Institute of Total Education
Teaching and Leading from the Heart and Soul


Where is education heading?

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Education is currently receiving a great deal of attention in the media, with the ABC airing a forum this week which focused on concerns participants had about where education was heading. Formal instruction in IT is about to start earlier, with the announcement this week that training in computer programming will be mandatory in Prep from next year in Queensland schools. At the same time,  concerns are raised about the stress and anxiety children are already experiencing. This prompted me to think about the purpose of education outlined in statement made in a seminar for teachers by Vijayadev Yogendra, founder of the School of Total Education. Whilst academic skills should be taught to a high standard, and need to be informed by  future workplace requirements, children need much more than this if they are to live happy, fulfilling lives. They need to  have emotional security and resilience, and teachers have a key role in this. But over and above this, our world  has a great need for peace. This will only come when the individuals who make up our communities have peace. Our educational systems need to adopt approaches that will serve this paramount need. In his statement which follows, Yogendra redefines the purpose of education as serving the fundamental need of society for harmony and peace.

The Purpose of Education - Vijayadev Yogendra

Past and Current Approaches

What I have in my own way conceived of an educational formula and principles, after  experience in my own studies and  observing children in my life, has been that the whole basis of society at large is based upon material involvement, material success and possessions. So what we have been doing in the school system in the last hundred years is to educate them in the three R’s so that they fit into the existing society and support the aspirations of business, support also national aims or ambition. So  education was designed to sustain those factors. The branches of science were developed mainly to assist the suffering of people through various discoveries and approaches, but they are also used for war. In the history of mankind, whenever there is a new discovery or a new thing happens,  it is used to enhance the financial position of the person who has a part in the company to get money out of it, or it is used by nations so that they can become stronger, so that they can dominate, they can conquer.

The Need for a Deeper Education of the Human Being

Why is it that human beings are so involved in hurting, plundering, and causing  pain? Mind you, it is not just a minority group, but the majority.  There is an anger in every individual that is dormant until they get an opportunity to express it. War becomes an opportunity. It is the circumstance in which they express their anger. A fight in a pub becomes an opportunity. A lonely person in the street becomes an opportunity for a gang to go and molest and hurt him, and you can go on from there. So therefore the conclusion I have come to over the years, is that these children who come to you have got this seed in them of anger. All that is wanted by them is an opportunity. Your job, the same as my job, is to see if we can somehow destroy that seed. Can you see the point of education now? That that anger that has been coming through centuries in the hearts of people, can we through our process of education overcome or eliminate it through the experience that the children get from us of our capacity for loving and caring?

So more work has to be done by the teacher on herself or himself in creating that loving, caring attitude.Not being loved precipitates anger: “Why aren’t I being loved? Why aren’t I being given that type of care?” Your children have the same question. “Why aren’t I being loved?” So children who have what I call a diminutive psychology are bound to have areas where they demand so much, want so much that we can’t fulfill it all. That’s where an intelligent parent or teacher can divert their thinking from the non-essential to the essential in a creative educational process. So therefore when they grow up they don’t have those needs. They can be satisfied. They can become content and accepting of their surroundings rather than getting angry about what they haven’t got.

The Teacher as Key

I’m sure you’ll teach the three R’s and I’m sure you’ll do the academic work and I’m sure you’ll fulfill the obligations of  the state system, but the subtlety is developing a human mind so that at the end that person is not angry, is content, and has the quality that creates the harmonious society.  We have to recognize that we are going to have these children grow up in a very hostile environment. But I always maintain that a person with a tremendous capacity, if we can develop it in them, can manage a hostile climate. Their own personality, what they have gathered within themselves, through their thinking, will give them that air of confidence, even discipline, even strength, that they won’t worry  and this as I say, is part of total education.

Jan Gudkovs  22/11/16


How do we get our best to want to be teachers?

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

There was more news coverage recently about the problem of how to attract the brightest and best into the teaching profession. It is an important issue because the main driver of school improvement is the quality of teaching.

One of the main suggestions is to have a higher minimum standard for entry into university courses in education. Currently, the entry OP score for teaching courses can be below OP 15 because it is based on the number of places available versus the number of students applying for entry. A quick look at the QTAC website for last year’s cut-offs for education courses will confirm this. It doesn’t mean just because you haven’t done brilliantly in Year 12 that you won’t make a good teacher but it is a concern.

Another idea is to have face to face interviews as part of the selection process to assess candidates suitability for the challenging nature of the classroom where an ability to relate to young people really is a prerequisite for surviving and thriving as teacher. It could be like the auditions used for entry into music and drama courses. This would be labor-intensive and there are all kinds of ethical hurdles about how to rank candidates, but the idea has merit.

The main issue though is our community’s attitudes towards the teaching profession. In Finland, teaching is ranked with law and medicine as an important and vital occupation that deserves high status and respect, so high achieving and talented young people see it as worthy of their aspiration. We are some distance from this situation in Australia. Teachers hold the future of our country in their hands and most teachers are dedicated and work very hard in school and after hours to see that their students achieve their potential. That is surely worthy of respect.

Is Education Reform Just About Money?

Monday, April 16, 2012

“Wealth the key to school success!” the headline shouted in a major education story this week. The story showed that the top performing schools in the national literacy and numeracy (NAPLAN) tests were from the country's wealthiest areas. On the one hand, it is surely no surprise that areas of socioeconomic advantage also have educational advantage. On the other hand, if this evidence is used to make the case to throw more money at low achieving schools in low SES areas it won't necessarily solve the problem.

Even within our own area there are significant differences in NAPLAN performances and in the socioeconomic background of parents in the different schools. I did a quick search of the new ‘Your School’ website on Warwick’s postcode of 4370 and it instantly gave me a list of Warwick schools to compare.

However, even though the concern is apparently about wealth inequalities, the measure used to indicate social inequality, the Index of Community Socio-Educational Advantage (ICSEA) does not include a measure of parent income.

So there are schools with lesser or greater disadvantage in their students’ backgrounds, but what is the best way to address this? Can you really expect schools to reverse all the effects of social disadvantage?

Where governments can make a difference in school performance is to continually work towards enhancing the quality of teachers and placing good teachers in low SES areas. Teachers, at a minimum, need greater emphasis on literacy and numeracy in the pre-service courses. However, teachers also need better training in how to really inspire young people through the impact of their own character and teachers also need input on how to reach out to and engage with parents so they can support their children's learning and growth. Neither of these important aspects are significant parts of current teacher training courses.

Getting the Balance Right between Academic and Character Development

Friday, March 30, 2012

I was talking to some friends recently who had returned from a couple of years working in New York and they were saying that the pressure on kids in schools there is incredible.

The New York system, set up by lawyer Joel L. Klein, so impressed our Prime Minister that she modelled much of Australia’s current education policy on it. This includes the high stakes NAPLAN testing and the publication of schools results on the My School website.

Because of Queensland’s relatively poor performance on the NAPLAN test, there has been a lot of pressure on teachers. In some schools, certain students are asked to stay home on test day so as not to drag the results down.

The Prime Minister is also concerned about our apparent slip in performance from 4th to 7th place in relation to other OECD countries, especially since some of our Asian trading partners have passed us.

Ironically, Pasi Sahlberg, Director of Education in Finland, which has been at the top of the OECD rankings for many years, is critical of the way Australia uses its NAPLAN tests and My School Website. Speaking on the 7.30 Report on ABC TV last week he commented:

“Anywhere these types of things had been put in place, teachers started to focus more on teaching to the test and curriculum has narrowed…”

Sahlberg said, “We believe that co-operation and networking and sharing are the things and important things to make sure everybody will improve…”

It is important to get the balance right between helping children achieve good literacy and numeracy standards and putting too much pressure on them.

Education is about producing good citizens and helping children gain confidence in their ability to learn. Is high stakes testing really the way to achieve these outcomes?

[A video and transcript of the interview with Pasi Sahlberg can be found on the ABC Lateline website.]

R-E-S-P-E-C-T is the essential quality in teacher-student relationships

Friday, March 30, 2012

At a seminar last week I asked a group of teachers about the qualities of the teachers who inspired them when they were at school. Much of what they said involved respect.

Mutual respect is a central part of any good relationship but it is a key to learning. For real learning to occur there has to be a feeling that each of the parties brings a sense of respect to the relationship. The teachers I talked to said that really good teachers showed respect to their students and made them feel they were worthwhile.

Of course respect needs to be reciprocated from the student to the teacher. However, respect is something you earn rather than something you are given automatically. For teachers this works on a number of levels. Learners respect teachers who have a knowledge of their subject and especially if they are obviously fascinated in what they are teaching.

Children also recognise people with character and they respect that in teachers. Qualities like patience, consistency and responsibility are core elements in a good teacher’s character. In their own way, children actually make choices about who they will attend to and who they will ignore and this is largely based on respect.

Unfortunately, respect for teachers is not as high as it could be in the community. The shift of the direction and control of education towards government and politicians and away from educators may have something to do with this. Teaching is an art and the people who know most about it are the professionals, the ones who spend each day in classrooms with young learners. They know what they are talking about.

Parents also have a role to play in modelling respect for teachers and people with knowledge and wisdom in the community. If parents do not indicate through their actions and comments that teachers are worthy of respect why would their children be any different?

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