Meaning of education

  • Letters
  • Monday, 17 Feb 2003

LUCILLE DASS, Head – Centre for English Language, KDU College, Penang writes: 

THE making of an educated person (Star Education, Feb 9) made good reading for educators for whom it is vital to comprehend the all-encompassing meaning of the term “education.”  

The term comes from two Latin words ed – meaning out of and ducar – meaning to lead out.  

When combined educar means to lead out of – implying that the whole act of education is to lead us out of (ignorance) or to bring out that which is within. A general understanding of to educate is to “give intellectual, moral and social instruction.”  

While I agree with Abdul Rashid that it is difficult for a person to be a “master” of all the categories he has outlined, it is imperative that educators constantly strive towards the ideal of all-round development of an individual as envisioned by our national education philosophy.  

As early as 1952, H.C. McKnown stated: The theme of the new education is all-roundness. It recognises that when the child walks into the school all of him comes in – his brain does not walk in on a pair of wooden stilts. He comes in mentally, physically, socially, spiritual and vocationally.  

This newer education recognises that in all of these phases the child is educable, and further, that he must be educated in all of them if he is to be a complete, well-rounded individual. 

Not very different from that desired by our education system and yet for so long now our education perspective has become tainted by the dictates of exam-perfect scores which cannot be mistaken for academic or intellectual excellence of the scholarly kind.  

Intellectual curiosity develops “the fundamental thinking process” that Abdul Rashid notes, and it is this sense of wonderment that inspires life-long learning. Many writers to this column have expressed similar concerns – that our children go to school to learn to pass exams but remain largely uneducated, reminding us of the saying “education is what survives after you’ve forgotten what you memorised.”  

This repeated concern underscores how far we have deviated from the tenets of our education philosophy. 

The biggest challenge facing Malaysian educators is to take a hard look at the present context of change they find themselves in and to understand the implications this context has for them as educators. There is a need to move from purely subject-centred teaching to person-centred teaching.  

Paulo Freire, the great Brazilian educator, formulated a learner-centred approach because he viewed education as a tool for possible society change. 

While we may share his view of education, we falter in our methodology to effect the change envisioned. 

The challenge in education lies not only in working with the best of brains, it involves bringing out the best from the brains before us. This adds value to the personhood of the learners in our care. Being learner-centred is a mindset towards providing information and experiences that meet the needs of the broad range of learners.  

As educators we are fully aware that individuals come to class with a range of knowledge, preferred learning styles, different deficiencies and varying attitudes. Being aware is not enough, it is our calling to maximise their returns. 

Education is a nurturing process during which essential characteristics can be integrated into the personality of the learners to make them “whole.”  

French philosopher Jacques Maritain maintains that four main characteristics of personality contribute towards the discussion of personhood and education. These characteristics are knowledge, intelligence, goodwill and love. 

He explains that a person holds himself in hand by his intelligence and will. He doesn’t merely exist as a physical being. He is a whole, not a part; a universe unto himself – a microcosm in which the greater universe in its entirety can be encompassed through knowledge. And through love he can give himself freely to beings who are to him ? other selves, and for this relationship no equivalent can be found in the physical universe. 

Education therefore is education for freedom and not just to exercise one’s free will. It is a freedom that moves beyond the will into the heart of personhood and results in a freedom of independence. Person-centred education instils responsibility, open mindedness, the desire to be achievement oriented and the sense of knowing right from wrong.  

How do we measure up?  

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