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Unlearning the old paradigms of education

Pham Hai Yen

· Education,Philosophy,Future readiness,total well-being

The need for education transformation is spreading like wild fire across the world. Some advocate for future readiness and innovation to ensure economic growth. Some advocate for human values and total well-being to live a fulfilled life. For us at SoG, both goals are important to a sustainable and well-lived life.

However, before charting our ways towards this new vision of education, we must first ask ourselves the WHAT IS question. What is education? What is learning? What is teaching? The old paradigms about learning and education must be made visible to us before we can shift to new ways of thinking.

In our effort to redefine learning and education, to meet both goals of future readiness and total well-being, we develop the following 5 philosophies which are the fundamental guiding principles for what we believe education and learning should be:

1. Future creation is the learning process.

In the traditional way of learning, we go to class to learn a subject, learn a new skill or a knowledge domain. The traditional curriculum designers set out what are the important skills and knowledge to build in a topic and design the learning activities revolving around these predefined knowledge and skills. Although this way of curriculum design allows us to have quality content and well-selected materials, the retention of content and knowledge are uneven and might not be relevant to the learners’ learning goals, those which are meaningful to us personally, those that drives our innate curiosity and keep us committed on the learning path.

As such, it is critical for learners to have clear ideas of a project or a future they want to create, ones that inspire their heart. A child who wants to make a cup cake for his beloved mother on her birthday, a teenager who wants to make a medication dispenser for her ill grandmother, a biologist who wants to create a movement for marine life protection, a teacher who wants to turn her classrooms into a place of care and joy, a banking leader who wants to develop the next technology for inclusive finance.

Every learning process should start with a desired future, a vision in mind. And the process of constructing that future starting from the current reality is the learning process. “What skills do I need? what knowledge should I acquire? What activities should I carry out?” are the questions in the learner’s mind to move one step towards the future they want to create.

2. Self-directed learning through internal compass

The goal post of the desired future is set. The next task is how to navigate the road from current position to the destination. When we face with a road block, we can decide to turn left, turn right, retreat back to the earlier position and find another route, or climb over the road block if we have climbing equipments. Taking into account the immense diversity of learning styles, strengths, ways of expression, ways of doing things, the learners are now in the driver seat to make these decisions on what is the best way to move forward.

3. Embodiment of 6C values

6Cs (Calm, Compassion, Curiosity, Commitment, Courage, Collaboration) are the companion, the inner coach that walks with the learners on our journey to create our desired future. 6Cs are not the learning goal itself, but are the engines we continuously cultivate to sustain us the long and bumpy road of the creating process. Acquiring and practicing 6Cs are contextually dependent, as such, 6C embodiment is always a work in progress of a life time.

We build 6C values in our daily routines through languages, dialogues, reflections, because we learn values by hearing them from others, seeing others enacting the values, and over time, we unconsciously live, talk, act the values that we grow up with. The embodiment of values requires regular exposure to the environment and the culture ones live in, and the conscious intention to embrace these values as a way of being. Learning new values requires constant dance between our habitual self and our mindful self.

4. Learning at anywhere, at anytime, from anyone, from anything

Learning happens all the time, through all of our senses. We learn from nature, we learn from one another, we learn from every existing feature of the environment around us. Intentional learning can happen even when there is no intentional teaching. Confining learning to a classroom and from a domain expert (teacher) greatly reduce the richness of learning contents readily available to us in every corner of life.

Everyone can learn, and everyone can teach. We teach what we have learnt. Teaching deepens learning and is a learning process itself, because we have to find a way to clarify, express and communicate clearly what we need to teach.

5. Learning with the intelligence of the head, heart and hand

The most powerful learning takes place when the head is focused, the heart is inspired and the hand is engaged. In this state of flow when the head, heart and hand are aligned, human are in the most resourceful state where creativity, imagination, insights and wisdom often spring up.

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