In my previous article in the Forum page of Le Mauricien (https://www.lemauricien.com/article/educating-children-of-a-lesser-god-the-supply-teacher-model/), it was seen how the main problems in schools in the 1950s and 1960s were identified as pupils talking out of turn, making noise, cutting in line and littering. Girls were reprimanded if their skirt was even two inches above the knee. The nature of student problems today as testified by teachers are: drug abuse, teenage pregnancy, suicide, bullying, etc. It would be naïve, therefore, to apply measures of the 1950s to today’s problems, as seems to be the case.
The rich untapped reservoir of potentialities lying dormant in the bosom of each child has been sacrificed by our education system in hot pursuit of academic excellence. The term ‘holistic education’ has been used and abused as an unending mantra to mask the timid approach in that direction. Strictly following the syllabus at the expense of a well thought-out curriculum is incompatible with the very tenet of holistic education because the school should also be a place where character is moulded, creativity is encouraged and social development is valued and promoted.
Far from being a mere service provider, the school should make ample provision for the mental, physical, social, emotional, cultural, ethical and aesthetic developments of the child — the hallmark of a genuine holistic education to be achieved through the following practices:
Process over Product Model
The Process Model should be favoured over the Product Model, i.e, academic performance should not be the sole criterion. This calls for a need to shift the pedagogical language from a traditional ‘teaching model’ through mere lecture format to a ‘learning model’, with the learner at the centre of consideration in a ‘nurturing learning environment’.
Strategies and evaluation system should be devised to enable children to opt for different models of attainment in order to overcome the present system of generalised classification into pass or fail.
Classroom Size a) Teacher-pupil ratio to be regulated: maximum 25-30 students per class to render teaching/learning process and teacher-pupil relationship more meaningful.
b) Each pupil to be given the responsibility/opportunity to assume class captaincy on a weekly rotation – for student empowerment and confidence-building.
a) The school day as well as term duration to be increased after due negotiation for necessary compensation.
b) Each primary school should be provided with a covered space area for morning assembly, pending the construction of a multipurpose gymnasium.
c) A mandatory daily morning assembly of 20 minutes during which Std 4, 5 and 6 students, by rotation, to be encouraged to perform certain activities likely to boost their self-esteem, for example, transmit announcements to students on headteacher’s behalf, play a piece of musical performance, sing a song, read an interesting article, share a poem, relate a moving experience, show own painting/drawing, etc.
The above activities will help develop a sense of belonging to the school and its facilities amongst student and staff. They are important in terms of student empowerment, responsibility, communication skills, social and intellectual as well as emotional developments, student valorisation and self-confidence.
Textbook content to be re-designed to also highlight traits like nurturing the capacity to create, to discover, self-control, ability to plan and prioritise, health, empathy, special needs, road safety, environment, ecology, the community as well as UNESCO’s 12 core values.
Education at this level should encompass multi-dimensional, intellectual engagement involving healthy interaction between: a) Teacher and pupil b) Pupil to pupil c) Pupil with the larger context of the community.
The above can be achieved by Std 5 and 6 students through a Low-key plurality of collaborative peer research incorporating local knowledge, traditional skills, and a stimulating environment, e.g., students in Case Noyale can research on fishing, boat-building, net-weaving, Chamarel Coloured Earth, etc, while those from La Flora Government School can research on tea plantations, Maha Shivaratree festival and those from Port Louis may research on traffic congestion in the area, the Champ-de-Mars, the Parliament, etc. Such projects from different schools should become the object of an Exposition during holidays, first at the Zonal level followed by a National level Exposition in the course of a Children’s Annual Primary Educational Congress.
Such locally-based low-key research provides multiple advantages in terms of:
a) observational skills
c) children sharing through collaborative work
e) parental involvement
f) knowledge construction
g) softening of subject boundaries which enables children to get a taste of integrated knowledge and the joy of understanding that response to the child’s home and community environment.
Children’s Annual Primary Educational Congress
Such re-casting of primary education through examination and analysis of everyday experiences with regard to environmental issues can become a most valuable educational resource and, if well-planned, could lead to knowledge generation. Thus, a Children’s Annual Primary Education Congress needs to be organised to promote the discovery and joy of learning zone-wise and nation-wise. Such undertakings: a) call for tremendous cognitive development, shaping reason and social skills through digging and sharing of information b) provide zonal and national visibility and pride to each and every school, rural as well as urban. c) arouse parental interest and participation in their children’s academic undertaking. d) enable pupils to acquire facility in language and expression and to grow in self-confidence as learners both within and outside school.
Annual Designation of Best Ten Headteachers and Best Ten Teachers nationally A Teaching Excellence Framework Scheme should be introduced based on relevant criteria which will further help in raising the quality of education and develop a positive and agreeable school climate.
A Student Wellness Committee should be set afoot in each school, reinforced by Ecole des Parents.
to be continued…