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A new school paradigm

By: Mubarak Abdessalami

  What do you think parents and students expect from school nowadays?  

          Most teachers are not pleased with most of their students' undisciplined behaviour and less proud of their performance in class. They do not feel at ease while working with students who do not seem to be motivated; the sort of students who do not feel like studying at all:

    In brief, they are at school just by mistake. Well, what should be done? To hire Nanny McPhee for instance or what?!

          There certainly is a rationale behind this non-standard situation. Either the students today represent an odd generation, or the school doesn't meet these students' expectations and interests, or worse the teachers are no longer able to identify with what is going on in this particular era of virtual "everything". Hence someone should try to unveil the secret behind this abnormal situation and try to suggest feasible measures to understand these students and help them regain faith in their school.

Once again, what do the students of today expect from school?

          One thing is for sure! They don't need knowledge anymore, especially the sort of knowledge the conventional school normally delivers. They need to create their own knowledge using their own conceptions and views. The virtual social networks, blogs and wikis have made them gradually adopt and develop a completely new approach to looking at things and therefore formulating new views, ideas and understandings of the world round them. They even believe that what they can learn outside school is more significant than the archaic outdated school stuff that is no longer valid. For school these beliefs are not founded on any solid authentic typical method and they are, may be, just random impressions without any reasonable logical basis.

          If things go on this way, be sure, the traditional school will soon close down and will unfortunately be deserted as these moody young people will shun it once and for all. Instead of remaining indifferent to these changes, school has to become flexible enough and should allow its students to believe in their abilities by assisting them to achieve this awareness of their own abilities in the right way. If it cannot fulfil this immediately, the feeling of loss and defiance will grow wildly. The school, thus, must cope with these transformations because it is the only institution capable of correcting the trajectory of this drift towards being one hundred percent independent in a relatively very short time. The major characteristic of this generation of students is that they are not tolerant to patience. They cannot wait. They want everything done right now. School must find ways to teach them to grow at a normal pace; it is its duty to pull up their wildness to reflect patiently. School must not lose its image by sacrificing its essence as the emblem of reform, wisdom, reason and continuity but still it must answer the new challenge.

I guess you might stop here to ask the most expected question ever notably, HOW?

          Well, the only way to make the students' methods methodical, school should adopt a policy of proximity to know more about them and about the way they want to be taught. This way it could understand their pressing needs and train them to enhance their individual abilities to think logically and critically to eventually become systematic in their methods. School could show them how to get to their purposes in life without risks if it teaches them never to believe in things unless they are examined thoroughly and carefully well. This mutual interaction between the school and its students must be based on reciprocal trust and explicit objectives. Obviously it is the dawn of a new school paradigm.

          The young people of today are not naive or green as they may appear. They have developed certain skills and abilities that were unknown to us so far. Adults' role however is neither giving them advice nor intimidating them by readymade concepts and values which the youth already consider outdated and worthless. They assert that they do not belong to the past which they didn't participate in its creation nor do they feel responsible for any failure that is the outcome of decisions made in their absence. They are rather concerned with their immediate needs. They don't also digest the sort of information adults try to deliver to them as being good for their future. No way! They are the future.

          They are aware that information is not stable and doesn't constitute a complete truth. They don't believe it is really the corner stone in the interaction between school and themselves. Now you no longer go and look for information; on the contrary information comes up to you in different forms and through different canals. However these young people still cannot "sift it" and this is what school can fix. Without developing a critical mind able to filter among the flood of information pouring from everywhere makes our students victims of constructing their own conceptions on chaotic basis and the outcome background knowledge will become shaky, unstable and hard to redress and sometimes even harmful to them. The missing part of the puzzle that the students today need should be created in school with the collaboration of everyone including the students themselves.

          They won't come back to school to check if a piece of information is valid or not. And normally there would be as many different approaches to the given issue as you wish, but what our students need are the skill and ability to evaluate, sift and validate the piece of information using logic and scientific approaches in order to form a robust thinking system ready to adapt to any possible situation in the future without being shaken by deception or brainwash that some wicked people exert on young people to drag them into the evil moors of self destruction. They must be used to asking questions such as why? and how?

          Many information deliverers who have bad intentions may provide you with a piece of information in a way that you cannot doubt about it. Their methods have become so sophisticated themselves that it becomes very hard, if not impossible; to detect and discover the poison it contains and therefore reject or even stop to think carefully about it especially by immature people. Teachers' role thus becomes a little more complicated because it turns to provide opportunities for the students to ask the right questions to understand more. The teachers have to train themselves to listen and discuss but never to impose anything. Their main role is to incite the students to think deeply about whatsoever issue they may come across. This will protect them from the hazard of their future life pertinent trials.

          In the absence of this technique of enquiry, many youngsters have fallen victims of terrorists and drug dealers. On the web, some ill-intentioned people have used the same style to seduce little girls and boys whereas some others have tried to change the world round them socially, politically, and economically but most of the time only emotionally. We don't expect from most of them to be highly aware of the complexity of the world nowadays but we want them to be aware enough to protect themselves from those who want to fool them. Regardless of all the danger it constitutes, the internet has become the world-jungle which they belong to. They have to become "predators" not "preys" and this is the role of grown ups in general and school in particular.

          But this virtual battle, which dare not speak its name, may be categorized as of little impact as far as the internet is so huge and it is still not that influential if we compare it to other mass media like satellite television. TV channels constitute the real challenge for both youth and parents. They make people believe something is so even though it is not. With a little help from school, nobody could play with our young people's emotions and brains. Once again, school is the only institution capable of giving the students the armours to protect themselves from the devastative floods of information and ideas coming from all corners of the world. School is responsible for teaching the students how to "fish" not to provide them with "fish" or let them trapped by other "fishermen's" nets.

          School has itself influence but this influence is being dwarfed by the explosion of information technology. Let's reflect together and see to what extent we can go with the project of modification to establish a different veritable school paradigm fit for the students to be able to survive the future with all the novelties it carries; for the students who want to take part in the configuration of their learning and make sense of what they study. And finally for the students who want to be armoured against all the misleading ideas which may target them.

          Establishing a code of conduct is necessary for the students to gain profit from learning; yet there is no harm if, like Nanny McPhee, the teacher has to say this to her pupils, "There is something you should understand about the way I work. When you need me but do not want me, then I must stay. When you want me but no longer need me, then I have to go. It's rather sad, really, but there it is. "

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Metamorphosing Education Paradigm