Voice of the South's iEDEX (Information and Education Exchange) is 'the south's' premier educational fair. Its purpose is to bring together communities, schools, parents and peripheral businesses in a consortium that determines the current state as well as the future of education.
iEDEX was first launched in 2018. Now on its second year, it advances the idea that all of us are stakeholders in education, and therefore should be and can be lifelong partners in learning. After all, each of us, in our own ways are lifelong learners...and lifelong teachers.
The Challenges of Mass Education
In our attempt to tackle the subject of mass education in our country, we must first acknowledge that there is indeed a crisis, a lack, an inability to reach what is ideal. We must begin to see how this crisis in education is really a crisis in development. What needs to be changed is, not so much the schools, but rather dysfunctional elements of the larger community. And the dysfunction mostly stems from a widening incongruence in dynamics.
As we explore for solutions, inclusion is paramount. We have to band up. From their own experiences, parents, students, educators and leaders can contribute various insights on education. Cohesively assembled, these insights can help define what education is today and, from this, also give us an idea of what the landscape might be like tomorrow.
Of course, it is equally important to put emphasis on what education was like yesterday. What did education mean some decades back, during the industrial age, compared to what it is now? What changed? Why the change? What aspects of education were supplanted then, and what are those we should deem obsolete now?
What new paradigms are failing to be effective because they are still applied half-heartedly, still in tandem with outdated methodologies, in our fear of a complete breakaway from what we are familiar with? What other archaic mental attitudes are we refusing to relinquish and thus serve as hindrances to the progressive transformation of our learning institutions?
It's not easy to admit that what we have now is extensively inadequate. Yet, we must, if we are to advance in our quest for better means of education.
The current batch of teachers and the curricula of today's schools cannot, by themselves, maximize the learning potential of the children of this generation. They still churn out antiquated lessons from the industrial age. These lessons are mostly purposed for conditioning masses of students into a life of servitude to corporations, factories and assembly lines. This kind of set-up only equips students with basic skills at best, and perhaps the ability to follow orders, consequently trapping them inside a framework of limitations, if not a false sense of accomplishment. The irony here is that the bigger, more funded, and more prestigious schools are usually the ones playing the role of the stagnant stumbling block. And they do this even willfully and proudly, going to the extent of habitually casting the smaller more progressive learning schools in a bad light.
It is wrong to disregard the efforts or the significance of smaller, progressive educational systems. Usually, these limited cadre of smaller schools are the ones more adaptive to the times. Perhaps because of their limitation, these schools stay clear from the boasts of big traditional schools––that a student is their product and proceed to release them to society as a graduate, a learned individual, fully equipped...ready to go. In contrast, these micronized learning systems instill the most important attitude upon students: lifelong learning.
As we attempt to conceive new paradigms for mass education, it is imperative to acknowledge what is fundamental. With technology transforming our lives at breakneck speeds, it has become quite easy to lose sight of the basics. We may fail to notice that–– in these highly transient, mind-bogglingly sophisticated times––the smaller, more eclectic schools are usually the first to embrace progressive pedagogies. The tendency is to overlook this simple fact when it actually makes a whole world of sense.
Many of these small schools are more open to parents being pro-active in the education of their children. Like in the case of home schooling facilitators, parents are even made to be part of the school body, as a sort of ad hoc faculty. This leads to more direct feedbacks on teaching experiences and a more cooperative and liberal approach in the formation of curricula. Ultimately, this results in an academe whose collective learning efforts are not only bolder and more experimental, but more flexible and adaptable to change. Thus, in these small, down-to-earth casual, and tribal-like learning communities will we most likely find clues that can, at least, describe tomorrow's educational framework.
As a system of learning, education, as all things, needs to change. An evident mismatch between what we are teaching and what we already know can be a chief cause of dysfunction in our society. And, increasingly, knowledge needs to be as current as the news. The inability to catch up, due to inflexibility, renders the entire system almost useless in its aim of promulgating education in its holistic sense, except for the issuance of diplomas and accreditation of degrees.
One can argue that our civilization is fast spiraling down towards chaos and barbarism, despite all the technological advancements and marvelous new ways of living. And it wouldn't be a baseless argument. The pervasive violence, the lack of integrity in government, and the blatant usurping of human dignity by totalitarian forces bent on corruption are gaping reasons for us to seriously question ourselves and ask, "What have we learned?"
All that loyalty, all the pride we had for our alma maters, the traditional educational institutions, count for nothing. If we are not better citizens today, if we are a worse nation, then the colors, the banners and the emblems of our schools cannot really be worn with pride. For what school taught us to watch in admiration as our leaders conspire to plunder our nation? How can we behave like brain-damaged idiots and do nothing as traitors sell our country's interests to foreign powers? What school subject advanced the idea that the law is only for the powerful to use and abuse for their own ends? What dogma required us to support the killing of thousands of citizens and simply take the word of the killers that these are misfits of society? What religious indoctrination made us believe that God is stupid?
If we cannot tell facts from fake news; if we cannot discern lies from truth; and if we choose instead to rest on double standardism, believing the realities that are only convenient to us––then we know nothing. We have no clue what makes us upright as human beings. All the things we thought we learned, we didn't. We are still as naive and as ignorant as pre-schoolers.
iEDEX, as a conference of the academic community, is pushing for change in our learning environments. It is premised on the idea that
we are all still learning and, thus, should remove any presumption that suggests we are already learned.
Unlike most discussions on education, it does not only propose a constructivist and apprentice-based approach in understanding how humans actually learn. Rather, it advances the thought that better avenues to learning abound. But we are blind to these because we refuse to breakaway from the traditional, compartmentalized system we were conditioned to follow.
To have even the slightest idea of the direction where education should be headed, we must go with "the grain of the brain". iEDEX can help blend the cause of different kinds of educators into a seamless web. This way, learning opportunities can permeate better, throughout the Philippine islands.
Hence, what iEDEX really promotes is dynamic learning. This should not be seen as a system, but rather a way of life. It is the active recognition, encouragement and support of both formal and informal education. But at the same time, it is the promotion of community participation, the practical use of technology for the mass assimilation of knowledge, and the emphasis on inserting wisdom in what we know.
It does not connote some grand utopian vision of schools in the future. Nor does it spew ideas of an educational revolution, or a nirvanic point of societal enlightenment. At this point, the luxury to dream ambitiously is superseded by the mere necessity to cope with the relentless changes our society has been experiencing. Despite the noise of falsehood and the violent social, political and economic disruptions, we must address the great mass education backlog. We will perceptibly diminish as a civilization if we don't.
Technology, no doubt, will be a key factor in charting a course across various disciplines. But the new, technology-augmented model for mass education, if there'd be any, must also connect learning to what happens outside the classroom. If we are able to come up with a new educational system that includes at least 90% of the millennials, the most tech savvy of all generations, then we would've succeeded. Only then can we claim that we have a working system for mass education, without deceiving ourselves.
It is not impossible. It is already happening now on its own, except it is happening eclectically, not formally. We see 4-year old kids everywhere learning the alphabet on YouTube. Teens are managing simulation cities on their tablets, raising taxes, designating residential zones and solving power crises in make-believe cities, conscious of their approval ratings as simulation mayors. People are googling everything for information using mobile phones, while traveling, while waiting in lines, or while in the bathroom . From the most recent scientific discoveries, to how to play the violin, are information that can be attained in a snap. Or more accurately, in a "click".
The dynamism is there, but is yet wild, raw, undirected. What lacks is an encompassing structure. This structure should be able to formally rate and acknowledge learning credentials of all citizens. But more importantly, it should be effective in disseminating access to a learning system that is reachable by all.
The key lies in creating a framework that removes the disparity between learning and schooling. The educational crisis we face can be best understood by scrutinizing not just the way schools teach, but also the way students learn. And the reality that we are all learners but then also teachers in our own lives should show us how we can bridge this gap.
Above political mantras demanding educational reform, we need to recognize that the changes we seek may already be here. In fact, the technological, social and economic changes we have been seeing are cascading upon us so rapidly, we need to adapt. Our biggest mistake, perhaps, is frustrating these changes in our attempts to fit them into pre-existing systems.
We're not going so far as to join anti-establishment radicals in their statement that "old school is dead". But we are also not simply saying that schools should just "tech up" and modernize individually. We will not be presenting graphs to prove intellectual weaning nor show the gargantuan problem of infrastructure and enumerate how many teachers, classrooms, tables and chairs are lacking.
What iEDEX promotes is the exercise to band together and consciously shape the future of mass education. Our vision is predicated on a renewed understanding of human learning in contrast to the mass educational system we have today. So it is more of a movement calling for a re-vision, than a vision. Our hope is to come up with a framework, together, spanning disciplines that encompasses even those what we learn outside the classroom.
The world has changed and is still changing rapidly. And what is evolving is a new way of learning where education is becoming more interconnected to be confined to schools alone. We need to pick up the pace in acknowledging that whatever people learn apart from schools is also education, and in no lesser degree.
In closing, we would like to emphasize that mass education should be more than its textbook definition––of organizing various knowledge into fixed scholarly disciplines and then systematically imparting these to students on a vast scale. It should transcend that to achieve its purest meaning. Mass education must be available to all. And it can only be available to all, if we also make it available FROM ALL, whether we like it or not, including students, and even those unenrolled, in the farthest corners of the country, who should learn, but who can also teach us, and from whom we can definitely learn what conventional school cannot provide.
For mass education to genuinely manifest in a society, that society must first uphold, as its ideals, human freedom and God-given rights. The clue lies in truly understanding why the rights to education and information, the rights to expression and assembly, are all basic human rights.
For more information on iEDEX (Information & Education Exchange), please contact the Secretariat at Mobile Nos. (0919)666-1612.