For this week I decided to revisit Paulo Freire's "Cultural Action for Freedom." I am drawn to his idea of education as cultural action for freedom. Nonetheless, it also leads me to wonder if the education that Freire describes ever truly exists. On a basic level, Freire talks about how this type of education is dialectic and involves an act of truly knowing (not just rote memorization), where one knows about his/her "concrete historical and cultural reality." However isn't history always written by the victors? And does an essential cultural reality exist? In Wozniak's psychology class we talk about the origins and development of culture. We also discuss the lack of an essential self, and so I wonder if such an essential cultural reality exists. Won't this cultural "reality" in the end be influenced by the mindset of whichever side one percieves reality to be?
This past week my group presented about "NGOs in Ghana." On the topic of Millennium Develpment Goals, I said how Ghana was on track to accomplish their MDGs by 2015. With consideration to the time limit I was unable to go in depth on Ghana's specific progress on the MDGs so I will expound more on it here:
As I thought about this past week's speakers and read through people's posts (i.e. Amanda's reflections on the speakers, and Lucy's thoughts about using music to inspire learning), the main question that kept coming up in my head was: How do we make learning more fun and interesting for kids?
This past summer my internship centered around improving educational disparities in China. Moreover, my focus was on teaching English because that is the subject that separates the rural students from the urban students on the college entrance exam. The main problems surrounding teaching English in China were the teachers' lack of experience, and students' lack of interest, which in turn affected teachers' motivation to teach English. Many students did not see the use in learning English; they said they were never going to use it. And teachers, believing the harsh reality that many of their students would never get the chance to even leave their villages to ever use English, cannot convince students otherwise and easily lose motivation to teach English. In addition, as mentioned before, teachers are inexperienced in English, rarely using it themselves, even with their fellow English teachers. Classrooms also already lack resources in general, let alone any effective English teaching materials. Thus all these factors combined, including many more, discourage (English) learning in China.
After skyping with the founder of an NGO which provides libraries and Ghanaian children novels in Ghana (I forgot the name of the NGO but I believe Kathy Knowles is the name of the founder) and learning more about the history of formal education in Ghana, I became to reflect a lot about what could be done to improve the education system in Ghana. According to Ms. Knowles, literacy is a problem in Ghana because reading is not seen as a leisurable activity, and is only associated with academic work. Moreover, education there is based upon repetition and memorizatioon, thus school can be very boring and dry to students. Also, students are constantly anxious about being graded since the whole curriculum and attitude of the teachers is based upon doing well on the exams. Additionally, I personally feel that such a system does not cultivate appreciation for the art of learning. We've virtually discussed (via twitter) the importance of making mistakes for one's learning and education. However, such a system in Ghana appears to leave no room for mistakes, or creativity for that matter. These aspects along with many others compose Ghana's education system and consequently do not appear to be conducive towards a positive, fun, and interesting learning atmosphere for students (or the teachers).
After listening to the TED talk about the dangers of a single story and reading about the dangers of damage-centered research I found myself reflecting upon my experiences from my teaching abroad in China this past summer.
For the TED talk, I agreed with a lot of what the speaker said. Even traveling around China for only two months I was able to see that there are a variety of different stories to be told of the Chinese people. There are vast differences between the urban dwellers and the people in the countryside of China. Thus it was easy for me to understand the dangers of a single story - how it create stereotypes and limits people's understanding of one another. I thoroughly enjoyed this talk because I felt it confirmed a lot of my thinking about how stereotypes get started and how people gain pre-convieved notions about others. It also confirmed my belief in the importance of seeing and experiencing things first-hand.