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Preparing the parenting mindset for futuristic learning

By G. Balasubramanian

The industrial model of education focusing on mass production of human competencies to meet the needs of growth and development of a society has served its purpose for the last couple of decades. This model, apart from fulfilling the needs of equity and equality, set standards of performance through certification, thereby providing a purposeful education. This triggered and compelled learning into a straight-jacketed, pre-designed model. In the process it discounted the aptitude and attitude of the learners and promoted a competitive engagement with learning defining and targeting the end products. The creative urges of the learners were suppressed to fall in line with what the system wants than what the learner wants. This forced the thought dynamics of the parents to follow the growth profile of the leaners through a one-way mountain track. Forcing many such mountaineers to go ahead without adequate assessment of mental and physical health brought emotional discomfort and they could neither enjoy their journey nor the targets. They lost either the purpose or fulfilment in such journeys. The personal interests of the learners were set aside to prove the relevance and usefulness of the learner to a socially cast intellectual dye. This model helped the parents to standardize the profile of the learners against their competitors and to prove a point. Celebrations were more on meeting and proving in the competition than celebrating every breath of learning by the learners.

In the emerging scenario, the content, the process and the purpose of education is likely to be more open, more flexible, more self-directed and non-competitive. Research on the learning methods, evolution of newer tools of technology, hybrid models of learning and liberation of learning from time and space are likely to bring paradigm shifts in the understanding of education and hence the approach its modus operandi. The parents would therefore be expected to reposition their mindset about education, the ways their children would learn, the relationship profile of the learner and the teacher. Their vision of schools and their operations would also have to change lest the mismatch between the way the schools would operate, and the parents would expect them to operate might create conflicts.

Some of the basic changes in the mindset, parents need to have would be the following:

1. The schools would become facilitators of learning

The schools and the teachers would become facilitators of learning providing critical inputs for learners to seek, expand and assimilate knowledge and skills through their own efforts. The blend of the formal and informal sources of learning inputs would liberate the text-based learning. Hence parents seeking to force the children to an exclusive text-based learning or to a restricted compass of learning would be doing a mistake and restrain their wards from the joy and spectrum of learning. They possible would need to look at the learning profile of the children with a non-comparative and non-competitive eye. It would mean an in-depth understanding both education and the psyche of their own children.

2. The contents for learning would be liberal and would let learners design their own learning constructs.

The straight-jacketed unidirectional approach of content delivery might change allowing the learners to seek and examine and construct content at their own level. Content compilation from diverse sources, authenticity of the content, relevance and applicability of the content to the individual needs of the learner would force the learning methods more self-directed and peer impacted. Social construction of knowledge will enhance interactive and connectivism models and hence any effort of parents to limit learning into time capsules would be failing. Even educated parents might find it difficult to draw a learning map for their wards as such learning maps would be disadvantageous to the learner or be debatable.

3. The pedagogy in the classrooms would be enabling but not top-down.

The ivory tower approach of classrooms would find their way out with teachers becoming more participants in learning as co-learners. The teacher dictated notes, homework and other customized models of the past decades would get replaced by newer pedagogies which would support research, analysis, evidence, debate and provide experiential learning. This will promote a text-free, bagless learning situations which might put parents into serious doubts about the quality of transactions. With freedom to learn, the learning content and methods would get customized to each learner leaving parents unable to compare notes with their friends and relatives. Parents would do well by being active triggers, catalysts and enablers to their wards rather than acting as auditors or police officers.

4. The newer assessment models would need greater understanding

Trained to look at the performance of their wards in a graded model either through numbers or through letters, the parents must reset their mind’s clock about the basement profiles of their wards in which they had set their own alarm bells. The future of assessment might be less judgmental, more suggestive and recommendatory. Focus might shift towards narratives on the learning profile spanned over a period and a set of diverse learning opportunities than on a terminal mode of assessment. Lack of specificity in assessment to provide measured feedback that would answer some of their conflicting queries about growth of their wards might annoy the parents. It would be important for the schools to do special training programs to communicate the objectives, methods and the outcomes of assessment in a more meaningful and acceptable manner.

5. Understanding digital natives with hybrid learning cultures

The term “Digital Natives” is contextual. It justifies the transformation in the learning culture of a generation. Though the mobility to newer learning cultures facilitated by digital intervention has been unpredictably fast in the timeline, one cannot reverse the process. This change has ushered in the hybrid modes of learning wherein the learners use, integrate, synthesize learning using multi-dimensional digital tools. This has further expanded the learning pedagogies to effectively use digital tools and appliance. Their ability to liberate time and space from learning, to provide a fingertip-based approach to seek information and provide a spectrum of learning inputs for selective use have made teaching-learning more creative, diverse and innovative. Any effort of the parents to dispel technology as a myth or a roadblock to effective learning is no more valid. The parents need to facilitate, monitor and mentor the use of technology with an open mind at the same time using precautionary steps to be cyber sensitive

6. Focus on the holistic development of the learner might call for an in depth understanding of the purpose of education

The recommendation to lift the iron curtain between curricular and co-curricular activities, science and non-science courses, better integration of art and sports, focus on creative engagements in learning might give a mixed message to the parents. At one end, they will be happy to see their wards opening beyond the routine models of learning and at the other end they may think that there is no clarity in the direction of growth. This would call for periodic counselling of the individual parents by the schools through professional counsellors. Further schools would do well to interact with parents with more academic and pedagogical inputs and avoid the ceremonial ‘open day’ models.

6. The increasing cost of learning might create more discontent.

With multi-dimensional inputs getting into education in terms of resources, support systems, tools and appliances, cost of external expertise, continuous training needs of the faculty, the cost of schooling would increase on a year-to-year basis. The schools will be left with no option to make parents as supporters of the changing environment. A periodic increase in school fees will become unavoidable. Parents might have to build this cost in their annual family planning budgets. Parents would do well to understand the schools, be it government or private, incur a cost for everything that is done inside, and the cost must be paid for either by the parents or the government.

7. Parents might be expected to offer their services to schools based on their professional competencies for the overall growth of the school

There could more intensive cooperation between institutions and parents. Organized support systems through parental engagements either individually or collectively might be needed by schools in specific areas of achievement. Collective efforts from parents to advise, to engage, to mentor, to monitor and to participate purposefully will become the order of the day. Such interventions must be based purely on the academic and professional needs of the school. In no way, they should interfere or impact the routine functions of the school or the freedom they enjoy as an institution.

The change in mindset would be unavoidable. It is better if as a community of parents, we could start with baby steps.