Fri. Jun 14th, 2024
Babar Khan

Education has been the locus of discussion in recent years, and the key stakeholders of society – including parents, teachers, educational administrators, district and provincial educational managers, policy and curriculum planners, and particularly students – are struggling with access to quality education. However, none of these stakeholders really define quality education, and each one has a different interpretation and definition of quality education. I am sure this debate will continue in the years ahead.

I would like to draw readers’ attention to a fundamental aspect of education, teaching, and learning – that is, “Learner Imagination.” And here, I am posing a question for everyone to think about our current classroom and teaching practices, curriculum, and textbooks. My question is, “Do our classrooms promote students’ imagination and provide them opportunities to create their future sitting in the classroom? If not, then what are we teaching and educating them for?”

As per my experience (you can always differ) based on an examination of ordinary educational practice, the primary goal of education is to guarantee that students acquire the knowledge, skills, and attitudes that are more short-term, economically oriented, reproduction of facts and figures from previous texts (textbooks), and compete for higher grades. However, when we critically examine the best philosophers in education (which we hardly do), we can find that the primary focus and purpose of education, teaching, and learning are somewhat different from this.

These philosophers were least concerned about the acquisition of information and skills, and they were more concerned about generating new knowledge, thinking beyond the present, encouraging wisdom and imagination. But current schools are more into transmission of knowledge with little focus on skills and minimum concern about attitude and behavior towards learning, reflection, and wisdom. This shift from the foundation of education (which includes critical thinking, research into concepts, idea development, imagination, desire to make a difference, persistence in approach/attitude) is worrying and leading our future generations towards a devastating situation.

I do not deny the importance of knowledge, information, and skills, but how to empower a student to become an independent thinker toward creating ideas, innovation, purpose-driven life, and influencing society. Education is the process that gives us the ability and empowerment to not be ruled by societal norms in terms of appearances, ideas, beliefs, and practices. It gives us the perspective necessary to understand their value and accept them as future conditions of social existence while also allowing us to recognize their limitations and arbitrary nature and to consider changing them if we think doing so would be beneficial.

This naturally means that there is a perpetual tension in education between teaching the conventions that students will have to live by and supporting the capacities that enable them to achieve some level of mental freedom from those conventions. Therefore, our education system and schools must promote imagination in classrooms and allow students to think far ahead and paint their desire to create something new and interesting and then develop a plan to reach there. Though imagination is not in conflict with ordinary thinking, it does offer a second context or dimension within which it can be restrained and from which it can be transcended. It is not anything that is opposed to reason; rather, it is something that can give reasoned thought to life and deeper significance.

Thinking of learning as a process akin to storing symbols in the mind for later retrieval is one consequence that, in my opinion, has been prevalent and very destructive to education. In schools, this kind of testing is routine, and the results are simply interpreted as proof of student learning. This has been going on in classrooms for so long and is so commonplace that it has become the most prevalent definition of what it means to learn. The main problem is that it ignores the unique characteristics of human learning. Human learning is not linear like a machine that is programmed in a certain way.

Human learning, as becomes increasingly obvious, includes more than just copying what is happening outside the mind or using text produced by others. Every mind is unique and has a distinct ability to learn and grow. The student must integrate what is being taught into his or her specific context and unique learning abilities.

We, therefore, need to focus on the components of learning that emphasize significance when we take imagination seriously and then consider learning in the context of our evolving notion of imagination. The relationship between what is learned and our thoughts determines meaning, not the facts themselves, abilities, or anything else we learn. Furthermore, our minds are not only repositories for information; rather, they are dynamic hubs where newly acquired knowledge is infused with meaning through the interaction of emotions, intents, and memories.

I believe the issue is manageable since we do not need to somehow handle all these intricate mental pieces only to talk about learning. Instead, we only need to keep in mind that storing information is very different from human learning, and doing so is not at all challenging. I believe that accepting its consequences with seriousness is the challenging part, and this is where a genuine approach to imagination starts to mess with some of the well-established, recognizable components of the existing educational environment.

All those teaching, testing, and curriculum practices that view education as a process of amassing facts and abilities devoid of feelings, intents, human meaning, and imagination will typically fall short in producing anything more than conventional thinkers and uneducated people. The language around education seems to presuppose that we can rationally distinguish between our cognitive and affective, or intellectual and emotional, parts of ourselves. At least operationally, it is now true that education has a major role in the cognitive or intellectual component.

The endeavor to isolate something deemed rational, cognitive, and intellectual from imagination and emotion has likely resulted in the most visible casualty. Because it is based on incorrect assumptions about how human learners work, the outcome is a catastrophe. Therefore, our education policies and practice need some revisions focusing on unleashing learning’s genuine potential and engaging students in constructive imagination so that they can connect their current understanding and knowledge with future wisdom, create and desire which they wish to live with.

By Babar Khan

Mr Babar is an Educational Professional with a hallmark experience in education, particularly in Teacher Education, and contributes to the enhancement of capacity and productivity of the organization, with an excellent set of leadership skills and commitment.

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