We are maybe thousands, not really; just a sparse hundreds of people around the world to have asked these questions:
- Is my education system elitist? Does it encourage ‘unhealthy’ competition where winning is everything and learning outcomes are considered marginal?
If yes, then your education system is ‘dehumanised’. An education system, especially a school environment is what eminent French sociologist Emile Durkheim calls a microcosm of society. The school, temple of knowledge for some and considered by intellectuals a replica in miniature of society. In more simple terms, Emile Durkheim defines a school as a ‘small scale model of society constrained within a defined area.’
Thus, if your education system is elitist, it is reflective of the state of your society. Conflict theories (which I will explain in detail in my upcoming posts in the edition ‘Understanding Individual and Society’, so keep following it on Young Writers and Poets) which I believe if your education lays emphasis only on producing the best elements; the famous ‘academic elites’, argue that education is an ‘instrument’ for the political and industrial powers including the service sector and the emerging field of technology, to ideologically manipulate the masses.
- How? I will not elaborate much here. It depends on how your system is structured and I will use my country’s system to show my point of view. Wanna add something to the analysis?. Please care to leave your opinions in the comments section.
- Why? Simply to create a docile and subservient workforce; uncritical thinking mass of obedient automatons – sort of ‘organic humanoids’. You might suggest strikes as a countermeasure but they are not always effective as essential power is detained by capitalist forces. And the deciding powers which is supposedly neutral and which we call ‘politics’ are mostly funded by capitalists. At the end of the day, it is a circle of unending problems in which we are all bound to get stuck.
- The different ways which social forces/ governmental bodies and private institutions influence education in general worldwide:
- Independent individual circumstances impact on a child’s academic learning such as social class; people of aristocratic background for instance have what French sociologist Pierre Bourdieu calls high cultural capital (the cultural privileges that high society possess such as refined language use such as better English or the learning of Arts, Literature and Classical Music considered the cultural acquisition of high class people) and people of lower class condemned mostly to low levels of education, ethnicity; this factor plays a prominent role in countries experiencing high immigration rate as curriculum or the learning process can prove to be ethnocentric (form of learning discrimination as syllabus is based only on the dominant ethnic group. Example: In UK, there can be classes of kids with different origins but questions may be directed only on UK’s majority white culture, something the kids may be unacquainted with) and gender; rise of female achievement and decline in male achievement and gendered curriculum (teachers and students are ‘enclosed’ in an ideological conditioning process where male students are made to believe that subjects such as Science and Technology are ‘male‘ study areas while subjects like Social Sciences, Arts and Literature are ‘female‘ study areas. Personally speaking, I find it a ‘gender paradox‘ because even in the so-called feminine study areas, men have dominated these fields. For instance, in History, prestigious Literary Awards such as the Nobel Prize in Literature were mostly given to men.
- Power of decision over the structure, content and development of curriculum. These concern essentially curriculum makers and political agencies which control the education process in its entirety.
- Attitudes of teachers, students, parents and educational hierarchy towards Education.
How the stated factors influence education in my country:
To start, I deplore the mediocre attitude of many teachers in my country (and sorry if this hurts but we need ‘alive consciousness’ to change things in society).
In what ways would you tell me?
You would tell me that a teacher is a ‘guru’, a knowledgeable individual who comes unsolicited and helps us selflessly. You are wrong, he/she is almost next to God. Teaching is the most noble of profession.
Sorry to bring you the other side of the coin but ascend from your cloud because some mean people strips it of all its ‘nobility’ and that is a bitter truth. I am saying that from my own experience. I may not a teacher yet but as a student I have noticed behaviours and attitudes of teachers and I have analysed them. Let’s start with the most downgraded apparent attitude of some people. Walk around bus stops and especially where people can gather. You might come across such a poster glued or nailed on an electric pole or wall:
Experienced Teacher Mr. X
Ex-Student of College Royal of PL
Post Graduate of University of XYZ in England
[Special note: If it’s for Literature whether French or English, they even add ‘Published Author’. I saw it once. All references are fictitious.]
Of course, they are posters for private tuition and it is a personal choice as to whether a teacher decides to offer his/her services to students. I am no one to judge that choice but what about the content? Isn’t this demeaning and outraging? Yes, I repeat ‘demeaning’ and ‘outraging’. How can the educated parents of Mauritius fall in this ‘trap’ and enrol their children in such classes? I do not target all the teachers but specifically here to those who stick such posters and carry such ads in newspapers or the net.
How is this downplaying Education?
First of all, I personally feel that your teaching skill is not a mortgage to whether you were an ‘ex-student of a prestigious college’ or any foreign university. High level education gratifies individuals with degrees and valued certifications, that’s for sure, but tell what’s the logic behind telling people that you were attending a ‘prestigious secondary institution’ or ‘University’ of foreign zones if it is not to boast your ego. Your own interpersonal skill of how you create the correct atmosphere conducive for teaching and learning amongst others is what really count. It is the effort and passion you put in doing the job and above it doing it in the right way because it is the question of the future of your nation. It cannot be considered a simple six-hour job from Monday to Friday which you do for ‘money’. The insertion in posters of degrees is a way to tell rational people how much you are yourself unworthy of the job. There is no need to show off your qualifications if you honestly believe that you are carrying out the work as it needs to be done.
The Mauritian education system for the A-level Cambridge (which I did last year) upon revealing the results the following year you took part in it awards students which stood first (girls and boys separately) respectively in their stream which is Science, Arts and Literature and Economics. Generally, upon your respective stream, you take a choice of five subjects with three principal subjects and two subsidiary ones. At the end of two academic years of A-Level, you take part in the examinations and the Mauritian government upon the list established by Cambridge awards fully paid scholarship to students. Those names appearing first are referred as ‘Laureates’ in their field. Some teachers boast of producing those ‘laureates’ and some go as far as mentioning them in their posters or ads. It’s really ridicule, and those educated people of our country fall readily in this ‘trap’. If the teacher is used to teaching elites, there will be some form of discrimination and lack understanding from weaker students. We all have weaknesses. I’m not good in Maths but that does not mean I should be ashamed of this weakness and take a ‘high profile’ teacher to compensate for the lack as if you were certain that it would work out. You should assume your weakness and work hard yourself without the constant guide of a teacher to succeed. If you think you need a second opinion, take a wise choice instead of rushing headlong into the unknown.
If I rewind back some years ago, probably, at that time If I was writing this post, I would have most probably said that my education system is elitist. ‘Survival of the fittest’ rule was applied and we were like animals battling to get good grades, constantly comparing ourselves like ‘idiots’ having nothing better else to do. It has since changed to become more bearable. To be frank, when I studied Sociology at A-Level, I was kind of disillusioned by the research on Education. How much we were manipulated with our will and moulded as if we were puppets and not creative humans?
To come back to teachers here in Mauritius; I took my after school hours tuition in a private college near my home, not the one I attended everyday. A day, while I was going for my mathematics tuition, I was shocked to see a class overfilled with students studying Design and Technology, and the teacher taught like if it was common, usual just as everyday. He said nothing and that’s the sad part. That is what Marx called clearly commodification and this what happens here unfortunately; commodification of Education.
What is commodification?
The term plays on the concept that everything is a consumer good and is produced and consumed by people. And this is what education becomes; a bloody commodity. Here is it the attitude of some teachers. They are just greedy people who for some extra income are ready for everything; even compromising with the future of individuals and their nation’s future as well. They welcome students in either too small spaces or ‘overloaded’ ones. In this way, no student would be able to focus on the day’s lesson. Moreover, with a too great number of students, you cannot construct a healthy teacher-pupil relationship nor do you have enough time to know their weaknesses and help them effectively. In a too crowded space, introvert students find it difficult to talk and connect with his/her classmates. For some, it may represent an additional mental stress to that which the school environment already imposes. Psychologically and socially speaking, there are not ideal conditions in which students can work or make out the maximum.
Education, thus, is an ‘economic good‘ (sorry for the hard reality) which educated freaks of our country exchange for money. Moreover, the level of exposure without any facility like fan or AC to climactic conditions like harsh winters or hot summers affect the concentration level of students. There is also the time of tuition. I remember stupid friends when I meet them in the morning before school starts, boasting and being happy of attending tuition at wee hours of the morning or till late night around 21:00. No seriously, how can teachers be so inhumane and one can be so happy of attending tuition at such odd hours? Sleep is an essential requirement for a student; at least eight in holidays and five during schooldays. And yes, holiday tuition – there are some who really push it far by organising their tuition schedule during whole semester holidays. They will tell you:
‘I’m late with the syllabus. We gotta cover three chapters or so for the weeks to come or we’ll stay behind.’
So, what is the poor student’s problem with that? No, some do care about the evolution of things but the rest is just catching the speed at which things go at school. And yes, the different pace at which syllabus is covered in tuition and at school and techniques of teaching can cause confusion and unnecessary anxiety to students, resulting in poor grades and incomprehension of concepts.
Next time: Parents and students are equally responsible in the process and learn how their mistakes can result in the compromise of your individual development and welfare of society as a whole.
Analysis by: Foolchund Saahil
Please leave your impression/point of view if any and I’ll be happy to see what has been missing or is there something yet to be added.