Education in many ways is too complex to simplify, as for each individual there will be such a wide range of variables which will support or hinder their ability to interact with the world. Education starts from birth. The hand you are dealt supplies both your nature and the environment within which you will grow up. Using your senses, your interaction with your surroundings and people will support exploration and discovery. You start learning about “stuff” and will be given the names of things. “Stuff” will be pointed out to you. It is an adult instinct to point out something that might be of interest. “Look at the cows, train, cars, etc.” This is extended by reference to colour and place.
By the age of four, you will, if you are lucky, have mastered walking and talking, learned how to make friends and take turns, possibly cope with disappointment. You’ll have gone to different places of interest and will have started to deepen some of those interests, maybe dinosaurs or animals and plants, sport or other activity. You’ve learned to manipulate things and make things happen, to model and craft, complete puzzles.
By four, you are pretty big, at least bigger than three and you know some “stuff” and can do some things. What you can do may have been extended through group interplay at a pre-school setting. If you are lucky, you feel good about yourself too, so can cope with change and you have begun to react to requests from an adult to so things that you may not want to at that moment. But, you and your peers are all different. Some are good at some things, while others struggle.
And then at four, or thereabouts, you start school, which, by definition, is about education, but can become a more limited experience which could be called schooling, because there is a difference between education and schooling. Education, in my humble opinion, is broader. Schooling selects aspects of the wide world which constitute the essential parts and calls this a curriculum. The curriculum can become the be-all and end-all of learning, instead of a starting point for broader learning. It has the potential to be enriching or limiting, depending on the interpretation by the teachers and the school culture. It can vary from engaging learners at their own level to delivery of content, regardless of ability. The latter approach can leave some learners adrift, which, if not spotted can create a gap in learning from which a future problem develops.
Education in school should be creating the scaffolding for a retrieval system within which current and subsequent learning can be incorporated, because learning outside school should be encouraged and continue with further experiences and exploration.
Making sense of experience is the essence of learning, whether formal or informal. The ability to reflect on new information, to synthesise this into useful material and to store it for future retrieval is essential to future success. The need to think should be embedded in the challenge of the tasks with which learners are asked to engage. The quality of thinking can be explored through careful questioning, developing a conversation within which feedback and guidance provide enhancement or a resetting of the direction of thought. Having a mental framework of this process supports adult engagement, because having a group of thirty learners creates thirty individual needs.
- To reframe this within the known, then to use and apply appropriately to subsequent challenge is the hallmark of a well-educated person.
- To understand the world in its complexity, including the people, and your place within society, would constitute a holistic education.
- To develop specific interest and talents is just human; we are all good at some things and some have greater skills than we have.
Education can be a matter of opportunity and the skill to seize the possibility, with the potential to try and fail or succeed, but always learning, often about ourselves and others.