Across the globe, the teaching profession is facing a series of challenges, particularly when it comes to adapting to the needs of the 21st century. The challenge gets even harder because, today, we have a thin line dividing knowledge and information. Make no mistake, and knowledge and information, are not the same. A teacher should have the ability to construct, formulate, modify, arrange and make information sensible to make it understandable as knowledge.
Teachers today are faced with a crowded curriculum, crowded by content as well as standards. Therefore, teachers need to be adaptive to these imperatives of numeracy and literacy skills and various cultural and social needs in varying contexts. Apart from being adaptive, he/she should also be able to take a phronesis stand in making wise choices in a variety of contexts. A teacher is expected to have the ability to adapt astute decision making and apply it to practical situations, things and events so that students are provided with the opportunity to look at things in many different ways.
How teachers can address issues about student performance
In Australia Naplan and OECD were expected to change the landscape of primary as well as secondary level education across the nation, though the results obtained so far reveal a different story. Some time ago, Australia was hailed as a “clever country” though, today, Australian students are lagging behind their international counterparts innumeracy as well as literacy. The race-game of performance is indeed interesting and always constitutes an issue for education in general and teacher education in particular. But, a poignant question that surfaces is “what is this race for “?
Are we perhaps trying to optimise our kids to their fullest capacity and if so, are we, in fact, everything in place to achieve that? Conversely, if this race is trained at measuring the kids at varying points in time, with regard to their performance and behaviour, then it is a different thing altogether. Do we also realize the importance of standards in the fabric of content and structures in teacher education and education itself? We need standards so that the learning agenda is positioned appropriately, particularly space itself is a different kind today.
Now, if we set standards, do those standards empower the teacher to innovate and engage and if it does not, how can the standards be effective in achieving the avowed objectives?
Challenges before teachers today
One among the biggest challenges that today’s teachers face is that they are required to work within a structure that was created in the 19th century! Again, the question that begs an answer is whether even these 19th-century structures were indeed created by educators or teachers at all!
For instance, today’s universities offer what is known as blended learning offering a mix of online learning and face-to-face learning. Private Facebook groups are set up by students to share study tips, discuss course materials and perhaps delve deeper through collective discussions. This is a learning model more in tune with the best way in which students understand their coursework and learn best.
Are there lessons to learn from some of our contemporaries outside the home soil?
When we examine teaching methods in Northern Europe or Canada, we can find great examples in teaching methods emphasizing projected based learning as well as an enquiry which is inter-disciplinary. This method focuses on actual knowledge acquisition rather than working towards a product. That precisely is also the type of learning space that we are now moving into than compartmentalizing or understanding knowledge in a specific way which necessarily does not relate to another space. The philosophy of Edu-Kingdom College can be neatly summarised in a single phrase –”Every child is special”. We understand that children have different learning styles, unique needs and particular interests. However, discipline knowledge has not lost its relevance or importance with regard to future employment, but it gains strength from skills that are diverse, social and often political.
Teaching in the 21st century
Teachers, irrespective of where they are will face the challenge to think really about technology – learning technology and not merely online learning structured in a particular way. Robotic learning or AI tutors which we, perhaps have brushed aside for now, as a mere figment of imagination might be the reality that will confront teachers and parents alike, even before we realize that these technologies have arrived. Think of it this way – A couple of decades ago, no business could ever progress without a typewriter and several thousands of them relied on a manual typewriter than its electronic version. Today, it has very nearly disappeared from the surface of the earth, thanks to the PC and mobile revolution.
We could well be looking at the world with no classrooms or perhaps even schools. But, instead, we may have travelling schools or virtual schools with students being given learning passports that they can move around and choose. The ultimate choice in such a scenario may rest with the families. Digital innovation is impacting the lives of nearly every one of us and educators and teachers can be no exception.
Older teachers who have little or no exposure to the digital world can find tomorrow’s challenges in teaching more overwhelming compared to younger teachers who are more at home with digital technologies. Let us also not forget that digital technology has the great ability to assimilate many teaching techniques from across the globe and present it as a single refined product. For the 21st century students, it presents a new way of learning and experience shows that many of these children appear to be enjoying learning off their palm rather than the blackboard of yesteryears.
These evolving trends are relevant not just for the teachers, but also for the students, parents, educators and all those who are engaged in the spectrum of designing education in the 21st century.