Building a successful education system

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Rethinking the Nigerian Education system is a topic on the lips of most Educators and Parents , and rightly so. One of the problems we face in the present education system is a system of education marred by leaving lots of children behind.

What does this mean?

It means that some children or most children under the traditional way of teaching get introduced to so many concepts each week, they do not usually have time to master one concept before they move on to the next topic.

Now, obviously this works for some children  that is why you find that some will do very well in tests and exams, even scoring high marks, sometimes perfect marks! Yet so many other children will struggle to pass the same examination. These are the children who usually get left behind.

Though a lot of educators think that those who do not do very well are slow learners,  this is usually a very simplistic way of looking at the issues at hand. Some would even blame the teacher, claiming that the teacher did not do a good job while teaching the class. I on the other hand think that the education model, the method of teaching which is systemic and not just teacher-oriented is the main reason why children struggle.

Let me explain.

Bello is a 7-year-old student in Primary 3 at a traditional school round the corner from us. He hates going to school. Bello is struggling with learning his multiplication tables. There are children in the class younger than him who have learned to recite all the multiplication tables., but he can barely recite the 3 times table. He feels ashamed of himself whenever the teacher calls him to recite the tables. He always gets it wrong and the teacher keeps telling him off and calling him names. He has been told more than once that he is going to fail his exams this term if he doesn’t change.

Ayo, on the other hand is a 6-year-old in a Montessori school  nearby who has been learning to skip count for a while now. When the teacher introduced the multiplication tables to them last week, he made a connection, recognised the figure sequences of his skip counting activities.

He has been working on the multiplication tables for a week now and is excited to go to school and write out his multiplication tables. He skip counts writes out the numbers and then checks it with the tables. He is so excited about his find, he can recount the tables up to 6 times table now.

Can you see the difference in approach in the 2 different methods.

I could start from scratch and analyse why Bello finds the whole process so frustrating, but I will only concentrate for emphasis, on what has helped Ayo master what Bello has found so difficult to grasp. And this is what most of our children find difficult to grasp.

The road to success in our schools is to teach in simple steps and ensure that each step is understood before we move on.

Lets take this in tiny tit bits:

When we teach children a concept, the best way to make sure it sticks is to follow some simple principles:

  1. Make sure that the concept you are teaching is practical, activity based and hands on. A very important Montessori principle is this: Never introduce to the mind what you have not introduced to the hands. Find manipulative materials that work for the child and use these to encourage deep learning.
  2. Give the child time to work on this concept in a practical way, until the child has been able to internalize the concept. This means the child has time to repeat activities until they have mastered the concept. For the child, repetition is so important. They are interested in learning the process, how it is done, rather than getting it done. Let the children follow their inborn indicator that guides them and allows them to thoroughly learn one skill or concept before they move on to the next.
  3. Observe the child and do not move them on until they have mastered what you have taught them. If you keep moving them on without ascertaining that they have learned what you taught them then confusion and frustration sets in.

These Montessori principles, if followed in the classroom make inclusion very possible. You are treating each child as a unique individual. You are not following and doing blanket lessons. You are instead moving each child individually from where they are to where they need to be. This is a child centered education method that helps each child to grow at their own pace.

If this was what was done with Bello, he would not be struggling and hating going to school each day. Ayo on the other hand has been working on hands on skip counting and even with the Multiplication tables just introduced he can go back to his skip counting and work through each table practically to see the connections.

No wonder is he excited about coming to school and learning!

There is no competition and children are learning at their own pace.

We all have different gifts and strengths, we can develop those strengths and help to build the weak points giving time to grasp what is difficult.

With this model the child may not have finished all that they could have learnt in the Mathematics or Language Development lessons but what they know so far would be firmly understood.

In the early years for each child we need to ensure that there is a strong foundation laid in their education. If it has been inclusive and individually based then this would be possible.

Enough of the blanket diary we follow religiously!

I am so happy that the Montessori method, one of the best ways to ensure that children learn, really learn in a joyful atmosphere is available to all. I believe that it should be seriously considered as a better educational method to reach the child and build our children up for success.

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