Op-edWhich Philosophy of Education seems suitable to COVID Situation?

Which Philosophy of Education seems suitable to COVID Situation?

According to John Dewey, “Education was to be carried out by using the democratic principle of life, by promoting freedom of activities and thoughts, stressing individuality, and by learning self-discipline through first-hand experiences” (Sullivan 1966). The need to learn about history, religion and culture of my country through education is equally important for me to understand my roots. Yet, learning English as one of the compulsory languages has helped in being with the world and explore opportunities. Religious influences that dominate people’s thinking should ideally not influence the human equations but help build compassion and resilience among us. Values are a crucial part of Culture, and with deductive and inductive thinking, one can develop rationality (In S. Sikhauli, Ed.). With this as the background will help teachers to prepare students to be logical, help identify their potential, enjoy learning, and prepare themselves to be able contributors to the nation.

The pandemic that we all are fighting to conquer has changed the way we looked at life until now. Al that was considered right and all that was to be avoided before March 2020, have become an integral part of us. For example, avoiding too much of screen time earlier has now become a way of life for us. Today, we are open to any change that will come across, accept any eventualities willingly and fight back. Going out in a crowd, travelling, and going to office and school has now been restricted for our own well-being. Yes, it is a temporary phase and would change back, but still, some aspects would see a new normal approach, build in a new perspective. Corporate houses are encouraging WFH, online learning and teaching will be considered as one of the teaching methodologies, as a new way of home-schooling. Fear of the unknown could grow stronger, thereby saving for eventualities, health and security would become the priority. Growth in the health insurance sector and the medical field would be evident. Family bonding and tolerance could get revived and become better. Self-Reliance, Aatmanirdharta, could be the prime concern of every country. Being equipped with essentials would be the need of the hour. The functioning of SMEs would have new reforms. Eating nutritious food could take over junk food. The self-realisation of shifting to this change would be evident in individuals at all levels. Coming together for a cause and supporting each other could become important for everyone around. All these ‘could’s’ however need awareness and regular reiteration to sustain the positive impact of the pandemic, and education is the best medium to do.

2020 in India has also seen great hope through its National Education Policy (NEP) 2020, that promises and aims in building Inclusion and Equality among its social structure. According to the United Nations (UN), Education is the prime concerns today, Right amount of education, helps create employable individuals who drive the economy. If the employability rate is higher, crime rates come down, and so builds the social security that we always wish for. If the youth is employable, will the industry develop and thereby the economy of the country? Prime Minister Narendra Ji Modi believes that NEP will shift the focus from ‘What to Think’ to ‘How to Think’. According to him, the coming generation needs to be multi-skilled and prepared to re-skill and up-skill themselves. This means critical thinking, vocational training and learning by doing would take the prime stage. It is ultimately fulfilling the objective of NEP of providing the nation better students – boys and girls, professionals & better human being. According to the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals, ‘achieving inclusive and quality education for all reaffirms the belief that education is one of the most powerful and proven vehicles for sustainable development. This goal ensures that all girls and boys complete free primary and secondary schooling by 2030.’ (UNESCO, 2017). Education would help bridge the gap between individuals, build individual strength, develop gender sensitivity, equip skill-sets and build confidence in individuals to eradicate poverty, feel equal, be innovative, and enterprising, thus reflecting social uniformity. Learning for all and reaching out at all levels with quality education driven by quality teachers is important. The scope of philosophy of education has increased. The individual performance assessment will shift from academic excellence, through meritocracy, to holistic development. Enhancing teacher effectiveness through the right amount of training, guidance, and assistance would help set standards essential for quality education.

Since many years, ideologies have had their influence on society and in education particularly. Various philosophies derived from the ideologies propagated by individuals or society have shaped education, its reach, and its outlook, thereby increasing the scope of philosophy of education. Almost every philosophy has the influence of Darwin’s theory of evolution (1859) where individuality, generalisation, survival, and reproduction are critical differentiators and identities of a human. Though each philosophy seemed different, evolved with the given scenario – be it social, economic, religious, political, or industrial, their main purpose has been to serve the individual, thereby serve the society, highlighting the importance of philosophy of education. The degree of focus on an individual need or need of the society has been varying in each case. These philosophies have also influenced the way education is taught. Today, a mix of philosophies have been more ideal for the generation than following any one particular philosophy of education.

Each of the philosophies influences the philosophy of Education:

  • Vedic period, that believed in Gurukul format, Jainism and Buddhism all teach us to lead a simple lifestyle. Inner joy is of prime importance.
  • Essentialism philosophy helps differentiate between need and luxury. Responsibility of introducing students to the past seems necessary to be able to progress in future.
  • Marxism philosophy helping to focus on social change with a right understanding of political and social dynamics.
  • Zakir Husain’s values of health, strength, beauty and cleanliness though refer to an individual’s outer, equally helps to develop the inner strength, beauty that gets projected as positivity. Health and cleanliness build feel-good factor that allows to think fresh and be innovative and persuasive.
  • Progressivism, as defined by John Dewey, is preparing students to be in active mode, think and explore through experiential learning. A teacher is primarily a facilitator to initiate the process of exploration, and then the students take it forward. This allows individuals to take responsibility, inquire and look deeper into the subject. The scope to think for self is prime and then extended to others.
  • Essentialism described as ‘essentially enfeebling’, philosophy helps differentiate between the need and luxury. Its prime focus is to bring social awareness, prepare for generative learning, and to transmit and to preserve culture along with Patrimony (Sharpes, D. K., 2013).
  • Pragmatism helps us being sensible and realistic about the end consequences, helping us relate theories or beliefs basis the practical application.
  • Utilitarianism directs us towards measuring the happiness quotient of an individual vi-a-viz his personal gain and the gain of the others. This approach could help build a harmonious community.
  • Freire’s philosophy of Liberalisation defines that education is politics. The two components that most impacts in politics are conflict and cooperation. (Heywood, A., 2019). Freire under ‘Education for critical consciousness’ speaks about creativity through characterisation and innovation by developing impatience and vivacity among students. Freire’s philosophy of education does encourage opposition to dominance, but to be committed to fighting against inequality and injustice. The approach should be through liberal teaching and critical dialogues, provoking students to think and question over socio-economic, intellectual, and academic subjects.

Academic achievement is one of the key things in India and the major factor in developing competition and conflict among people. In my opinion, the purpose of Academic achievement should not be towards realising and identifying one’s potential for future professional development. Academic achievement should rather be coupled with social skills and emotional development to be able to work in a team and towards positive social integration.

Education system post-independence was a State subject, but with amendment under Article 42 of the Indian constitution, education became a concurrent list subject. This allows the central government to have its influence over education policies and reforms. Education is essential for Indians, and thus political parties have tried to influence people through education policies that provided benefits and opportunities in seeking basic and higher education. It has also allowed privatisation of education providing employment and enterprising opportunities.

It is a critical and ideal approach for any nation to invest in people and their development. This will bring in social stability which in turn builds harmony and peace. Every individual has great potential and if that potential is tapped s/he rightly will do well for him/herself, thereby contributing to the development of the society. Thus, the focus of education should be building the individual and his/her potential. Education should also focus on the personal and social development skills that promote interests, builds confidence, and resilience to help us fight eventualities like the one we are facing today in 2020.

Approach to effective teaching does reflect Lewis model of classroom management – model of control, model of manage and model of influence. Model of control is a teacher-centric approach; the model of management is a collaborative approach towards teaching and model of influence, a student-centric approach empowers students to choose their own betterment. Yet, the approach to education depends on an individual’s capacity and capability. However, continuous learning ability and intensions are the crucial indexes of NEP and UN policies which as teachers and educators, we must take into account, practise and reflect it through our actions with our students. Encouraging active participation of parents, beyond dialogues, should be worked upon to create a learning environment for the students, thereby helping them build it into their systems. Model of influence can then be more effective and fruitful. Offering freedom of selection will automatically make students realise the need for performance and excel without any emotional or mental pressure.

COVID-19 has shown us that education can shift from a model of control to a model of manage. Very soon, the shift from model to manage the model of influence happens like today, and online teaching is a collaborative responsibility. Students are equally responsible for making their presence felt by active participation. It has been observed that the attention span and concentration have increased among students for lack of scope to copy and exchange. The teacher will and are picking up the skill of getting more friendly with technology and has unknowingly begun to concentrate on their students individually during online learning which otherwise would be difficult in a normal class. Teachers have also moved from summative to formative tests, thereby measuring the learning outcome of the class and moulding their future lesson plans accordingly. Not only schools but in general all of us have realised the potential of concentrated working, yielding better results. Yes, we do have stained our eyes, but when these approaches become our normal routine, then even during our regular schooling or work, the concentration would be better. We have realised that spending time with self and our dear ones do matter. We have also learned to share responsibilities. Let’s consider being rational, progressive, understanding. Share power, collaborate, encourage individualism, and acknowledge and respect others. A little of every known philosophy of education like Liberalisationism, Progressivism, Dr Zakir Husain’s philosophy, Utilitarianism, Essentialism, Vedic philosophies of a simple lifestyle, and Social constructivism could be revived and work through our individual capacities and capabilities.

Remember, all humans are made of body and mind, mind that has an intellect and felt feelings. Yet, every individual is unique in the way s/he looks, approaches to life and feels for others. The impact of childhood impressions, the environment and genetics play a crucial role. Thus, the choice of the philosophy of education for every educator could be different. What we have to understand is ourselves – our purpose and need, align it with the objective of the institution we represent – its vision, mission, and guidelines, and most importantly connect to the need of the students who will be impacted by us for the rest of their lives.

Girish Dalvi
Girish Dalvi
As an educator, artiste & counselor, I facilitate training for teachers, students, and corporate executives. Work internationally. Love spontaneity and creativity. Involved in the development sector, I work towards women and child development.

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