Educating the Whole Child

The article linked below says a great deal about where we are in education today and, I believe, what still remains so very wrong in the system (regardless of which country you’re looking at).

The article sets out to share some research that suggests that an emphasis on empathy skills, emotional intelligence, approaches to social skills and understanding one’s own learning process are required in the higher classes in schools, as well as Kindergarten and primary – as though these findings are a big shock!

KQED News – Mindshift Blog Article

I’ve seen this and how it manifests for myself. It represents a kind of schizophrenia in school education. Even many highly regarded educators will reconcile themselves to espousing ‘whole child’ education, holistic education and a nurturing, child-centric approach whilst children are in KG and lower classes. But then, somewhere when the children reach middle school those same supposedly child-centric educators will snatch back the learning ‘power’ from the children and take over, shunning child-centricity for a hard nosed, syllabus based approach where the educators will drive and the children are expected to compliantly accept. So, this begs the question – did we ever really believe in child-centricity and holistic learning, or did we just go along with it because everyone else was talking in those terms? Or, does it come down to a lack of faith in the teenage child to do the right things for themselves? If we leave them to their own devices, let them make choices etc., they might make the wrong ones! better that we take over and drive the learning!

To my mind, among teachers who teach in higher classes in schools there is way too much interest in their subject, the facts and knowledge contained within it and themselves as jugs to fill empty glasses. There is one way in which this is understandable – the secondary teacher who teaches children ‘the stuff’ meticulously, has them memorize the stuff faithfully and reproduce the stuff in an examination gets the simple endorsement and validation represented by their students’ examination scores. (Ironically, of course, all the evidence is we don’t really know what “stuff” will be important in the lives of these children)

To focus on equipping a young person with the skills for life, the emotional intelligence, social and inter-personal skills can’t necessarily be measured and that makes it less comfortable for the educators. Ironically, it’s also less comfortable for the parents and for those in government who want/ need to believe that they can drive education as a driver for economic progress. So, all parties collude in ‘the game’. And all the time they continue to swear allegiance to holistic learning, developing the whole child whilst reliant upon the elementary classroom for the evidence and proof of that commitment.

My belief – plain and simple, educating the whole child and maintaining a focus as much on process as learning outcomes is as right with the 15 year old as it was with the 5 year old.


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