“Framing the situation in education as a ‘problem’ that can be solved simply by doing some things differently than before, does not do justice to the complexity of reality,” wrote Matthias Theis, a final year student in pedagogy at KU Leuven.
In recent weeks, a torrent of opinions has surfaced with doomsday messages about Flemish education. This education will gradually reach the bottom after a long period of decline.
Don’t worry, the same authors often provide the solution right away. We have to go back to “De Basis”: more focus on Dutch and mathematics, away from educational frills and back to “Just Teaching”. So the solution seems simple: educational simplification and eliminating unnecessary ballast that has crept in over the years.
There is a fundamental fallacy in this reasoning. Framing the situation in education as a “problem” that can be solved simply by doing some things differently than before does not do justice to the complexity of reality. The school is not a business The principal is not a CEO who has substantial control over his employees. Al-Qaeda supporters dive into the same logic as their peers who like to deny them. The debate on education must become a pedagogical debate, and not be limited to the endless questioning of purely educational methods, this is an intermediate step, not a foundation.
How much is really learned in school today? What is learning? It is important to focus on education and determine what education entails. Unfortunately, this is often overlooked as irrelevant or unusable. However, the value and importance we attach to children’s education will also determine its quality.
School is a place of learning, so the question is not so much about the amount of math or the Dutch language, but about learning. Learning is often seen as merely the transmission and confirmation of knowledge. This is shorthand for the concept, learning more. Learning begins with authentic thinking, thinking that does not depend on recognition. Recognition only transforms unknowing into knowledge, a process that takes place within definite limits and will not lead to learning.
The original thinking that will lead to learning begins from confrontation with difference, and the interruption of the course of events. Learning is not about moving from not knowing to knowing, it is about exploring problems and taking self action regarding these problems. The one-sided focus on educational principles in the current debate on education quality often overlooks this fundamental issue of learning.
What is the teacher’s role in all of this? What characteristics do teachers need to realize this idea of learning? A teacher is educational, yes, but primarily he also has a mission as a teacher. It may sound strange, but the key word in this educational role is love. Love for what is the subject of study. As a teacher, you have to share this love with the next generation, it is essential.
The new generation of students has not experienced the world, and the teacher’s job and responsibility is to introduce them to the world as newcomers. How would this be possible if we continued to narrow our discussion of education to a discussion of more or less of the topic or methods used? This should not be the basis of the discussion, because it only distracts from the real problem: the lack of pedagogical work, teaching, framing, which makes intergenerational learning possible, starting with the formability of students.
It is an inherently uncertain process where the teacher creates space for the object to speak. The long-term focus on teaching aids for which the teacher can be judged or praised is driven by the logic of competence rather than what is necessary to enable students to learn about the world.
Hopefully, we can now seize this education crisis to allow real learning to win, not the endless debate over who has the right solution to the specific problem.
Give teachers confidence, make sure they don’t have to hide behind ‘evidence-based best practices’, and give them the opportunity to become more than just an educator. Give them the freedom and space to show their love, so that the classroom becomes a truly authentic place to learn.
Let the students connect with what is different from others and give them the opportunity to enter and participate in the world. Let the teachers inspire you. Only then can education be brought out of crisis, with teachers as teachers full of love for their profession. Be it math or dutch.
Matthias Theis is a KULeuven MSc student in educational sciences.
“Coffee buff. Twitter fanatic. Tv practitioner. Social media advocate. Pop culture ninja.”