The ensuing debates, due to the proposed “no homework” policy in basic education, only expose a sad reality: the state of education in the country has not yet outgrown the assembly-line approach to learning, which is reminiscent of a past industrial age.
Sociologist Bill Spady, the father of Outcome-Based Education (OBE), describes this outdated approach to education quite sarcastically as such: “Specific students of a specific age must learn specific things on a specific schedule in a specific classroom from a specific teacher using specific materials and methods so that they can pass specific tests on specific dates, and only then they will be called, ‘OK.’”
Our educational system seems to hang on, with no hint of letting go, to “education in a box.” This counterproductive structure in education is outmoded. For instance, why should a system forbid a student to continue learning at home or anywhere on a topic he is very much interested in? Or, why coerce a student to actively participate in a dull lesson where he finds no happiness?
When I hear reasons such as the lack of quality time of students with their family to justify the “no homework” policy, I cannot help but frown, not because I am not in favor of the policy. Rather, it is because I cannot fathom how spending time studying with one’s family is not considered quality time. It is as if education has become a hindrance to a good family life.
The problem is not education itself. The difficulties root from misconceptions about education. Thomas Aquinas wrote: “Happiness lies in an activity, for it is activity that perfects the power of any nature.” In terms of education, we can translate it as such: happiness in learning or studying is a continuous activity. It transcends compartmentalization of time, place and subject matter.
Preparing young people for the Fourth Industrial Revolution cannot be accomplished with a kind of education that is not fluid and seamless. Students today should be flexible when it comes to learning. The world of work that awaits them knows no single field of direction, but a confluence of many diverse factors. Complex, massive, swift and unpredictable are the behaviors that characterize the work of today and of the future.
As Spady says of what learning in the 21st century should be, “anyone can learn anything at anytime from anywhere from world-class experts using the most transformational technologies and resources available to enhance personal interests and life fulfillment.”
Education now should be guided not by insulating structures and principles, but by “fluid” approaches. “Human beings, their learning, their potential, their achievement, their worth, and their passports to the future cannot and will not be reduced to a few numbers in tiny boxes that reformers, idealogues and politicians can hold up to either praise or ridicule,” Spady writes.
Learning in the 21st century century is about the empowerment of students. It must depart from the one-size-fits-all mentality. Each student is unique. This reduction of our understanding of education to “homework” is insulting. It cheapens the state of education in the country.
If learning should be provided the way it should be in the 21st century, then it should be engaging and as natural as breathing. It is futile and ridiculous trying to legislate on it.
Jesus Jay Miranda, OP is the Secretary-General of the University of Santo Tomas (UST). He holds a doctorate in Educational Leadership and Management (ELM) and teaches at the Graduate School of UST and the ELM Department of the Bro. Andrew Gonzalez, FSC-College of Education of De La Salle University-Manila. Contact him at email@example.com.