Aside from a lot of the good comments (thank you for loving it; your feedback is amazing! <3) one of the most popular vibes I’m getting is “Okay, so you’ve raised all these points about the educational system, but what can you do about it?” Encapsulated in all these questions are implications that I really just complain a lot and don’t seem to understand that this system is the best we could have come up with in our circumstances. You seem to be throwing the sarcastic question, “Well, Smartypants, have you got a better idea?” in my face, and implying that, for all my protesting, I myself do not have an answer.
I freely admit this: I don’t always have an answer. In fact, to paraphrase a tweet from Propaganda (@prophiphop), I’m much better at asking questions than answering them; asking difficult questions to make people (including myself) think is the basis of the art I create. Legit.
One thing I find interesting, though, is how my “accusers” (LOL) have gone and jumped straight to my (very minor) theme about the educational system, when honestly, that wasn’t even the real focus of the novella at all. Ah. I’ve written a story about psychological manipulation, but all you want to say is, “Ah, look, Akotowaa is complaining about school again.” Insert eye roll. LOL. In actuality, I thought that scene was worthy of noting because the International Baccalaureate has in fact decided to take away the follow-through awarded marks from the mark scheme of mathematics. I thought the idea would spark some relevant discussion. And yes, I do believe the educational system is a political one. But let us move on from my myriad of complaints and focus on the answer, which I may or may not have.
Now I’m not about to lie and say I have discovered the cure for stupidity and I have a whole thesis prepared to deliver by mail to all the Ministers of Education in the world, full of solutions they had always been too stupid to come up with. What I do have, just like everyone else, is opinions. At the moment, there is no perfect educational system. In fact, there is no perfect human-designed system, and I highly doubt that there will ever even be one. So I obviously cannot design what cannot exist. I am also aware that any sensible educational system is not stagnant; it is always undergoing a bunch of reforms for the purpose of (maintaining the illusion of) improvement. As human needs change, the way we’re trained to provide for ourselves must change too. But it shouldn’t change into something worse than what it was before. I mean, I personally refuse to see what helpfulness could possibly come from ignoring follow-through marks in examinations.
On a systemic level, I could offer tons of biased suggestions which may or may not work. Examples:
- Abolish examinations. They never accurately speak of my intelligence anyway.
- Let’s write papers for our grades instead. Exams are now failing more and more to test knowledge and application and are now overly focused on how fast we answer questions in impractical (or what the examiners would like to believe are adequate) time limits. Writing independent un-classroom-ified essays/papers reduces the time limit pressure. But…with my experiences with coursework and Internal Assessments, it seems CIE and IB don’t understand how to get those right either.
- Stop giving grades. They’re too quantitative for my liking. Perhaps they will continue to work for quantitative subjects. But for others, it’s an enterprise of judging fish by their tree-climbing abilities. (Metaphor credit: Albert Einstein. I think.) If you want a fair idea of the quality of students’ work ethic/behaviour, use qualitative things like teachers’ comments/report card comments, or students’ personal reflections or whatever.
- Quit making things compulsory, so students can learn for the love of learning, instead of their rationale being that “it’s a requirement”. I laugh at the International Baccalaureate’s ridiculous attempt to persuade outsiders that their students are personally engaged with their work by adding “Personal Engagement” criteria to their assessment instruments. I swear to you, 90% of that content is student-fabricated lies, and some of the IB students I know are the most academically apathetic I have ever met in my life.
Now I could go on and on, but it’s no use. For one thing, someone can easily raise a bunch of counter-claims to all of my suggestions – which is fine. But the real reason my suggestions are of no use is that there is no point changing things on a systemic level if nothing is changed on the psychological level. Otherwise, everything will fail. Let me see if I can illustrate what I mean, with a hypothetical situation.
Say they – and they here is that vague, ominous god who makes all the academic rules – decide that examinations are no longer compulsory, and so you can do the course, acquire your knowledge and bounce. Most people who are used to the old system are too timid to take this risky option, so they carry on like it’s still compulsory. This is factor number one in psychological stagnancy. Now, some bold badass like Ivana Akotowaa Ofori, entirely fed up with the old system, decides to take this option and not write exams. She graduates and is looking for a job one day. (This girl is obviously not an artist, or else she wouldn’t have been looking for a conventional job in the first place; she’d have probably made her own.) No employer is ready to hire her, though, not because she doesn’t have the necessary skill and knowledge to do the jobs, but because they think that without a certificate, there’s a lack of evidence of her qualifications. Get this: they would rather trust a photo-copied piece of paper/digital image than a person’s demonstration of ability in real life. Hence, Ms Badass remains jobless. The employers’ mind-set is factor number 2 in psychological stagnancy. The third, fourth and subsequent numbered factors are the mind-sets of all the parents, attitudes of teachers, effects of the human environment, the willingness of international systems to globally cooperate etc.
Somehow, we’re always finding ways to complain about things some people would like to see as progress. Like me, I like liberal arts. I see it as progressive; yes, let me tailor my education to my specific desires. Yes, let me not be a genius in one area and a dunce in all the others. Yes, allow me to be culturally and ethically educated – what’s your problem, man? But there’s a whole cluster of people complaining that those kids who graduate with liberal arts degrees end up going into the world, not knowing how to do anything. Bruh. =(
I suppose the balance that we actually need to worry about his how to cross an education being useful to an individual with an individual being useful to society. But that really isn’t my point.
My point is that we can change the systemic factors all we want – but they will continue to be ineffective unless the way we think, as individuals AND communities, changes! So I have taken it up in myself to appeal to the psychological – and it’s not hard. For goodness’ sake, I’m a writer. Idea postulation is my whole life. I’m not just complaining through fiction. I’m asking questions, very plainly, trying to ignite people’s minds, and, if possible, make them question the way they think about things. Changing the world can begin by changing the right people’s minds. I’m working on appealing to the psychological to make it ready to fight or accept the systemic.
So there: that’s my explanation for not presenting a self-righteous proposal to Elizabeth Ohene or whoever is Minister of Education now or blasting certain people’s brains out. Thank you for your attention. Enjoy the story (or get upset by it – which seems to be working very effectively) aaaand peace out.
[If you haven’t read the story yet, you can download it here: https://www.dropbox.com/s/bi0lsp7y0anrx8f/Puppets%20PDF.pdf?dl=0 ]