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My philosophy of education is that it should serve the purpose of providing an individual with formal academic skills that promote his or her development into a competent professional as well as other non-academic and social skills that allow him or her to lead a fulfilling and better life in the societal context.
I believe that the work of teachers is not so much to ensure that their students pass their exams but to facilitate their acquisition of knowledge and skills both in the subject matter as well as foster their critical and analytical thinking skills such that they never have to fear exams.
The role of education is a topic that has been discussed over the ages with philosophers and thinkers contributing diverse views on what they perceived to be the role of the value of education.
Aristotle, Plato, and Locke, among others, wrote and discussed the role of education in their respective societies, although their reasoning was differentiated by their cultural setting, most of them recognized it a crucial element of individual and societal development.
Ultimately, education should serve to provide individuals with skills that transcend the traditional understanding of which implies passing with good grades and securing a good job, among others. This paper focuses on discussing the philosophy of education that involves the application of many aspects to make students better people in the context of society.
Holistic education should ensure that students participate in a variety of curricular and co-curricular activities, which ultimately contribute to their growing into well-rounded and socially competent individuals. Unfortunately, while the general perception of education theoretically concurs with my perception of the role and function of education, it would be naïve to imagine the same is replicated in practice.
Modern society appears to have become obsessed with using education as a means through which to assign grades and distinguish between the “good” and “poor” students. As a result, many schools tend to use exams to grade the students, which have turned the schools in most countries into exam centers rather than institutions of learning.
An example of such a setting is in China, owing to the high competition for employment and subsequent high unemployment rates, exams are seen as the main way for people to guarantee themselves a job which and by extension a good life. As a result, the students tend to focus primarily on the exams, and this tends to negatively impact on imagination and creativity.
However, China is not an exemption, but rather a reflection of the dysfunction in the world view on educational systems around the world (Rob Schmitz, 2011).
The focus on exams is so serious that critics have claimed that the education system does not so much test the students’ understanding of the concepts, but their ability to write down the concepts in an exam. Unless policymakers who focus on education try to implement better education systems, this claim might continue for quite some time in the future.
From an epistemological point of view, one is forced to ask if learners in the contemporary system can be sure they know what they claim have learned in school (Hartley, 2007). Essentially, epistemology investigates whether one can know that he or she can know. In a system where knowledge is deconstructed into a series of questions and tests in exams, it is doubtful if the special of educational qualification translates into knowledge in the subject matter.
The quality of education is affected negatively by the teacher-centric teaching methods that are widely applied through which the teacher is viewed as a source of education while the student is a passive recipient (Freire, 2000). From an existentialist perspective, the world has little meaning outside the realm of human existence.
Thus, education should be used as a way for students to create their ideas and take responsibility for deciding their fate rather than depending on external sources for this information. The teacher should not be seen as a source of information, but rather a conduit of a guide for the learner so that they can explore for themselves.
However, in an exam-based system, learners are willing to possibly act as receptacles for knowledge which they do not synthesize or even analyze but simply replicate in exams and promptly forget.
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Learning should not be judged by the ability or inability of learners to respond to questions in a highly pressurized examination setting in which the work of many years is tested in a few hours (Freire, 2000).
For learning to be effective, students should be given a chance to experiment and acquire knowledge in a learner-centered setting whose objective as measured by the student’s capacity to grasp and apply the concepts in a practical setting rather than justify their knowledge in a structured exam setting.
As an educator, I will try to ensure that I give each of my students a chance to develop their talents taking cognizance their differences and not stratifying them through performance-based grading.
I would pursue a progressive approach to education; this form of education was developed in the late 19th century designed to distinguish the modern from the traditional curriculum. The main tenets of progressivism include emphasizing on the hands-on education in which students learn through experimenting.
Furthermore, there is a strong focus on problem-solving skills as well as the development of social skills; the learners are also exposed to the goals and objectives of learning rather than rote knowledge and cramming. Using progressivism, I will ensure that I distinguish my students from others by ensuring that they get an education that is based on the knowledge that they can prove they have rather than simply put down in exams.
Count, like Dewey, was renowned progressivism, but he disagreed with Dewey‘s understanding of the concept claiming that the system does not provide any theory of social welfare (Scheffler, 2013).
His ideas of progressivism are founded on providing an education system that does not only focus on the individual’s academic growth but their ability to live independently in society. He propounds that followed to its logical conclusion; Dewey’s philosophy can only result in extreme individualism or anarchy in society (Scheffler, 2013).
As a teacher, I will ensure to apply the progressivism and the epistemological philosophies in education through applying teaching methodologies that construct on students’ knowledge as well as allowing them the autonomy to express their individuality. Standardized examinations are assumed fair by the description, but in essence, they are imbalanced and tend to stratify the students based on their ability (Hofer & Pintrich, 2004; Kozulin, 2003).
As a teacher, I will put the learner at the center of the learning experience by encouraging and facilitating group and peer learning; I will arrange tasks for them to carry out individually or in groups. Instead of grading them based on how fast or how well they complete the task, I will focus on helping them complete the tasks to the best of their different abilities.
I came to an understanding of how destructive examinations can be when, as an undergraduate, I realized that in my second year, I could not answer questions from the first year exams. However, I could easily answer the considerably more challenging questions from my current year; I realized that as a future teacher, I would have to constantly refer to my books and at the end of the day I would leave college with papers but no education per se.
Ironically, I always passed my exams with flying colors; I was forced to introspect and come up with a way forward so that I do not leave college a “half-baked” graduate. I made radical changes in my study practices and focused more on the concepts in their practical sense rather than just as information from which I could derive answers for my exams.
I took it upon myself to engage more in class discussions and presentations as well as engaging my teachers and classmates in the debate. By applying what I learned in class I realized I tended to understand rather than remember and by the time I left college, I was quite confident of myself not just an exam take, but a future professional.
For effective learning to happen in institutions of learning, both teachers and learners should identify their roles and respect each other. It has been shown that institutions that are characterized by excellent student-teacher relationships have excellent results about academics and co-curricular activities. From a biblical point of view, Jesus sets an example of the ideal teacher; he not only teaches his students but also inspires them to follow in his footsteps.
By using parables, Jesus gave his disciples an opportunity to engage in critical thinking by deriving meaning from the parables. In a contemporary educational environment, teachers should ensure the relationship between them and learners allows for both open communications and gives the student sufficient room for self-expression and autonomous thought.
The Bible teaches tolerance for others, and every teacher should, therefore, strive to respect the diversity of the various members of their class. In the New Testament, Jesus frequently received Samaritans and Pharisees who were discriminated by his followers, in an educational setting the perceived weakness of a student should not be used as an excuse to discriminate against them.
This can be applied in justifying the criticisms of the exam-oriented system in which weak students are relegated to second class status by being labeled as failures or any one of the many tags based on intellectual discrimination (Entwistle, 2013).
Ultimately, education should focus on ensuring that learners are exposed knowledge and information with the teacher acting as a conduit or facilitator for information as opposed to the traditional notion that he/she is the provider of information.
Also, educators should focus on enabling their learners to pursue their goals and objectives based on their abilities, which cannot be sufficiently expressed through the traditional exam setting. It is only after educators recognize that education should be an end in itself rather than a means to the end; examinations that we can hope to give our learners a holistic and practical education.
Entwistle, N. J. (2013). Styles of learning and teaching: An integrated outline of educational psychology for students, teachers and lecturers. London, United Kingdom: Routledge.
Freire, P. (2000). Pedagogy of the oppressed. London, United Kingdom: Continuum.
Hartley, D. (2007). Organizational epistemology, education and social theory. British journal of sociology of education, 28(2), 195-208.
Hofer, B. K., & Pintrich, P. R. (Eds.). (2002). Personal epistemology: The psychology of beliefs about knowledge and knowing. Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.
Kozulin, A. (Ed.). (2003). Vygotsky’s educational theory in cultural context. Cambridge, United Kingdom: Cambridge University Press.
Scheffler, I. (2013). Four pragmatists: A critical introduction to Peirce, James, Mead, and Dewey. London, United Kingdom: Routledge.