By Krystallia Kyritsi (Staff Writer)
Two plus two is four. Correct.
Three times three is nine. Correct.
What is the focus in education today? Is it to create autonomous citizens who can challenge the status quo, who can question the “standardised truths” given to them? Or is it to create voiceless human beings in a culture of conformity?
Pedagogical theories such as behaviourism were very popular in the past in educational practices. Behaviourist models mainly consider the control and prediction of behaviour. The principle theorists in behaviourism, theorists such as Pavlov, Skinner and Thorndike have developed theories that support the ‘stimulus and response’ pair. In educational settings, this is translated through trial and error, reward and punishment practices. The main aim in such practices is to reach train children to reach the right target. But…whose ‘right target’ is the best? And who controls this process? If we are talking about traditional educational practices, it can be argued that pupils have limited choices and options, as the attendant educational structures do not leave enough space for children’s voices to be heard and valued. What might be the consequences on children?
The concept of the ‘banking educational system’ was introduced by Paulo Freire in order to describe the process by which the teacher becomes the subject of the learning process and the pupils mere objects of it. Within this context of “knowledge transmission”, pupils receive, memorise and repeat information. This is the secret for school “success”. Children passively accept and reproduce carefully selected knowledge that has no relevance to their personal interests and may not be helpful in their lives. Children are given limited space to critically examine the knowledge that they have to absorb, and are encouraged to passively accept ‘the right’ answers and their teacher’s authority. Schools have a profound formative influence upon the ways that children (now) and adults (later) think and act. As an outcome, robotic citizens, obedient disciplined bodies are produced, perpetuating a system that serves the interests and the ideology of dominant groups within society.
Ancient Greek historian, Plutarch, once said; “The mind is not a vessel to be filled, but a fire to be kindled”. Supporting this view, I will now pose some questions that leave space for a critique of traditional educational environments.
…instead of silent voices and silent minds there was a plethora of equally valued perceptions within the classroom?
…learning was connected to the experiences, views and histories that children bring with them to their classrooms?
…children had the power to challenge the social truths purveyed by education?
…education triggered children’s desire for enforcing equality for all?
…children had the opportunity to work in flexible environments, co-creating parts of the learning process with the teacher?
If those questions found an answer - for a shift to child-led and more flexible teaching practices -, then children would might have the space to say;
“Grown-ups never understand anything for themselves, and it is tiresome for children to be always and forever explaining things to them”.
 Freire, P., 1993. Pedagogy of the oppressed / Paulo Freire; translated by Myra Bergman Ramos, New York: Continuum
 De Saint-Exupery, Antoine, 1995. The Little Prince / Antoine de Saint-Exupery; translated by Irene Testot-Ferry, London: WORDSMITH CLASSICS
Other relevant literature:
Freire, P. 1974. Education for critical consciousness / Paulo Freire, London: Sheed and Ward, 1974.
Hills, M. & Watson, J. 2011. Creating a Caring Science Curriculum: An emancipatory Pedagogy for Nursing, New York, Springer Publishing Company
Hooks, B. 1994. Teaching to Transgress: Education as the Practice of Freedom. Great Britain: Routledge