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SEPTEMBER2012 An Eye Towards Modern Education? IMKÜMRA Communities cannot close their [youth] eyes to the future by denying the validity of their concerns … where the link between the young people and the leaders is broken, a future negotiated only by politicians and elders will last only as long as those people stay in control. Then who will lead the communities? Alfred Taiaiake A FRAMEWORK Education is neither a valuefree activity nor a value-free process. It is value laden and stands to mould human behavior, human responses to the various elements of life and shapes society’s discourses towards an intended direction. It is therefore, no wonder that colonial powers in their pursuit for power and expansionism imposed their own colonial forms of education and institutions which were used as tools of oppression from which former colonized nations continue to suffer. i The power of critical thinking and developing consciousness is perceived as a threat to power monopolies, and in response, the ‘powers that be’ have consciously attempted to ensure that they promote educational policies that will only serve their interests. This imperialistic strategy that seeks to strip and deny a peoples’ capacity to be makers of their own culture was expressed by Steve Biko who warned that ‘the most potent weapons in the hands of the oppressor is the mind of the oppressed.’ For the most part, education as it exists today in fourth world nations continues to be a central element through which the State and ‘the powers that be’ pursue their agenda in maintaining the status quo. Formal education contributes little to society’s overall development though it has raised levels of competitiveness among students. One fundamental reason for this is that education is broadly determined by governments which in turn are deeply influenced by big business who set the policies and guidelines. Both governments and the multinational co-operations expect educational institutions to produce hard working technocrats and bureaucrats who should be creative, while at the same time obedient disciples to those in power. Education is often a tool for those in power and authority which takes place more frequently in situations where ongoing conflict exists between the State and People. Often it is the power relations that alter the course of policies. Since the end of the Cold War, larger companies have greater interests at stake in defining patterns of human behavior and response. Hence, in spite of all the ‘progress’ the modern world has contributed to humankind, it has been at the expense of values and principles fundamental to human existence which are primarily driven by greed. Is what we call ‘modern’ essentially modern, or is it predominantly globalism driven by the West? Indeed, the modern world has also strayed far from Aristotle’s philosophy that the pursuit of knowledge is realized through praxis of acquiring and upholding, always in the order of Truth, Morality and Technique. In the modern world truth is no longer talked about because individualism dominates and individual feelings matter more than truth. Since truth no longer upholds morality, because morals are no longer important, the modern world thrives on technique and technology. At the core of all historical processes, education and educational institutions have been the primary force for shaping the discourse of human relations and the relationship between states, which in turn has reshaped the educational discourse. Its cyclical nature, ironi- E cally, has been a medium of both oppression and liberation; more so of oppression because of the close relationship between educational institutions and ‘the powers that be.’ Recognizing the existence of this internal contradiction and power politics is essential in understanding the role of education in societal transformation. ‘Powers that be’ use a centralized education system with little or no autonomy as a major stabilizing force in society. They expect educational institutions at all levels to produce useful individuals who will help them to maintain the status quo. It is often considered that governments in the third and fourth world nations primarily serve multi-national co-operations. So does education. The word ‘education’ derived from the Latin word ‘educare’ when literally translated means ‘to bring forth’ or ‘to lead forth.’ Therefore, when talking about education it does not mean imposing or forcing information into people’s minds, rather it implies making it possible for knowledge and wisdom to flow out of them. Hence, the pedagogy involved to ‘bring forth’ is one of the decisive factors that facilitates human development and serves as precursors of the knowledge all along. Education ought not be about books and skills, tests and examinations; rather, it should be for developing or optimizing learner’s abilities to live a full and dignified life by providing opportunities to discover their own uniqueness; and ways to explore the purpose and deeper meaning of their life so that eventually their potentials will be more fully realized. Taiaiake goes on to point out that, ‘One of the major consequence of colonialism was the loss of our ability to think of ourselves; thus many of our leaders and communities rely on others to think for them (for a price). The cost of delegating intelligence is enormous in terms of the misinterpretation or misappropriation of indigenous knowledge and perspectives.’ The present pattern of education concentrates on filling the students with conceptual knowledge that is unrelated to daily life. Paulo Freire, a Brazilian educator in his book Pedagogy of the Oppressed calls this ‘banking education’. He says, “Education is suffering from narration sickness. The teacher talks about reality as if it were motionless, static, compartmentalized, and predictable; expounding on a topic completely alien to the existential experience of the students; and to fill the students with the narration-contents which are detached from reality, disconnected from the totality that engendered them and could give them significance. Words are emptied of their concreteness and are hollow, alienated, and alienating wordiness. The banking concept destroys the natural capacity of selfdetermination in an individual, stripping all inherent virtues to be an initiator of transformation.” PEDAGOGY FOR TRANSFORMATION Since colonial times, law making and matters of existence have largely remained the preserve of an élite few who, for the most part, have excelled in mystifying both law and reality. For many, the laws and policies have remained alien. Equally alien are the structures and functions of the nation-state inherited from the colonialists. Our experiences of the educational system confirm that, indeed, policies need to be derived from our experiences, struggles, needs and desires. Inevitably, the questions of nation-hood, statehood and, of course, power are continually revisited. The content and methods of education are inextricably linked to issues of maldevelopment, patriarchy, hierarchy, militarism and the pursuit of wealth by a few individuals, corporations and states at the expense of meeting people’s needs universally. Although human rights education is essential, it is not an adequate response to these threats to human survival and security. Formal education and informal learning environments must be places where faculty, students and staff have the opportunity to search for meaning, to pursue the search for justice and to develop their uniqueness in a safe, caring, and stimulating atmosphere. Ultimately, students who are fully engaged in such an educational process are much more likely to challenge social and cultural domination. The pedagogy required for such a process will undoubtedly involve a wide variety of methods and approaches that should reflect and be guided by principles that are basic to human security. These principles include: • • • • • Full respect for and include all people regardless of class, caste, sexual orientation, race, gender, religion, income, ability, age, or other condition; Independence of educational institutions with full responsible autonomy; Valuing developing critical thinking processes; Shared participation of students, parents and community members in the decisionmaking process; Celebrating the human experience as • an expression of diversity, as well as an important source of knowledge and wisdom; The vital importance of social, economic and political responsibility. Alternative educational institutions both formal and informal – need to be created that will nurture critical consciousness, leadership, self-esteem and affirm the values of justice and dignity. This transformation is critical not in terms of looks and lifestyle, but should manifest through changing attitudes, perception and worldviews. The pedagogy requires creativity that celebrates the uniqueness of each individual, each community where learning is a fluid open process. This type of learning environment will help learners to realize their full human worth through an interactive co-operative learning environment where they are given opportunities to learn and apply knowledge and concepts and practice group decision making. Pedagogy of transformation is imperative in light of the reality and the magnitude of the challenges we face. Such pedagogy is to be contrasted with pedagogy of social engineering in which perpetuates, legitimizes and preserves patterns of hierarchy, patriarchy, abuse, addiction and exclusion. Structural and psychological decolonization is not only an intellectual process; but it is a praxis that embraces politics, sociology and spirituality it order to catalyse critical thinking and optimize human potential. i The conceptual framework and ideology of the modern state that emerged through the Treaty of Westphalia in 1648 had a profound effect on education, its institutions and systems which in turn influenced the dynamics of the social, political and economic spheres of a given society. [T]he more radical the person is, the more fully he or she enters into reality so that, knowing it better, he or she can transform it. This individual is not afraid to confront, to listen, to see the world unveiled. This person is not afraid to meet the people or to enter into a dialogue with them. This person does not consider himself or herself the proprietor of history or of all people, or the liberator of the oppressed; but he or she does commit himself or herself, within history, to fight at their side. Paulo Freire Pedagogy of the Oppressed 1

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