Effective education happens when learners are exposed to variety of real practical experiences and approaches that foster the development of valuable skills and understanding.
Let me tell you a short story…
As siblings growing up, we see other children in our neighborhood riding bicycles. We were fascinated by their abilities at such young ag and wanted to do same.
When our father is not around or whenever his Phoenix bicycle develops problem and he cannot send it to the farm, we become happy. We play with it as much as we can before he returns.
We started by riding it against the wall. Since our legs were too short to reach the paddles, we came up with a creative idea. We passed our legs through the frames in an unusual way.
We gained enough confidence and started moving away from the wall. One person will be in the driving seat, the others holding the bike in ballance and running after him.
We looked for opportunities to do this regularly until we began riding without assistance. I must say it took a considerably long time for us to master the skills.
Of course we got hurt and we received beatings too on top. But we developed the skills anyway. It got to the point where I can even repair and replace broken parts. Through that, I know how some of those parts are called.
When our father realized we can now ride a bike, he bought us a smaller one that is just right for us.
He realized by acquiring the skill, we became more valuable to him and other adults in the house when it comes to sending us on errands.
Similarly, I taught a nephew how to ride using our new bike.
He expressed interest on Friday. By Monday, he could move the bike with little to no assistance.
Now let’s look at how we teach students how to ride a bike in the school setting.
We start by defining and explaining bicycle.
We continue to teach the types and give examples.
We then teach them how to identify, draw and lable the parts of a bicycle.
If we have time on our hands, we talk about the uses of the various parts.
After that, we teach the history. The date bicycle was invented, the life history of the wonderful guy who invented it, and finally we teach about the generation of bicycles.
If we want to show the students that we know our stuff, we confuse them with momentum, acceleration, velocity, gravitation as it relates to bicycle movements etc…
A good teacher comes to the class with a picture or drawing of bicycle on a Manila card. A teacher who wants to go the extra mile will let the children climb their desks and use them as improvised bicycles.
We give exercises, tests, and exams and students that have the ability to memorize these contents score As. We adjudge them the most brilliant students. They go home with a beautiful certificate in bicycle riding. Those who couldn’t are the lazy useless failures who are good for nothing.
This is how we are teaching ICT and other practical concepts in our schools. Our students graduate with good grades but cannot do anything useful.
Is it not surprising that a child who is able to develop L1 by age 3 to five has been receiving English tuition from KG1 to JHS 3 but cannot speak, read or write English?
Can we say something is wrong with this child or something is rather wrong with the way we are teaching, what we are using to teach and what we are actually teaching?
Comparing the two learning experiences, here are the some key lessons;
1. When the learning environment is rich and properly organized the teacher has less work to do as the learners can learn independently and even teach one another.
2. Improvisation is good but when learners have hands-on experience with real tools, it reduces the time spent on teaching and acquiring a skills.
3. Practical learning fosters creativity and innovation. Not only that, it quickly transforms human resources to useful human capital.
4 Above all, practical learning inspires and sustains students interest in the learning process.
In conclusion, it is prudent that we urgently revise the the way we teach and what we teach, incorporating new technologies and allow our learners more opportunity to explore in other to bring out the best in them. That child who is able to learn how to walk by 2 and how to speak by 5 is not dumb. He’s definitely not a failure too.
Hon Jerry Akporhor _ Founder and Lead Educator @ Informed Teachers Network