By SEAMEO STEM-ED
Education is commonly understood as the process of acquiring and imparting knowledge. In every individual’s lifetime, this is the foundation of how we strive in our time and pass on essential information for the next generation to lead a better life. Regardless of what education is defined as ─ the essence of its practice is fundamentally an expansion of thoughts ─ and equipment to innovations.
Throughout the history of humankind, schools, institutions, colleges, and universities are established as proprietary sources of transferring knowledge and information. Serving as one of the guiding forces of how society and the world could be an immense responsibility ─ rest assured their role and accountability should always be reexamined.
Today, emerging technologies served just that (the capabilities of relaying knowledge and acquiring information for an individual’s self-improvement). Artificial intelligence (AI) and online learning platforms have gained popularity over the last three decades ─ and this could potentially be, the main medium of the future of education (where Coronavirus Disease 2019 or COVID-19 is undeniably an acceleration towards that path).
From this notion, a tug-of-war between institutions and private corporations (whose goals are likely aligned which is for the development of skills and knowledge of individuals) on defining the meaning of education and how to conduct education have been brought up as the center of attention. Surging through the internet, subsequent debate on “whether a traditional institution is still relevant to today’s world” and “whether online education is qualified for producing credible talents” rose as a controversial issue.
Amid the topic, the Southeast Asian Ministers of Education Organization Regional Centre for STEM Education (SEAMEO STEM-ED) was built upon the idea of producing skilled talents and witnessing quality societies in Southeast Asia ─ and with years of partnerships and collaborations, the Centre has constantly revisited the purpose of education, as well as how the Centre could shape and foster a new generation of learners.
A recent encounter with a young boy from Tessaban 4 School (Ban Lam Sai, Songklha), named “Kaweepat Saichanapan” has allowed the Centre to shed some light on a vessel of the future ─ and that perhaps, our audience, fellow policymakers, educators, and teachers could reimagine our roles in the upcoming future together.
Much of his words are definitions of what education is about
On 8 May 2023 to 9 May 2023, SEAMEO STEM-ED organized the last event of “Using Picture Books to Enhance Critical Reading and Meaningful Reading (at Thaksin University, Songkhla, Thailand),” which is a program set to pioneer students’ critical thinking and drive interpretative ideas by using picture books as a teaching tool.
During the event, a discussion panel (which took place on 9 May 2023) where Saichanapan, or “DJ” (now in primary school) and his mother participated offered much insight into how education can trigger intuitions. DJ, in this panel, recalled a picture book he read titled “I Used to be a Fish” ─ which he vividly remembered presenting in front of his classroom about how humans evolved. He also added an instance where he was so fascinated by a page illustrating volcanic eruption ─ and that it allows him to “be more observant.”
In contribution to DJ’s talk, his mother added upon how she, as a parent, favors picture books over text-based books. She pointed out how enthusiastic DJ is when telling her what he had learned which she remarked, “Picture books are filled with great illustrations, they are great tools for kids to correlate their imagination and real-world, and most importantly, there are certain elements adults overlooked and only kids could see.”
Upon interviewing DJ, the Centre overhead much of “What would you want to be when you grow up?” or “What do you want to do in the future?” and what struck us subtle questions that occur on almost all occasions when adults encounter kids ─ was his answer to them which is a genuine “I don’t know.”
His answer to us evoked much of a contrary implication ─ and that a notion of trying to elicit his determination into becoming someone was not always in the best interest of the youth. So why does this matter? A closer look at our interview with DJ might assist with some lessons from his role in the educational system.
What was intended as “a standard conversation", as a data collection for the program improvement had turned into a philosophical realization. From a casual inquiry of what subjects of what he enjoys studying to examples of what he educed learning, we found that DJ was able to intricately explain how the Thai language and characters came to its fruition, whilst shuffling back and forth between the science of masses and matters and the history of arts.
Pertaining to the above, in DJ’s mind, there was a vast container that digests what is transferred to him together with the ability to formulate new narratives and adapt to what is made up of this world. In this regard, it should be urged (to all of us policymakers, educators, teachers, and also private organizations) to not inquire about answers, or steer the lives of students into whatever directions we believe are most suitable for them ─ rather provide necessary apparatuses for them to define the path they could thrive ─ once their identities are constructed.
As far as the argument goes, perhaps one of the most credible people who summarized this best is a renowned English educationist, Sir Ken Robinson. He once said, “The gardener does not make a plant grow. The job of a gardener is to create optimal conditions.” Like the gardener, teachers and educational institutions and corporations are not the accelerator of life, yet we attempt to escort our students into the path we already paved.
The most important realization from this case is to continually review what education ought to do for the next generation, and what could we all do to propose optimal equipment and knowledge for the youth to excel on their own terms. And with adults battling to champion a certain matter, children will always be at the crossfire.
Kaweepat Saichanapan pointed at his picture when he was inquiring about the subject in the classroom
A compilation of student learning process from different schools