There is a great Chinese saying that goes almost like this, “Give a man fish and he will eat for one day, teach him how to catch fish and he will eat forever.” Much as it may be a fact that I really love eating fish in all its forms, this article has little to do with my culinary preferences.
Most of the times our education systems tend to focus on the approach of ‘providing fish’ rather than the skills to ‘catch the fish’ for eternity. The focus is usually on the mastery of passing exams.
Many teachers concentrate on arming their students with all the necessary ‘tricks and tactics’ to pass examination. By doing things this, such teachers forget one important fact, that examinations last but for a moment.
In other words students are being prepared for a moment that hardly lasts a month. For the rest of their life, they are left to fend for themselves. Several institutes of higher learning here have held graduation ceremonies recently.
But the question remains, how has the system prepared them to survive in the world outside the classroom or the lecture room?
It is important to note however that, the current improved education curriculum that Rwanda is using seems to address the above concerns to a large extent. What now needed is for the teachers to effectively implement it.
For instance, the introduction of subjects like entrepreneurship at all levels of the secondary school system as well as computer science is a move clearly aimed at providing students with a competitive edge in the job market.
If these subjects are well taught then learners can be in position to not only be competitive for the available jobs but also able to create their own jobs and will therefore not have to wait for the government or the private sector to provide them with jobs.
It is not a secret though that some schools hardly have enough computers to effectively teach the students how to use the modern gadgets that have revolutionalised the world of work.
And more so, I am worried that some teachers may still be simply trying to prepare these students to pass the examinations instead of how to be lifetime entrepreneurs or computer experts.
And this food for thought should not be limited to these two subjects only. It should be spread across the board. It can be so useless to teach a student the dynamics of language grammar without encouraging them to be perennial readers of literature.
And again the country does not just need people who can pass chemistry or physics examinations but more importantly those who are inquisitive enough to ponder new sources of energy that can preserve the environment while improving people’s standards of living.
We as teachers ought to ensure that we develop a crop of research oriented scholars instead of those waiting to accumulate knowledge from their teachers who they often falsely perceive to be fountains of knowledge.
Students should not only be taught the stuff in the books but also how to find it. They should know the type of information they need and how to get it. It is often argued that information is the most valuable commodity.
If this is really the case, then we should be training our students how to access and use this information. How often do you find a teenager in an internet café looking up information at the web encyclopaedia, www.wikipedia.org?
My random survey reveals that many a time, a teenager will while away at sites like Facebook, Soccernet or Yahoo.
The challenge should therefore be that of changing learning attitudes and creating a lasting craving for knowledge among our students. This to me is what I would call empowering education that can indeed transform our societies.
Achieving this will enable us to eat fish forever, long after the examinations have been passed or failed.