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What are we teaching?

Rhonda A. Blackman

What are we teaching?

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AS I OBSERVED the behaviour of some of the adults in our society, it left me with some doubt as to whether we are really being successful in educating our people to function effectively and think critically and analytically.
I am in awe at the thinking and attitude that is exhibited by many and this has left me pondering, puzzled and carrying a haversack full of questions.
Are schools adequately developing and preparing children to function in this evolving global society?
This is an ever changing world and we must be careful that we are not left behind in our thinking and functioning – therefore it is imperative that schools develop children into rational beings who can think critically, analytically, and solve problems. These are important skills that can be applied to all aspects of their lives, for we do not want children developing into citizens who choose to think unclearly, inaccurately, superficially, narrow-mindedly, or illogically.
We must develop children who can synthesize and evaluate information as a guide to informing their decision making – children who can “think outside the box”, ask questions and be innovative.
Conversely, it appears that we are training and teaching children to develop into adults who are accepting or easily swayed by inappropriate manipulation – adults who are fearful of making decisions and scared of their own shadows.
When one thinks of school, automatically the formal curriculum springs to mind: the teaching of subjects such as mathematics, science, English and so on. But teaching and learning does not only happen through the formal curriculum but also the hidden curriculum – the unwritten social rules and expectations of behaviour that we all seem to know but were never taught. It refers to values, attitudes, communication styles and principles which are implicitly conveyed to students and plays a vital role in their overall development.
It must be noted that the majority of what we learn comes from the hidden curriculum.
We must be mindful that this hidden curriculum is conveyed via what I shall refer to as social relations – relationships between administrators and teachers, teachers and teachers, teachers and students, administrators and parents. If these relationships are strained, it will reflect in attitudes and behaviour.
The attitudes and behaviour of those within the school will have a significant impact on the overall development of students, so it is important that administrators and teachers remain professional at all times. Remember, through our behaviour we are inadvertently sending messages to students.
Integrity is a core life principle that is important to a quality life. Having integrity means you are honest, truthful, and act in a way that is consistent with your principles. However, it appears that we are developing children who grow into adults whose core life principles are not consistent with their public and private values and beliefs.
For the continued development of our society we need to ensure that the teaching/learning process caters to the development of life skills that will enable citizens to think critically and analytically.
• Rhonda A. Blackman is an educator, National Development Scholar and former president of the Early Childhood Association of Barbados Inc. Email [email protected]