National Article 5: Is life one big party … and then four days of study? When do we learn? Or did the dead cat just killed our curiosity?

“What would it take to see the levels of education in the country rise without having the need to set standards (and the government having to invest in) for it?”

Hmm …. have we thought of this question?  As a country?


education (Photo credit: Sean MacEntee)

To appreciate the question, first we will need to find out what is causing the standards of education to go down persistently!  Or did we choose not to ask (or think about) the question, because we thought it was a non-starter?  Or we just did not go “there” to think?

That is to stand back and wonder that us and perhaps generations before us had worked hard to set up whole institutions (in the adult world) and invested resources  just so to remind us and if not, to correct falling standards of education.  To do so we would have put in place measurements to make sure standards stay up.

This is different from what we would otherwise like to see happen for our children (in the child world), i.e. to see our child reach out for  rising levels of educational standards.  Yes?

So we (the adult) work hard to teach, but they (the child) are not learning?

So, what causes standards of education to go down despite having had measures, standards, resources, infrastructure to prop it up for these years?  Has anyone counted how much we have already spent?  Within the country?  As a globe?  Since post WWII?  That is 50-60 years.  How many dropped out of school compared to those who have acquired PhD?


How has levels of education compare with the investments placed into it.  Did you say, it has gone down not as expected?  How does the trend of resources compare?  It has gone up?  Hmm … that does not make sense, does it?

So what went wrong?

What would instead cause things to turn around to see levels of education go up?

But if we asked that question, then our attention would shift to the teachers (the adults).  Yes?  It is one adult world (parents) talking to another (the teachers).

Then if so, what is the question we should ask, so that our attention is on where it matters?   The learners (or the minds of the learners (the child)).

So what is stopping or preventing the child from wanting to / being willing to learn?

Because once we have figured that out, there would be no stopping in the standards of education reached by the children.  They would easily outstrip and standards we set for the teachers.  Yes?

Except which is easier to manage?  The motivations of the teacher or that of the student?

But taking the easy way out would usually leads us back into the problem.

It would be great to transpose the following trends showing revenues and numbers gained at (indicative of where the adults’ attention may have been) over the years:
  • Brewery and prescription drug industry (it would have been great to learn also the number of school going persons who consume (regardless that they buy) alcohol)
  • Contributions to and attendance at religious groups
  • Participation at sports and recreation
  • Level of livestock births and consumption (+sales)
  • Level of petroleum / gasoline / transport / construction industry growth
  • Level of litigation cases filed at courts around the country (divorces, land issues, crime, property, business contracts, corruption, etc.)
  • Level of population level changes (by districts) = Births (showers), deaths (funerals), marriages (weddings, engagements, showers)
  • teacher number changes (we can see the student number changes are going down – that’s interesting! – where are they going?)
I suspect the trends in these areas will not be heading downwards (like the school grades).  Instead it may even show a strong positive trends.  What happens or consumes the adult in the adult world and takes him or her away from the child has an impact on the child learning world!
It is almost like saying, Reality No. 2 is growing at the price of Reality No. 1.
Students do however need adults (parents, older brothers and sisters) around them, to help them understand the subjects (of the adult world: Chemistry, Development Studies, Mathematics, Accounts, etc. ) they are learning (including the teachers but not limited to them) and not merely focus on grades.  Teacher at times (especially in the developing world) defer her success exclusively to the commitment by student almost to a fault.  Yet the child is learning from and about the adult world.   A world she did not come from.  One cannot say that the student should learn because the course objectives have been laid out for the child.   Adults need to also take it as their responsibility to make success happen for their child  with the child.  Rather than say, if she does not pull up her sock, she will just end up like me.  And then leave it.
And if parents are busy dealing with reality 2, it gets in the way of the child’s learning.  Learning is systemic.  But I am sure we would still hear our (parents) voices in the media and in parliament blaming everyone else for the downfall of our child’s grades.
This interrelationship points to an important element to bring a systemic awareness of what helps a child learn in totality.  The child is not here to fend the family only.  This is I suspect is perhaps the reason where most male students may end up in when they drop out of school early.  In the developing world they would move into to herd livestock or in the developed world, they may succumb to addiction of substances (e.g. alcohol).  These boys are now lost to the growth of the nation.  We may also see more female students compared to male students graduate the school system, which means more teachers in the teaching system would eventually become women.  This can have an effect to crowd out the male students even further.
Well, we can almost “throw in the towel” and say we can’t have everything.  But “You can have your cake and eat it too, but not at once”.  There is an order in which causality happens.  Not all Ministry can vie to be #1 at the same time.  The easy way out  will then try to prevail.  There is an order in which it needs to happen.
A thought going forward
It would be interesting to see if we bring together parents and community across the school grades:
  • Take parents of students with Grade A* and have them have conversations side-by-side with typical teachers as well as parents of  students with Grade C or D or E.  For the latter, take parents who went through their experience a few years back – as their emotions would have flared down and they are better able to see what has been happening for their child.
  • Keep these conversations running for several months, if not years.  No media.  Just understanding.  Listening, asking questions and understanding.  Keep repeating the exercise.  That’s all you’d need to do.
  • This is different from meetings at the Community Hall between the Ministry and the community leaving the Ministry or the parent to defend their side.  This will otherwise encourage defensiveness on both sides, but no systemic learning by the parents, children and the Ministry.  The only result?  Just defensiveness and more pushing of the Ministry of Education, school heads, teachers and another round of Performance Management Systems.  The former conversation is an opportunity for learning by the country.  But keep it quiet.  Do not push it.  Otherwise, if not done carefully, it can agitate the system.  Slower is faster so we can understand how our cures do not make the disease worse.
  • Do not link this activity directly with these results.  I am sure the Ministry will figure that out.  That calls for creativity.

Not the fireman!

How much will this action cost us?  I suspect it would cost us almost next to nothing to bring about a systemic change!
How much would it have otherwise cost us?  As a nation?  As a globe?

I could not, at any age, be content to take my place by the fireside and simply look on.  Life was meant to be lived. Curiosity must be kept alive. One must never, for whatever reason, turn his back on life.

Eleanor Roosevelt

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