Cohen’s World of Education (Part 1)

Cohen's World of Education (Part 1)

Imagine you are a parent or will be a parent and you're asked "What do you want from your schools?" Many will answer, "I want my child to get a good education." Now imagine what you would say if asked, "What do you want for your child's future?" The answer would likely be, "I want my child to become a successful adult."

In the first case, parents would like to see their children score well on tests and to graduate — both measures of success in schools. In the second  case, parents want their children to acquire a good job, function effectively day-to-day, to be happy and generally make good life decisions. So my question is, "Do you want a good education for your child or do you want your school system to prepare your child to be a successful adult?"

I think we can all agree that the purpose of education is to prepare our children, youth and adults to be successful, not simply to get a good education. If you are thinking differently about what schools should be doing, then you need Education 101.

Education 101 is designed to empower those who are unaware of the important role they can and should play in achieving quality education for the pupils being served. Future articles will discuss how children learn and how schools should respond; the difference between quantity and quality learning; deciding what should be learned and how it should be measured, and the difference between teaching and learning.

For now, I would like to clarify the difference in these terms — learning, schooling and education. Some educators may have different definitions, but since this is my course we'll use my definitions. "Learning" is what your children do in school. In fact, we all engage in learning 24 hours a day, even while we sleep. "Schooling" is where children go to learn, whether at a facility or at home. "Education" is the overall system that is organized to ensure learning is achieved for everyone who participates in the process.

Based on my experience over the past 47 years, during which I have worked in 32 countries — 33 counting the USA– I have witnessed approaches to education that vary greatly from very bad to excellent. As both a practitioner and researcher I have progressed from being a poor classroom teacher to a well-experienced educational adviser to foreign governments. As a result, I have observed many inconsistencies between what is said and what is done; schools claiming to be open to the parents, but which actually keep them from effective participation; and, most importantly, what is best for the learners as opposed to what is best for everyone else.

Everyone involved in education — including teachers, administrators, counselors and nurses, bus drivers, community members and parents –are there to support learning. And whenever a decision is to be made, the first question that should be asked is, "How will this affect learning in the classroom?" We will discuss that next time.

Joseph Cohen