The old African proverb “It takes a whole village to raise a child” has been quoted widely in Western world since 1994, when children’s author Jane Cowen-Fletcher used the first part of the saying as the title of her book.
The concept, while full of wisdom and common sense, has long lost its relevance in urban environments where children are first taught not to interact with strangers, actually not anybody unknown to the household, and it is also becoming less and less meaningful even in smaller communities.
These days, parents and even larger families are content with entrusting their children to schools, their administrators and teachers and whoever is there to take care of them.
This year, our province’s educators face an additional challenge in addition to the usual complexities of the start of a new school year: They are beginning to implement in earnest the new “Inspiring Education” approach announced with a lot of fanfare during the last school year.
Of course, we don’t know yet whether the newly installed Premier Jim Prentice’s government will stick to “Inspiring Education” as it stands now or will want to introduce further novelties (one certainly hopes that educational practices will not change as frequently as PC premiers).
Assuming that things will stay much the same as announced, the new approach will allow both teachers and students to focus on individual differences of pace and depth in learning and provide a lot of flexibility in ways of achieving results without fundamentally changing the results themselves. In other words, students will still have to acquire the knowledge and skills they were supposed to under the previous curriculum, but they will have the opportunity to follow a variety of ways to achieve those goals.
But there is one major factor that has to be underlined here: While teachers will still be there for the students to guide them through their difficulties, it is now up to the students to choose how they want to learn what they need to learn. They will have a lot of freedom and time to use for their learning and they will need to make decisions for themselves.
As so succinctly put in a parent council meeting last year, this is basically asking students not only to think but also to decide for themselves after having been told to “sit down, shut up and listen” for so many years.
This is a huge challenge for the young by any standards.
And while parents may feel comfortable with the knowledge that their kids are learning at school, they will be well advised to take a little more interest in how their children are learning.
The important point here is to be able to make sure that the students, faced with the challenge mentioned, should have all the possible avenues of communication available to them as they ponder on what to do and how to do it.
While we know that school kids are impressed and influenced a lot by their friends, there may be issues they might not want to discuss with their friends, or with teachers.
In such cases, an understanding parent or a brother or sister, ready to listen and to help, may mean a whole world to a young person trying to chart a course for a promising future. They should not be deprived of a helping hand.