H1 EQ#1 Education in the future

With so much technology at our fingertips, do you think schools will become teacher-less and classmate-less in the future?

I’ve been wondering when will the time come that I become obsolete ;))) Could a “mechanical teacher” like the one described in The Fun They Had by Isaac Asimov be as passionate about teaching as I am? Could it gauge the students’ mood or feelings on a given day and adjust the class accordingly? Could it respond to the needs of the student the way a human teacher can? I don’t think so!

I believe that becoming a teacher is making a life-time commitment to help and to enlighten, to educate and to coach, to soothe and to reassure, to encourage and to believe in the students. Can an online course do that too? Some, perhaps. It certainly can offer the material in a variety of manners, it can dish it out in small, manageable chunks, allow each student to bite as much as he or she can chew. Sure.

But I think a vital element is missing in such “virtual” education – the human connection. The people. The classmate next to you, to whom you can turn for help when the teacher’s busy with someone else, or just to poke and giggle with. The girl you really like but won’t say hi to in case she’ll find out. The guy who tripped you on the stairs and you’re just aching to tell him off as soon as the bell rings.

And the encouraging smile of the teacher who always knows when to say “no worries, we’ll work it out.”

Don’t you agree?

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H1 EQ#3 Appreciation

How lucky are we to have access to education? Do we appreciate it enough?

So many times I say to myself “what a great school I teach at” and as I pass by some local schools, I peek in and think “how lucky our JIS students are, but do they really appreciate what they have?”

We've brought some fruit to share

We've brought some fruit to share. Photo by BMJ

It’s not just the facilities: clearly, an international school funded by expatriate families will have abundant resources at the disposal of both teachers and students to enhance the learning experience. Helping a local school upgrade their facilities is a no-brainer; finding the funds for this endeavor might take a while and some creativity. But can young people, our JIS students, find other ways to share their own resources, their knowledge, their know-how, their time with the young Indonesian students we met today?

Discussion with Headmaster, Mr. Burhanuddin

Discussion with Headmaster, Mr. Burhanuddin. Photo by Sunny

The school, the Unwanul Huda elementary school, a private Islamic school, lies just beyond our fortified fence. The 152 students mostly live in the nearby kampung, but some dwell in orphanages, some travel from afar each day, including Saturday, to learn 14 subjects in 6 austerely-furnished classrooms. The curriculum includes Saturday English classes, and their extra-curricular activity is the Scout unit led by Scout Master, Pak Ismail.

So the big question is, what can we do?

What can we do for 152 students, from age 6 to 13? Their library is rudimentary. They have a TV and a radio and sometimes listen to programs or watch movies. The breakdown of numbers is as follows:

Grade 1 = 24 students; Grade 2 = 25 students; Grade 3 = 19 students; Grade 4 = 20 students; Grade 5 = 38 students; Grade 6 = 26 students

About 20 or so live in orphanages. Many come from poor families.

Any bright ideas out there?

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H2 EQ #3 Domestic violence

Domestic violence โ€“ how is it perpetuated? What emotions trigger it? What are the consequences? How could it be prevented?

These questions rattle in my brain as we read the story of Young Ju in A Step from Heaven by An Na. Clearly, reading a variety of sources, one realizes that the phenomenon of violence in the family transcends cultures and continents, triggered by a multitude of factors: poverty in a rural area of Indonesia, lack of job perspectives in Manchester or Liverpool,ย  alcoholism in Poland, drug abuse in Rio de Janeiro, frustration of a Korean immigrant in L.A. that he takes out on his wife, even when she is pregnant. Little Joon watches his father beat his wife, suffers a beating (that includes a kick in the stomach!) and humiliation of himself, then follows suit by slapping his older sister, Young Ju. Violence perpetuated.

HOW can all of these problems be prevented? How on Earth can the world achieve peace if the smallest social unit, the family, is often wrecked by ever-present violence or threat thereof?

My H2 students say: “parents need to teach the kids respect, they need to teach them morality, they need to be a role model for them.” Yes, I agree. Tell me, though, how and who should teach the parents? ๐Ÿ˜‰

Maybe there should be a license that people need to obtain before they are allowed to raise kids, just like a driving license ;))) Oooh, a controversial issue. What do you think?

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H1 EQ#2 Is school unfair to girls?

What does the word “fairness” really mean, I wonder, trying to formulate an answer to this question.

Does school give girls equal opportunities? I think at least our school does – girls can choose any course they want to take, as long as their knowledge and skills allow them to. Obviously, a counselor wouldn’t recommend Calculus to a student who struggles in AG1, regardless of gender. Nevertheless, I might be true that the girls themselves tend to steer clear of certain courses, and that may be perceived by an outsider as an “unfairness” if a Calculus class consists of mostly boys.

I guess I tend to agree with Diane Ravitch, Assistant Secretary of Education, who says “girls should be urged to take advanced courses, not told that they are victims.” (Is School Unfair to Girls, by Richard N. Ostling) I think girls need to be taught from an early age thatย  opportunities are available, and they need to be making good choices. If they keep hearing that school is unfair and they are the victims of this unfairness, they might not see the need to go out on a limb and choose well.

Building self-esteem and confidence might help, don’t you think? So maybe next time your female classmate takes a risk, pat her on the back (maybe just verbally ๐Ÿ˜‰ ) and let her know that she’s doing well, encourage her to be more confident.

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