Opinion / Op-Ed Contributors

Getting down to essentials of education

By Chen Yanru (China Daily) Updated: 2011-10-08 08:06

Educational issues involving preschool through college levels have become major topics in the media and on officials' policy agendas. Critics offering their observations include researchers, educators, students, parents and even administrators.

When suggestions are made for solutions to problems such as the need to improve the all-round quality of education and develop students' creativity, writers and speakers resort to only one idea - reform the education system. However, that task is too formidable, presenting educators with an important question: Is there anything we can do now to better equip our students for their future careers and lives?

Understanding teaching and learning communication processes reveals that it is unwise to adopt any established model of education on a wholesale basis, nor is there any such ready-made model that can guarantee it will lead to students' success and happiness.

All theories of education seem premised on one unreliable assumption: If you follow a certain formula of teaching and learning that has proved successful in some cases, you will succeed too. In such an assumption, individual differences between students, including their natural gifts, efforts and circumstances, are generally overlooked. What is more, we often forget or neglect that the historical era, cultural context and social environment in which we operate are all different from those that gave rise to the established theories of education.

However, one thing is certain: When devising plans and strategies for education at any level, we should first consider the students' future. However, that does not mean we should continue the unhealthy current practice of cramming each student with knowledge, numbing their imaginative powers and creative motivation.

Instead, there are three universal qualities that each teacher can seek to cultivate in students, either overtly or subtly, depending on their capacity.

The first norm that needs to be beaten into each student's head is that health comes first. Students need to develop the vital sense that they must always try to keep healthy. Given the pressure of competing in a quickly modernizing society and an increasingly globalizing world, a healthy body and sound mind are undoubtedly the most valuable assets a person can possess upon entering society after formal education.

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