28 January 2013

Namibia: The Reality of School vs Education


THIS article discusses the reality of schools and its implication on education. In modern society, the idea of schools is highly popularized under the assumption that schooling guarantees education, and an education guarantees social mobility. "Back to school, back to reality," were the lyrics of a song traditionally aired on national radio.

At this time of year, these lyrics assert that there is a reality about schooling that needs to be confronted as schools are intended to lead to the promise of education. Simultaneously, for this reality to be true, the nation needs to ask what is implicit about the reality of schools, and their ability to educate? With this in mind, the relationship between schooling and education must be discussed in order to understand what it takes for a nation to be educated.

What is the difference between education and schooling? Education is the process of learning, which imparts knowledge to optimally nurture human consciousness, enabling the attainment of socio-economic mobility, physical and mental health, sound public and private institutions, and a society that promotes values of equality and justice. Schooling is the institutionalized process of learning, which aims to provide an education. In simplified terms, schooling is solely the means, and education is the means and/or the end.

For this reason, larger emphasis needs to be placed on education rather than schooling. Most people perceive schooling and education as interchangeable concepts that have inherent power to provide people with an opportunity to attain a desirable living standard. This perspective is valid as long as the nation avails schooling models that fundamentally guarantee the actualisation of education. Since, schools cannot guarantee the acquisition of education, this dynamic is important to study.

Why is it essential to distinguish between schooling and education? Although schools are primarily mandated as the passage to education, the need to differentiate the two is essential because optimistically, one can go to school and get educated, but realistically one can also go to school and not get educated or not go to school and get educated.

For this reason, the relationship between schooling and education is more complicated than anticipated. This is a mouthful to take in at first, but understanding this intricate relationship between education and schooling allows us to deploy implementation strategies for schooling to lead to education; while clearly avoiding all the other possibilities. The rationale is that the mere provision of schooling solely does not guarantee the provision of education, and therefore schooling has to be complemented and compounded by other factors and/or interventions.

Historically, the education of our nation is a collective effort, involving teachers, principals and ordinary community members. In this instance, a collective effort means that schools are primarily mandated to guarantee the provision of a quality education, while every citizen is secondarily responsible for making sure that the burden of educating our nation does not solely lie on the shoulders of our schools. The collective effort needs to include greater parental and communal involvement that yields better educational outcomes.

Currently, there is a heavy reliance solely on the custodians of education, namely, teachers to guarantee the prevalence of education in Namibia. If this practise continues, Namibian learners will for the most part continue to be schooled and not educated.

Interestingly, our understanding of the difference between schooling and education further limits or advances the collective effort required to improve education outcomes.

Increasingly the community, parents and society at large are less involved in the process of educating, as these stakeholders are preoccupied with bread and butter issues, as a result of increased inflation and living costs. Given this reality, it is difficult for people to appropriate more time to complement the efforts of schools. Nevertheless, due to the importance of education for national development, the need to guarantee citizen involvement in educating the nation is vital. Once this position is solidified, more children need to be assisted in the process of learning, and if parents or guardians or communities do not have the time, then the promotion and popularization of effective after-school programmes and/or extra curricula activities must be strengthened through the appropriation of adequate resources that allow learners to receive additional assistance.

Education is paramount to the success of our state, and its presence must not be confined to schools. Additional places of education must include households, churches, public and private places and spaces, shebeens, friendship groups, etc. The acquisition of knowledge in other places besides schools enables the occurrence of education. Remember, the end goal of schools is not merely to provide access, but to provide an education. The point is simple: the education challenge in our country requires collective effort to improve educational outcomes that enhance student learning and achievement. The actualization of education is our collective burden and if we fail, there must be collective blame - on the other hand, if we succeed we must also celebrate collectively.

Patrick Sam is a Fulbright scholar that recently graduated from Teachers College, Columbia University.

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