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Society & Us: Hidden Curriculum

Schools have an obvious curriculum: the content of the subjects they teach.

In the 1960s it became popular to point out that they also have a hidden curriculum. In addition to teaching chemistry, biology and the like, schools teach pupils to respect authority, to accept being told what to do, to compete with each other and to get used to being judged. All these are championed as an important part of preparation for the world of work.

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Picture Credit: wallpaperscraft.com

Hidden curriculum refers to the unwritten, unofficial, and often unintended lessons, values, and perspectives that students learn in school.

The hidden curriculum is described as ‘hidden’ because of its obscure nature. Moreover, since the values and lessons reinforced by the hidden curriculum are often the accepted status quo, it is assumed that these practices and messages do not need to change.

A hidden curriculum can either reinforce the lessons of the formal curriculum, or contradict the formal curriculum, revealing hypocrisies or inconsistencies between a school’s stated mission and what students actually experience and learn while they are in school.

Philip Jackson, professor and researcher in education at the University of Chicago, in his classic work, Life in the Classroom (1968) points to three aspects of the hidden curriculum: crowds, praise, and power.

In classrooms, pupils are exposed to the delay and self-denial that goes with being one of a crowd; the constant evaluation and competition with others; and the fundamental distinction between the powerful and the powerless, with the teacher effectively being the infant’s first boss.

Much sociological research has been concerned with the undesirable aspects of the hidden curriculum, whereby schools are said to sustain inequality through sexism, racism and class bias.

 Author: Stuti Das, India

Click to access the other articles in the “Society & Us” series: 

Society & Us: Sex, Gender, & Sexuality

Society & Us: New International Division of Labor

Society & Us: Definition of the Situation

Reference:

  • Bruce, Steve, and Steven Yearley. The SAGE Dictionary of Sociology. London: SAGE Publications, 2006. Print.
  • Scott, John, and Gordon Marshall. A Dictionary of Sociology. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2009. Print.
  • “Hidden Curriculum.” The Glossary of Education Reform. Great Schools Partnership, 13 July 2015. Web. 15 Dec. 2016.
  • Megan, Graydon. “Philip Jackson, U. of C. Professor Who Studied Education, Dies at 86.” Chicago Tribune. Chicago Tribune, 24 July 2015. Web. 15 Dec. 2016.

Education & Health: Linking the Two

In the article “Reforming Education: The Pay Way“, education has been defined as a tool which helps us live our lives better. Education has been defined as a means to reach a greater end and what greater end than living a healthy life without any diseases.

The Pareto Principle 

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Credit: baldocomics.com

The Italian economist Vilfredo Pareto gave us this immensely useful thumb rule. Widely used even in business, it is also known as the 80/20 rule. Put it simply, it states that 80% of the effects are due to 20% of causes. And it has had far-reaching consequences in decision making.

Used by Human Capital professionals, this principle would help them to identify the top 20% of their talents who, we would find if we did the requisite analysis, drive about 80% of the business growth, if not more. Any retail store would be better off focusing on their top 20% consumers who might drive up to 80% of their business.

Likewise, if you did a root cause analysis of the problems in your life. You would be surprised to find a common theme – 20% of the variables generating 80% of the problems. Let us take the example of someone who is an alcoholic. Suppose that someone identifies that drinking is really his/her problem and swears to stop/moderate his/her drinking. If that someone implements this decision, he/she would ensure that:

  1. He/she saves more.
  2. He/she spends less on medical expenses (which can be huge).
  3. He/she is never caught on the wrong side of the law.
  4. He/she has better relationships all around – less stress!

Wouldn’t life be better for that someone? Suddenly a bulk of his/her problems would be solved. And this brings us to the issue of “Health“.

“First of all, our young men must be strong. Religion will come afterwards. Be strong, my young friends; that is my advice to you. You will be nearer to Heaven through football than through the study of the Gita.”

Swami Vivekananda 

The tobacco epidemic is estimated to kill 1 billion people in the 21st century. And low- and middle-income countries like India would account for 80% of the tobacco-related deaths by 2030. So while we are talking about providing quality education and healthcare, we are failing to educate our masses, our youth about the importance of health. Healthcare costs can not only decimate families emotionally and financially, these costs affect the overall march-forward of our entire human civilization.

To reduce these costs, while more research initiatives have to be funded to make healthcare cheap and accessible, the cheaper way would be to make people aware. Just that. Through advertisements. Through campaigns. Through education.

Yes, education.

“Research based on decades of experience in the developing world has identified educational status (especially of the mother) as a major predictor of health outcomes, and economic trends in the industrialized world have intensified the relationship between education and health.”

Understanding the Relationship Between Education and Health: A Review of the Evidence and an Examination of Community Perspectives by Emily B. Zimmerman, Steven H. Woolf, and Amber Haley

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Picture Credit: www.erec.global

So while the easiest policy measure that a government can take to reduce healthcare costs would be to invest more and more in the education system and infrastructure, the first priority of education should be to make the learners aware of their health, aware of the costs that they would have to bear if ill-health befell them for unhealthy life choices.

I have often found that quantifying costs in terms of money has an immediate effect on the listeners, irrespective of the age bracket they fall in. Maybe we should start quantifying the costs and making it public. Maybe then we would start seeing some more positive change.

What do you think?

Sources:

Author: Amartya Dey, India

Reforming Education: The Pay Way

“Human history becomes more and more a race between education and catastrophe.” 

H G Wells 

Irrespective of the country, region or community we hail from, no one – not a single one of us – would argue against the cause of education. Education is required and every one has the fundamental right to it. We all agree. And if we want to further our civilization, go to Mars or just reduce the increasing inequality in our not so different societies, we realize that education has a major role to play.

What is Education?

Education is about making sense out of tacit knowledge – a gooey mass of information resulting from experience or experimentation. It is about organizing it, making connections and synthesizing it all at the same time. It helps us develop heuristics while maintaining the spirit of scientific inquiry. It makes life easier and better.

So education is not just about getting a degree from a school or just learning the alphabets. It is much more. It is a tool, a vehicle if you may. But while we are concerned about the qualification of our pilots flying our planes, we somehow have not been able to attach the same importance to our teachers, our educators – the ones delivering education to us, providing us with the single most important tool that is going to help us live a better life.

“He who can, does; he who cannot, teaches.”

George Bernard Shaw, Man and Superman, 1903

While most of us (in the group “internet junta“) would have been fortunate enough to find educators who chose to be educators and did not become one because they had no other option, we know that mostly George Bernard Shaw was accurate in saying the above.

To be fair, there are many other professions where the professionals in that domain had not foreseen themselves to be in that profession. Also, the profession of imparting education can be said to be much better than many other professions. But given that education is quintessential for the advancement of our civilization, shouldn’t education be THE choice? Shouldn’t it be as competitive to be an educator as it is to be a lawyer or an investment banker or a bureaucrat or a consultant (depending on whichever profession is valued more in your country)?

Remember we are not just focusing on professors here who may get to teach only those who attend college and get paid pretty well doing that. If we should be focusing at all, we should be focusing on the school teachers who deal with more members of our species. And there is a lot of difference in terms of remuneration and social status when comparing a school teacher with a professor.

Invert the Pyramid

So to provide quality education, we need quality educators. This too we understand. We need the best people to teach our next generation. One would argue that passion would make up for quality. Maybe. But maybe if one is really passionate about teaching, that one would be extra motivated if we just raised the stakes, if we just inverted the pyramid – made the compensation of school teachers equal to that of the professors’.

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Just think what would that world look like. If we took this little step. If we gave the profession of imparting education the importance that it deserves. If we just did this. Just raised the pay. If we just paid our school teachers as much as we pay our bankers or doctors.

The world then just might become a tad brighter. Much brighter. Don’t you think?

We rest our argument here and leave you with this thought.

Picture Credit: in.pinterest.com/davidmirsk

Author: Amartya Dey, India

Next article: Education & Health: Linking the Two