1. What schools are for.
Updated: Oct 7, 2020
Lisa spent an average of four hours a day monitoring her three children tele-schooling. Jason and his wife Mona, both on tele-working, spent a similar amount with their teenage sons. Covid-19, home-learning and tele-schooling have stimulated parents to participate more closely in their children’s education. On the positive side, during this experience, many parents have become more aware of the many issues that influence their children’s –young or teenagers- schooling.
Through this and follow-up blogs, we shall explore the diverse aspects of teaching and learning. We shall see why the curriculum contains certain subjects and not others, why corporal punishment is abhorrent to the very concept of education, and many other issues. We shall explore what is going on in one of the most important developmental processes in our children’s lives.
These blogs are directed mainly at parents but teachers and other educators may find them useful. I make it clear, to avoid misunderstandings and speculation, that these blogs do not involve the dilemma of whether students should or should not return to schools because I am not competent to discuss this issue. I limit myself to educational issues as they existed before and hopefully will return when the pandemic is over.
1. The Role of Schools
At the end of June 2020, my six-year-old niece Nina exclaimed: “I am fed up of holidays! I miss my friends! I want to go to school!” Her mother, drained by four months of the coronavirus lockdown, replied: “If I could, I would take you and your brother there right now!” That was in July, now in October and the re-opening of some schools, Nina’s parents, like most others, are hesitant.
What are schools for?
Schools are such a common feature of our lives, that we take them for granted. However, like the air we breathe, which might be extraordinarily fresh or heavily polluted or uncomfortably lacking, we really noticed the value of school services when they became unavailable.
So, what are schools for? The question may sound unnecessary since most of us have spent at least eleven years attending one or more. In the process, we surely must have formed clear views about what schools are and the purpose they serve.
To some, the word ‘school’ conjures up pleasant memories of youth, uninhabited behaviour, exciting learning experiences amid numerous adolescent pranks. Others remember schools for their restrictive environment with many do-and-don’t rules, replete with boring chores and meaningless tasks.
The majority remember their school days with feelings that fluctuate between the two extremes. Work, rules and regulations: yes, there were plenty of those, but with many pleasant memories as well. We, like young people today, met our friends, made new ones, operated without the confines of home, experimented with life-experiences without the constraint of continuous parental supervision.
Most of us, as most students today, enjoyed sports, games, companionships and encounters that have led to lifelong friendships. No wonder many adults, in spite of the complaints about school life, look back on their school days with nostalgia. It is not surprising then that, after the long Covid-19 lockout, most students yearn to return to school.
Schools as Agents of Instruction
Schools keep children off the streets and away from home relieving parents to carry out household chores and go to work. This, in the knowledge that their children are in a safe place engaged in useful and, hopefully, enjoyable activities.
These activities include covering the subjects on the syllabus whether at primary or secondary level to progress along the scholastic path. These activities include the acquisition of knowledge, skills and attitudes that help future adults fulfil their aspirations for a happy and fruitful life.
In this respect, the role of schools is quite obvious. However, schools do much more than this. In many subtle ways, they contribute to society’s evolution in ways that we may never have imagined. This role of schools we shall discuss in next Wednesday’s blog entitled: Schools as Socializing Agents.
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