One of the most exhilarating lessons I taught on my first teaching practicum was the grade-10 introduction to a unit on globalisation. I made up a worksheet with which to guide a collective brainstorm, and had students employ their own knowledge to cite examples of global and local products for different subjects. At the beginning it would use sport — citing the Olympics and the State of Origin for the contrast — then worked its way up to discerning examples of a global or local technology; the task I felt most difficult.
What I wanted to do was have students invest themselves in the task, and thus make it more meaningful to them. I didn't have an answer sheet, which is an anathema to many educators, but I managed to communicate the concept of globalisation with clarity and nuance.
Moreover, students loved it. It taxed their minds like few activities do, even if there were some who were upset by being made to take responsibility - though it only took my usual dose of bating and cheekiness to make them taking the plunge. And they were surprised that reflecting on a seemingly simple concept could actually be a thrill.
That said, however, my supervising teachers hated me for this. I was telling students to create their own knowledge and, worse yet, I was making the students aware of the simple truth that they — let alone myself — do not know all the answers. A pedagogy of process rather than product.
Talking with other teachers about this, I got mixed responses. Some were simply shocked at my risk-taking and others dismissed the excitement as a symptom of the students not doing real work. Yet my pupils had been working on a problem of language ambiguity, something that I myself had not encountered before third year university.
Actually, the reason I chose teaching had a lot to do with dissatisfaction with my own education. It took the three years of an arts degree to revive my childlike curiosity. And having fallen in love with learning, I wanted to share this joy with my students.
For months I could not figure out why the older teachers hated my approach so much, but then it struck me. The education system was bloated and inefficient. Not only was this stunting student curiosity, but it actually imposes a negative impact on the economy.
Politicians are always pushing education as the solution to labour market shortcomings. Presuming a linear relationship, more education must logically mean more value and thus more wealth. But contrary to the conventional wisdom, education is merely a catalyst and not the main ingredient in wealth creation. Training more doctors is no guarantee that we will all be healthier, so if we are to reap the benefits of education, our tax dollars must be invested wisely.