One of the greatest challenges – and top priorities – for our nation’s new administration will be effectively addressing the educational crisis we now face. Fixing the crisis, however, will require much more than fixing the system. The one we now have is beyond repair.
Consider the vast disconnect between parents and teachers, the lack of communication between parents and children, and the violence erupting in schools across the globe and you begin to realize just the beginning of all that is wrong with our education system. If our goal is in the best interest of our children, we must begin a dialogue on what it is that holds that interest. The Global Classroom has initiated various projects to foster dialogues across the country, and overseas, on what it is that constitutes truly effective education. What we’ve heard, and the conclusions we have reached, do not fit within the four sided box of our current system. But they are far too important to ignore.
Parents and students are learning all too well that a degree or a diploma does not mean success after graduation. We must foster an educational environment that not only teaches our children basic skills such as reading and writing (areas in which we often now fail) but one which also prepares them for an increasingly diverse and competitive job market and community. Teaching students to communicate across borders that divide us and teaching them to “think” and not just “learn” are important first steps in realizing success.
It’s time that the education curriculum pledges a strong commitment to character education. Character is important in a well-rounded education, but it must be defined in a way that is acceptable to everyone. A person of good character aspires to a noble cause, reaches across boundaries, is trustworthy and drives his or her own destiny. These are all qualities lacking in today’s school system. They cannot be restored, for they have never existed. But they must be built, and instilled in our students.
Indeed, building a system of education that works will require redefining many areas. “School” must move outside of four walls and a ceiling, and encompass a community environment of many beliefs and ideals. “Teacher” must mean more than a 9-to-5 occupation similar to that of a babysitter; it must mean an incubator of greatness, it must be an instrument for realization of goals. And “education” must be measured by more than the diploma we receive on graduation day. An educated person is more than can be told on paper.
The new administration must work quickly to empower communities to create visions for their schools, and hopes for their children. Education leaders should return our children’s education to the parents and local community leaders who can see that their goals are realized. From this will spring a new, revitalized dialogue on what it is we want as a community and a nation and a renewed interest in our children. If we task parents with a level of responsibility for educating their children, they will surely come through and succeed beyond our imaginations. If we task our leaders with fixing a system that never worked to begin with, we’ll only find the familiar taste of failure. If even one child is left behind, we have more work to do.
About the Author
Dr Gandhi has travelled to and studied education systems in some 38 countries. Her experience in education has been unique and spans a vast range, from the bottom-up grassroots level in villages to classroom practice and top-down education policy reform working with governments during her tenure with the World Bank. Dr Sunita Gandhi has a PhD in Physics from Cambridge University, UK, and a bachelors in Physics from Imperial College, London University. At Cambridge, she received three merit based scholarships: The Cambridge Commonwealth Trust Scholarship, The Overseas Student Award and Trinity College Scholarship. Dr. Sunita Gandhi comes from a family of well-known educators running the world’s largest school in India with over 47,000 students currently on roll, a Guinness World Record holder. More importantly, the school has received the UNESCO Prize for Peace Education.