Nine Year Schooling and the Holistic Development of the Child

“Schools are where most will engage in formal, systematic learning experiences rather than the informal and sometimes conflicting learning experiences provided by the home, community, and larger society.

Focusing on schools as a means for preparing young people for adulthood is one of the hallmarks of developed countries…”

S.K.

The Minister of Education has announced the setting up of a high-powered committee to look into the implementation of the nine-year schooling policy. It is important to emphasize the momentous nature of this educational reform which aims specifically at organizing and controlling the education of the young, and ensuring that all have equal access to educational provisions.

According to Article 26 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, “Education shall be directed to the full development of the human personality and to the strengthening of respect for human rights and fundamental freedom”. There is indeed a close correlation between education and the notion of human rights – a concept which is deeply entrenched in modern societies.

Parents, educators and concerned citizens in Mauritius and elsewhere are asking questions about how best to prepare children for successful adulthood in the 21st century. The question takes on added importance because humanity in general is immersed in a social and cultural environment that is changing at an accelerating rate. To cope with the challenges of the 21st century, our education must keep abreast of the global trends. The nine-year schooling policy must empower our children to learn beyond the confines of the classroom and the textbooks.

The school curriculum, apart from helping them to acquire the necessary knowledge and skills, should also put emphasis on their personal and social development and nurture positive values and attitudes. This will entail putting emphasis, among other things, on children’s affective development, including managing emotions and fostering a sense of belonging to our local community and nation. These qualities are essential for whole person development to cope with the challenges of the 21st century.

The vision stemming from the nine-year schooling must be of an educational reform that enables students to attain all-round development and life-long learning.  As Mauritius is experiencing rapid economic and social development, it is necessary to introduce a curriculum framework that enables children’s capabilities of learning how to learn so that they can meet and overcome the changes of the new era. The curriculum must be designed in the belief that children’s learning experiences should be connected and not compartmentalized, so that they can develop a holistic view of themselves as individuals in the community, and have a better understanding of their place in the natural world.

Knowledge is rapidly expanding and changing. Existing knowledge becomes obsolete rather quickly. Teachers have therefore to bear in mind that memorizing facts and information is not the most important skill in today’s world. Studying content knowledge is very vital, but as a means to an end, not as an end in itself. Our children need an understanding of how to make sense of informational content.

While it is acknowledged that schools are not the only social institutions responsible for the education of children, schools are where most will engage in formal, systematic learning experiences rather than the informal and sometimes conflicting learning experiences provided by the home, community, and larger society. Focusing on schools as a means for preparing young people for adulthood is one of the hallmarks of developed countries.


 

* Published in print edition on 27 December 2013

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