Well its more than just knowing stuff.
For me education is holistic and encompassing. It is about learning in all aspects of life. I have to admit that I struggle with the concept of academic schools, where the other equally important parts of a person life are ignored – culture, sport and service.
I find it very pleasing to see that some school are adopting and recognising the value of a holistic approach. They run programs that to bring into the school community the other aspects of life that are equally critical to the education of your young people, and I believe will have huge benefits going forward for us all.
My childrens school has a program it calls the “Shine Challenge” SHINE stands for Strength and Heart In New Endeavours. Depending on the age of the child they have a number of challenges to complete through out the year and these are not one off 10 minute tricks, rather they are enduring and committing. For the shine challenge the students choose from a number of categories:
- Academic excellence
- Physical activity and the outdoors
- Service to school and community
- Excellence in the arts
- Living the Gospel Values
They are required to complete atleast one challenge (out of 9 or 10 for my 9 year old) in each section.
Other local school are adopting similar programs. Another school has the PEAKS Challenge. PEAKS stands for Participation, Environment, Action, Knowledge and Skills – again the students are expected to select and complete a series of challenges with atleast one from each section.
- Improve swimming swim atleast 400m
- Cycle challenge cycle 60Km in a 4 week period or run 20Km in the same time frame
- Explore the outdoors – complete with your family at least 2 tramps (hikes)
- participate in a multisport event like tryathlon
- join surf life saving, cubs, scout, or girl guide for a year
- complete a technology challenge
- join a walking bus
- be a reporter
- give of your time visit an elderly relative atleast 4 times a term
- give to families in need
- give of your time through service – within the local church or community
- be involved in a musical or play
- join a choir
- visit an art exhibition and review it
The list of options is endless, and while this require some extra work for the teachers who administer it and the buy in of the community and parents, the benefits outweight the time cost immensely.
These two examples are of primary age projects, but this is a concept that has been successfully applied to the secondary environment for many years. I refer to the International baccalaureate program where at the core of the diploma are Creativity, Action, Service, Philosophy and personal challenge. All IB students MUST undertake and complete the following to gain their Diploma:
- CAS – Creativity, Action & Service – As the name suggests CAS requires the students to undertake Action and service beyond what they already do – i.e. the student who has always played hockey must extend beyond this into other areas. The Community service trips I have the pleasure of being involved with in Nepal and India fit within the CAS umbrella
- Theory of Knowledge – Indepth discussions and debate about what is knowledge, ethics, values, opinions and accuracy. Students present arguments consider issues and challenge there assumptions and beliefs.
- the Extended Essay – a 2 year research assignment presented as a 4000 word essay as part of the culmination of the diploma program.
This is what education should be about, so WHAT IS EDUCATION? Well its more than learning facts and reciting the answer the examiner seeks, Education is holistic and involves all parts of the students life. It reaches beyond the boundaries of the classroom, the district or country. It involves challenge, commitment and personal sacrifice. Sometimes its not comfortable and it can even be unpleasant, but then so is life.