Revisiting education reform – once again

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Once again, a PNM administration is focused on education reform and transformation. At the same time many among us are clamouring for changes in the education system and the curriculum.

Our problem, however, may be answered by asking what we expect education to do for our nation and by extension our children.

Yes! Is education about certification and facts or about the development of ongoing lifetime learner skills?

Looking at the larger picture, some people philosophically have insisted that the purpose of education is to replace an empty mind with an open one.

Martin Luther King Jr in his time, on the other hand, believed that the function of education is to teach us to think intensively and to think critically.

Therefore, it is easy to understand deceased, cultural researcher Margaret Mead when she argues that children must be taught how to think, not what to think. For over 20 years I have been saying – like Albert Einstein – that the value of an education is not the learning of many facts but the training of the mind to think – something that all of the others above have been saying in their own way.

I have also heard somewhere in the corridors of history that the wise man doesn’t give the right answers. He poses the right questions. This tells me that getting children and all students – even adult students – to use their humanity and imagination is an important goal for all educators.

Yes! From what I have witnessed so far in my short life on Earth, the principle goal of education in schools now should be creating men and women who are capable of doing new things, not simply repeating what other generations have done. These are not my words but words of the Swiss psychologist Jean Piaget who died in 1984.

I, therefore, now plead with the powers that be not to allow – for the sake of change – new ideas to replace the valuable traditional ideas which withstood the challenges of centuries.

Our responsibility and mission in the 21st century and beyond are to prepare our citizens to respond to the imperatives of the times to promote resilience, unity, integrity, and ethical values for a diversified society, build a sound economy, and leave a sound legacy for the generations that inevitably will follow.

Indeed, much collaboration, shareholder participation, reflection and research have to go into this new mandate. And, of course, overnight achievement should not be at the forefront. Let the nation be the victor and beneficiary – not the party.

RAYMOND S HACKETT