RECAP – The Art of Teaching
Teaching is considered a form of art, and merging it with the science of learning is an ever-evolving profession. What does the art of teaching look like in daily practice? How can one cultivate a meaningful and successful experience for the future—the youth? These topics were discussed at Hilton Hotel on September 2, 2021. Before the event started, AWiB members along with non-members and speakers networked over dinner.
Abigeya Getachew, AWiB Board member and moderator for the night, opened the program by welcoming attendees and introduced AWiB to non-members. She started the discussion with the question directed to Tiruwork: how does Ethiopia’s current education system contribute to the human resource needs of our country?
Tiruwork Ayele, founder and managing director of Yeneta Academy, said when teaching we need to work on three main focuses: psychology aspect, physical, and social skills. But the education system does not work on this. The current education system does not let students be creative and imagine. Innovative and solution-oriented people are not being created from the education system. Starting from preschool we should not only be giving students knowledge but challenges as well for their brains to develop; challenge them to be critical thinkers and solution-oriented. These challenges are age-specific to sharpen their brains. But in Ethiopia it is duplication; we read material given to us and take tests. We do not gain much from it.
Abigeya directed the second question to the founders of MALD School (Multiple Approach in Learning Diversity) with what objectives they formed the school and the issues they want to address.
Gennet Yemane, co-founder of MALD School, said the team aims to teach students using diverse teaching methods. They started with the idea to form an association to change the education system to one suited for the 21st century. MALD educates children according to their behavior or learning readiness. This is to address the need of every child.
Konjit Moges, co-founder of MALD School, stated sadly the school only serves 1% of the society. The institution was formed with the belief that teaching methods should be beyond “chalk and talk”. Teachers can teach students according to the students’ learning readiness and behavior. She said there are kids who cannot sit down for long periods of time and just watch their teacher teach; they might want to learn while moving. Every child has a different way of learning, and MALD tries to accommodate those wants for the best result.
Abigeya then asked the third question: Does the current education system and do schools create inequality in the country?
Tiruwork said the only equalizer in the world right now is death. She stated every child is equal. The gap is created due to lack of an environment where they can be their personal best. There is lack of platforms for them to learn according to their behavior and needs. This results from the teaching method used, curriculum, and the education policy. The fact that our curriculum is Western-based along with the lack of resources has an adverse effect. The art of teaching is when you can figure out how to teach so children can discover themselves. And it is also discovering the best strategy for each student to be their personal best. Tiruwork said teaching is not just an interaction from teacher to student but it is enabling the student to use the facts and skills learned in school. Education should push kids to think outside the box. She suggested the education system and teaching methods used be revamped.
Konjit stated education has changed the country in terms of literacy. The country has not failed education. She stated it is a work in progress. The education quality is improving as we go.
Gennet said the increase in the number of private schools has made education to not be an equalizer. The product from private, public, and international schools are different. This made parents to go beyond their capacity to pay to teach their children in private schools. Parents are finding themselves working more to cover expenses and spending less time with their children. She stated education is not about school status; it is in our hands…in the hands of teacher, parents, and society. The system—the education policy—does not take into account the needs of the students. Gennet suggested there needs to be a localized curriculum that is tailored to the students’ readiness to learn.
Tiruwork said the product from our education system is not satisfactory. Our education system has failed. One of the reason for this is the lack of localized curriculum. The generation does not know the aim of learning. We cannot expect quality education without teachers. She stated teachers might not be available in the future as the Ethiopian society has given a bad image to being a teacher. Tiruwork said there is no lack of resource; the problem lies in the utilization. Schools are not just buildings but opportunities for kids to grow and develop according to their inclination. She suggested localized education is the way to improve the education system.
Abigeya asked the next question: Will it help to solve the problem of the education system if special attention is given to elite students to develop leaders? Can we learn from countries that do this?
Gennet stated the short run investment will have a good outcome but the issue lies in the sustainability of this method. It will have an adverse effect on students that were not chosen to receive special treatment. Students are smart in their own ways. Setting criteria to choose elite students for this method is going to be extremely difficult.
Tiruwork mentioned the people we call “elite” are the ones shaping the world right now. But these people need critical mass to follow them or otherwise it will be pointless. It would definitely help to invest in elite people; breakthrough does happen. But this breakthrough needs to be received through critical thinking, which is lacking. It worked for the other countries due to existence of critical thinkers. She said education is easy to get but we need a society to digest it properly. We need to implement strategy that will help create critical thinkers.
Moderator Abigeya Getachew gave the stage to attendees to ask questions. Some of the questions raised were:
- What actions have you taken to address the drawbacks of the current education system?
- Is the teaching method used in rural and urban areas creating disparities?
- Teachers get changed often. What is the reason for this?
- How can we solve the issue of lack of discipline in students?
- Has Ethiopians having low IQs made us lack critical thinkers?
- In Ethiopian schools, mistakes are not allowed and students are ranked lower due to mistakes. How do you punish (handle) mistakes?
- What should we take into account when choosing schools?
- Can sharing resources between schools resolve the issues?
- Kids come from families with different levels of income. What effect will it have on students’ psychology?
- When should we start giving practical skills education?
The questions were given in two rounds. Some responses:
Konjit stated the education policy should be downscaled to the environment, and every regional state should draw a policy tailored to their region. We can implement a localized curriculum according to Ethiopians’ needs. She advised parents not change schools often but convince the schools to teach the students according to each child’s behavior. Addressing that issue is also the parents’ responsibility. Konjit mentioned the way parents teach their kids will have an effect on the way they perceive income differences. The experience and hobbies we exposed our children to will impact their mindset. The exposure includes the interactions, books they read, and hobbies they build. She said we, Ethiopians, perceive ourselves as ones who do not make mistakes in public. Helping our children be problem solvers on their own starts from the time they are very young. Instead of cuddling them we can help them overcome difficulties on their own. This will help us raise an independent and problem-solver generation. She wrapped up her answer by stating the small progress seen in our children should be celebrated; we should see students more than numbers.
Tiruwork said Yeneta was formed 18 years ago. Even though affecting and changing the education policy is hard through the academy, we can collectively implement an education system we think is best for students. Yeneta can be a model to see the experience and what needs to be done for the education system. Policymakers can learn from Yeneta’s experience. She stated we should expect great results regarding discipline after we have taught our children moral values. This starts from parents. Investing on teachers is key as well; there is a drawback in the education policy in that regards. She suggested investing on teachers through training centers. Schools are becoming expensive because of the expenses incurred by the school to retain teachers and rent.
Tiruwork said Ethiopians are result-oriented and rarely celebrate effort. This has an adverse effect on students. We need to create a platform where effort is celebrated—a platform for them to build self-awareness from early on. As teaching is an art, we can give the chance for teachers to teach in a way they think is appropriate for the learning environment. Tiruwork said recognizing the problem itself is a step in the right direction as it will induce us to make a change. She wrapped up her answer by stating building discipline starts from the bottom. Students have a golden age where they can be molded and disciplined. She advised parents to not lose this golden age. Do not expect children to learn moral values just from school but parent should also make a contribution.
Gennet stated it is perceived that Ethiopians have a low IQ because we lack the right exposure. We, Ethiopians, do not raise kids using methods that will develop IQ. She said teaching is an art in itself. It is an art if we are addressing the needs of every child. Discovering the skills and helping students to use it is an art. This art should be progressed through everyone’s contribution. She stated practical learning should start from the bottom. Practical real life skills can be taught according to students’ levels. She suggested providing platforms for students to practice what they have learned in class. Creating a system where at the end of every lesson kids could practice what was taught would help students gain real life skills from early on. Gennet mentioned the roadmap of the Ethiopian education system is changing; it is becoming more project- and activity-based than theoretical learning. She wrapped up her answer by stating that we are on the path to progress and that we can really bring change.
Abigeya wrapped up the event by thanking the speakers and AWiB 2021 President Kemer Temam presented gifts to them. The evening concluded with announcement of the lucky winners for the long-awaited AWiB Art Raffle drawing: Yeshiwork Woldeher, an AWiBer and member of FCBC, and Frew Tadesse!
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