated at levels way too high for their ability levels. However, these individuals never gave up but persisted in a path whose leading ways were unsure. Today, we celebrate and recognize them.

Thus, as parents, teachers or anyone involved in the child upbringing enterprise, it is imperative to know that our attitudes affect the optimum behavior and development of the child. We can raise a socially balanced individual from an autistic individual, we can fine-tune the behaviors of an introvert, and similarly, an academically backward child can be encouraged to learn better.

Once we recognize the weakness in a particular child, it is incumbent on us to also identify and find ways that will make the child exist independently as an entity, and also recognizing the need for social interactions. Special or uniquely different children or individuals should not be laughed at, mocked or looked at as socially unfit individuals, they are inseparable, and essential key players in the overall development of any society.

For the fact that he is uniquely made does not make him unfit, misplaced or demanding too much. What he needs is a smile on your face reassuring him of hope. Your smile is the key to his existence, and his existence is vital to your existence. He may hold the key to the platform of our unknown tomorrow.

THE NEED FOR ROLE REDEFINITION IN THE EDUCATIONAL SECTOR.

It is no news that education pave way for development, enlightenment and functionality. Education has several definitions, meanings and interpretation. The essential qualities not neglected is the fact that education helps break the shackles of poverty and ignorance. An educated person is a pride to his/herself and the entire human race. However, getting an individual attain competency or perhaps being referred to as educated or put simply literate is a daunting, yet rewarding activity.

To most developing nations, the concept of education is a far cry from the ideal. People who find themselves in undeveloped areas are often characterized as the lower class of the society’s income hierarchy. What operates in this environment are structures if any, that are tagged to befit a school, which in fact may not pass for an abattoir. For those with structure, the areas lack proper transport network, suffer from dilapidating structures, and perhaps lack qualified teachers.

In most developing countries, the schools are partitioned, in a way that there exist a divide and rule system, with some appearing as governments’ favorite and others not in the good book, the former are usually well funded, equipped, located in befitting areas, well-staffed and do not suffer from quality control. They are periodically visited, taken seriously and often used as advertisement items just to score cheap popularity from unsuspecting public during the time for electioneering.

The latter, constituting the other end of the continuum lies schools that do not meet public appeal, can never be used as political advertisement, only appear in publication when the opposition needs a tool to taunt the ruling class or perhaps call it the ruling party. These relegated schools often low performing play host to the children of a vast majority of the lower class. What is noticeable in this schools when identified are readily pushed aside and tagged mere paper accusation just to dent the effort of those in charge. In most cases, the class size is usually alarming, school location not ideal, basic necessary amenities not available amongst other issues.

The school leaders and administrators in such schools are often marginalized. They, in a bid to safe their jobs keep mute and never query the government. Then we deceive the general public that education is a tool needed for liberation, a tool needed to bridge the gap between the poor and the rich, a far cry from the ideal. Many a times, learners from the relegated schools often feel themselves inferior. They belief their colleagues in the developed parts of the country are far better than they are. This is absolutely true, for the leadership of most developing nations have unconsciously further widen the gap between the rich and the poor.

To make matters worse, is considering the admission system into most citadels of higher learning. A visit into the Nigerian education system will clearly showcase this fact. Unconsciously the chances of the children of the rural dwellers are slim in choosing a befitting career. The requirements for admission towards studying in most institutions of the country is just too outrageous. It is a known fact that the possibilities of a rural dweller passing his/her papers with all distinctions is relatively close to zero. However, the chances of his urban counterpart is relatively high, although not devoid of limitations ranging from finance to malpractices.

As it is noticeable in the Nigerian context, even schools located in urban centers are often classified, while some are privately owned with high school levies, others are publicly owned acclaimed to be owned by the government. Considering schools owned by the government, one easily spot the immediate dissimilarities existing amongst these schools. Some of the public schools are fee paying, while others are tuition free. The performance of the fee paying are usually efficient as compared to those enjoying free tuition.

Though, a chat with prominent figures in the educational sector of the country will point to the fact that nothing is free. There exist no such thing as free education. Then, the question one may quickly ask is this; why allow the government politicize the educational sector, turning the funding of the citadels of learnings into constituency projects. Why can’t the educated and enlightened figures in the country advise the government on best practices of education? Rather than uplifting the standards of the Nigerian public schools, they advocate for the establishment of private schools.

These private schools are also not left out. The private school owners in the Nigerian context are business oriented, except for some few. In a bit to outshine the other and attract more clients, most private school owners devise new methods for their advertisement. To some private schools, the bill board advertisement is indeed bigger than the school. What the school’s bill advertisement depicts is a far cry from the actual reality of the schools’ existence. Other private school owners pride themselves as offering curriculum not related to the Nigerian context.

The truth of the matter is that the school owners are not to blame. Those in charge of the nations’ education may not necessarily have anything to do with education, so long as they are loyalists, they get appointed as a form of payback. Hence, a situation of placing square pegs in round holes, rather than focusing on the needful and essential, what we hear of are terminologies, all to be eradicated, ignored or deserted when the period of governance ends, particularly when an opposition government takes over power. No wonder, our education is still where it used to be with no form of improvement or development, only in terms of politicization and gross destabilization of the system.

Consider the structure of the education parlance, how qualified are the teachers in the classroom?, how efficient is the school administrator?, what relationship if any exist between the schools and the host communities? Are learners finding education fun, stress-free and easy?  What reinforcements are in place for high performing teachers and learners? To what levels are the influence of organizations in the conduct of education, apart from when used as a form for tax waivers? All these and much more are questions one needs to answer and until sincere answers are provided, our education is far cry from the ideal.

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THE NEED FOR ACTIVE STUDENTS’ INVOLVEMENT IN THEIR LEARNING

Learning becomes meaningful when students are actively involved in generating their meanings. In most cases, teachers utilize the traditional approach to teaching which places them in a tight corner as one who is an embodiment of knowledge, a working library and a perhaps a walking library. In this mode, teachers are seen as knowledge disseminators, one who regurgitate facts, the sole heir to the throne of knowledge. The students are positioned as dependents. Their skills of discoveries shattered, as most of their discoveries may not necessarily follow the teachers established pattern.

Teachers who operate at the traditional mode of instruction are predominantly talkative, teaching becomes mechanistic, a set of program, with little or no room for input. Information becomes more of memorization, rote-learning is enhanced. Students’ self-discovery has no place in this mode of education. Hence, students are placed in a constant position of dependence. Rather than being active performers, they become passive observers.

As Jerome Brunner asserts, learning becomes meaningful when students take ownership of their learning. In other words, when students are active participants in their learning process, the teacher’s role as a disseminator of knowledge changes to that of a facilitator. He is now seen as a partner in progress, rather than an island. Learning becomes more fun, real and effective. Due to the nature of learners as explorers, the teacher is now positioned in a situation where he or she must strive continuously to develop and improve his content as well as methodologies to keep pace with emerging trends.

However, as pointed out in the works of Brunner and other constructivists, there exist the need for a conscious drift from the traditional mode of teaching to a much more elaborate and all inclusive system of teaching otherwise referred to as the twenty-first century teaching. The stake here is ensuring that students are active participants in their course of learning. Thus, when teachers teach, they do not indoctrinate, teachers try to appeal to the interest of their learners. For the success of teacher’s encounter in the teaching industry, much tasks and efforts cannot be undermined. Hence, the common practice where in teachers are seen as custodians of knowledge, a walking library, a citadel of knowledge, and in fact knowledge itself no longer holds water.

To impact meaningfully in a student may be a daunting task, yet rewarding. When teachers successfully train a child, a nation is trained. A nation whose aspiration cannot grow beyond the educational qualification of her teachers. A teacher is that special being. Special because he has chosen to take the path often ridiculed by others. A path whose take home does not necessarily commensurate with his task. A path whose reward has been tagged to be in heaven. Funny to ask, who will pay teachers in heaven?, wherein the teachers’ job will be defined as a job for humanity that may not necessarily be tagged by an entitlement.

Thus, in implementing the modern pattern of teaching, teachers should not consider the learners as daft, as individual students possess a unique perception to any course content encountered. Students should be divided into groups and assigned with different tasks. Their discoveries should be presented to the whole class. Contribution of every group member should be emphasized.

Teachers should understand and effectively utilize Brunner’s identified types of discovery learning. In this regard, teachers should be familiar with the concept of assimilation and accommodation. Assimilation occurs when a student is able to see, identify and establish relationship(s) between what he has learnt in the past and the present knowledge in such a way that the two knowledge are properly understood and digested.

Accommodation occurs when the new learning, material or knowledge is completely different from what the student knows previously. There is little or no correlation between the two knowledge. In this situation, the student needs cognitive restructuring of the past knowledge to accommodate the present knowledge, to avoid mixing up of knowledge and conflicting facts.

Accommodation is applicable when the learner has just finished a topic in a subject and another topic is about to begin in another subject. In most cases, these topics are often dissimilar, thus, teachers must understand the modes of discovery learning and create avenues in manners which assist students to properly prepare for the disjoint study content. Hence, the need for accommodation time, where-in students logically disintegrate the previous unrelated subject from the new subject.

In addition, schools should be structured in a way that recognizes students’ stages of discovery. By so doing, schools are able to optimize students’ orientation to knowledge, while still creating avenues for supportive learning. In other words, lesson contents become adequately relevant to students developmental stage and learning becomes meaningful. Brunner believed that children of different age represent the world to themselves in fundamentally different ways. Hence, children exhibit cognitive abilities in coping with their learning in different ways. To him, three stages are of importance, these are; Enactive Stage, Iconic Stage, and Symbolic Stage.  

The enactive stage occur between child-birth to one year. At this stage, children (toddlers) and pre-scholars think of the world primarily in terms of the actions that can be performed by them. They move towards things that gain their attention. They want to touch, hold, grasp, move and feel any concrete object within their reach. Hence, teachers are expected to create avenues that stimulate this adventurous nature of theirs, while still monitoring their actions to avoid complications as well as injuries.

The second stage called the iconic stage occurs between age two and three years. At this stage, children make use of images and pictures to represent their environment, i.e. persons, things, events etc. This they do by creating a model image of what they have seen before and as such, they are best taught using pictures, images and diagrams. Thus, teachers saddled with learners at this stage are expected to utilize various activities that encourage learners’ imagery re-representation.

The last stage according to Brunner is the symbolic stage, occurring between ages four and seven. At this stage, i.e. late childhood to early adolescence, children have moved from creating mental images to symbolic representation, they can think by means of verbal symbols. Languages can also replace pictures, and images in their thinking and learning. Similarly, this stage allows for the representation of ideas with the use of verbal propositions, mathematical formulas and logical symbols. This stage is characterized by rapid cognitive development and efficiency.

According to Olajide and Gbadesere (1992), discovery learning can exist in three forms, these are; Free inquiry, Guided inquiry and Modified-free inquiry. The free inquiry allows students the opportunity to generate their knowledge or learning without any form of interference from the teacher. This form of discovery allows students the avenue to explore different learning materials already in line with a specified theme. The guided inquiry affords the teacher the opportunity to interact with the learners with a view of correcting misconceptions, ambiguities and provision of essential ideas. The teacher functions more as a facilitator. The modified free inquiry presents an avenue for both teachers and learners to work as a team. Ideas are presented, thoughts are shared and meanings are formulated.

Thus, from the fore-going, when teachers implement discovery learning strategies in their classroom, teaching becomes interesting, less stressful, activity driven and co-operative. The teacher becomes relieved of his initial position as “Mr know it all,” learning becomes a creative avenue. Students’ interest, team spirit and sense of belonging are encouraged and the whole class scenario becomes fruitful. In this regard, parents get more value for their monies, they are inclusive of their child(ren) education, the teachers’ roles are thus appreciated.