In one sense, we are all being educated all the time, to the extent that everything that happens to us may bring about some change in the way we feel and think and act. We learn from the circumstances in which we live, the people we meet, ideas in books or papers, tips from internet, or on radio or from the geographical situation and time in history in which we live, the work we do. In fact, everything that surrounds us and of which we have experience, is educating us and our children all the time. It is important for us to understand this, for unless we as teachers take into account the way that these wider educational influences affect our children, a great deal that we do in our schools will be wasted.
We cannot of course, trust to the life around us to teach our children all that they need to learn. In days gone by, parents were the people who taught their children and prepared them for life, and when life was comparatively simple this was easy. A father took his son hunting with him, showed him to make weapons and nets; a mother had her daughters helping and learning in the preparation of food and clothing; while both parents and grandparents taught their children the custom and laws they must obey. So, children grew up, learning by doing and by precept, and by the example of their elders.
Today, life is much more complex, there is so much more to be learned, so many possibilities opening out before each child, that parents can no longer take responsibility for all their teaching. Children therefore spend a good part of their lives in place set apart for them, schools, with specially appointed adults – teachers – whose profession is to help the children grow and learn.
This is what is usually meant by ‘education’ in its special sense, and from this point of view it is the task of the school, and teachers, to be aware of those aspects of the environment, social, physical, spiritual, which are most necessary and helpful for teaching children.
What is education?
Education as a two – way process
But there is more to education than the impact, the influence, of the environment on a person. Education is a two-way process, and the result of any special educational experience depends as much on the way a person responds to it, as on what is being done to him. Perhaps a sermon is being preached, but of all the people who hear it, each one may learn something different; some may learn nothing. A hurricane may rage over an island, and as a result some people may become more fearful, some more competent, some braver, some more interested in meteorology, and some may be hardly affected by it at all. After an arithmetic lesson some children can work, some new sums correctly, some are beginning to understand new work, some are getting to be more interested in arithmetic, some continue to hate it and have learned nothing. If a teacher is to be in control of any educational situation he must be aware of the nature of environmental influences as they affect his pupils, and he must also understand the pupils themselves, what they are like and how they learn. Only then can he attempt to bring about the result he wishes, that is, to educate the children.
Education, then, is concerned with different aspect of environment, their effect on individuals, and the way in which individuals respond, or react. In order to be clear about this we will look briefly into what is meant by environment, and then we will consider what is meant by being an individual.
Of all the influences that surround a person from the day he is born, people are the most important. The first, of course, is his/her mother, and he/she should form his/her first social relationships with her, and these form the pattern for all others. A child’s early society Includes, or should include, his/her father, brothers and sisters, grandmother, and all who make up the group known as the family. As a child grows, he gets to know more people, those who live nearly and whom his/her parents know become part of his environment. Then he/she goes to school and his/her social environment extends to include other children of his/her age, his teacher, other teachers and the head teacher, and he comes to know these well, and these know him. He knows people at church and Sunday school, and becomes aware that he and his family are part of certain village or town, and a country. As an adolescent his social environment extends to include people of other nations, races, religion, until a fully mature person can realize himself as part of the whole society of mankind. But all the time, especially while he is growing up, he is responding in some way to his social environment. The people about him influence the way he speaks, his dress and his manners, his ideas and beliefs, the occupation he chooses to earn his living the way he brings up his children. A person may change his social background, as when a west Indian emigrate to England or the united states, as then the new social influences may bring about changes in the way he lives and what he does, this is easier the younger he is, but even so, many of the effects of his early social environment persist right through life.
Although this influence is so important in our lives, it is also true that, as each of us is part of our society, so each contributes towards it and may bring about changes. A young farmer who has been to an agriculture college may bring back new ways of cultivating and propagating, and if he is successful his neighbours may adopt them too. The radio often brings new words and songs and dance tunes, and soon people are speaking a little differently, and may be learning to dance in a novel pattern and rhythm. These and many other changes in the social environment affect the bahaviour of people in that society. But such changes do not occur by themselves, they are brought about by people, who are thus helping to alter their society.
Here then are two points to remember about our social environment, it affects in many ways the behavior of people who form that society. And it is always changing as a result of the bahaviour of its members. Education is one of the most important factors in bringing about social change. It is also most important in helping each child to be fully a member of his society, but at the same time to develop into a person in his own right, capable of making his own judgments and choices and directing his own life.
The world in which we live is part of a system of planet revolving round the sun, and in a way this universe, and the immense universe of other system of other system of which it is a part, is our physical environment, affecting in many way the lives of men on earth. But for each one of us that of earth where were born, or where we live most of our lives, is most important to us. Many matters are far beyond our control, the length of day and night, the changing seasons and tides, climate and weather; all affect the lives of men, their occupations, habit and customs. Where there is a long cold winter, for instance, men develop the habit of working hard in the summer month of provide and store up food, and qualities of hard work, thrift, and foresight become important to them, and a carefree easy going life is despised. In the same way people tend to develop special characteristics if they live in large cities, or among rugged mountains, in forests, in wide open plains, in villages, or by the sea. Man can, of course, to some extent change his physical environment, and life becomes different of new roads are built, if forests are cut down and lands cleared; if a dam is built across a river; if contour plant is adopted to stop erosion.
The physical environment of people in the Africa has its own special features, and it is important to take them into account. There is the influence of a warm climate and fertile soil; of living mostly on small Island apart from each other. All there are important in shaping the lives of people, and must be considered and understood in educating our children.
Spiritual and Emotion Environment
Just as we live in a social world which is made up of people, and in a physical world of natural features and forces, so we live in a moral or spiritual world of ideals, beliefs, and attitudes. These are in many ways the most important; for what we think and belief and feel determines the way we act. it is hardly possible, however, to consider this aspect of environment as something separate from the other two, for ideas and beliefs attitudes comes to us largely through other people, and to some extent from our physical environment. As we have seen in the previous paragraphs, new ideas come to us all the time, from parent and teacher, from church and books and newspaper, from radio and cinema, far too many for any one person to accept or absorb. From all these influence we select and some of them and let the other go by, gradually building up a system of personal belief in our environment are varied good and bad useful useless of greater or less value and those which any child adopt for his own are largely those taught and held by people he love and respects. It is generally acknowledge that our most important attitude those which influence our behavior during life are establish in the earliest year and made more definite specific during childhood it is that we get our first idea of right and wrong of the way we are expected to behave and the religious teaching which explain our relationship with God and man it follow then that the most improper people for influences from different source come into picture and the young person may seem to throw over the idea and belief of his childhood all the same they are there in the background and if his early teaching has been sound and good and the people who taught has been sound and he is to go very far a stray.
The Individual Inherited Trait
So far we have been considering those aspect of education which come from experience that any
kind of effect these may have depend on how they are receive what is made of them we will look briefly therefore at the individual children being educated to see why they respond differently to a given situation what make them different In the first place children are born with certain characteristic inherited from parent and ancestor long before birth it is determined what race a child belong to what sex he is the color of his eye and skin the kind of hair and feature and has weather he is likely to be tall and slender or short and broad, or of medium size and weight. He may inherit a sound of constitution and be generally healthy, or be born with a tendency to catch certain diseases easily.
Another inborn trait is the degree if intelligence or mental ability: one child may be born with intelligence to enable him to become a university professor while another has only a moderate degree. He may inherit a good ear for music, or he may be colour blind, or a good athlete. It is also probable that he inherits certain traits of temperament, one baby may be placid and good tempered, another easily upset, another sometimes bright and responsive, sometimes bright and responsive, sometimes dull and moody.
All these differences, physical, intellectual and emotional, exist in every child at birth, but they are only there as potentialities, possibilities. The way in which a child develops depends on his innate characteristics, but also on the way his environment treats him. The degree of warm and loving care he receives, right feeding and exercise, make all the difference to the way his physical traits develop, and his temperament too. His mental ability may be potentially very high but it only develop if he receive the right kind of stimulus from his social environment a child growing up in a home where there are stories and music and books and people wit6h interesting ideas, has the opportunity of developing his mind, even before he goes to school. When he does go to school, the better the conditions are, and the teaching, the more fully can he make use of whatever ability he has.
The opposite is, of course, true. It is unfortunate that in the Africa there are many children whose early environment is so deprived that there is little chance for them to develop fully. Children who are ill fed, neglected, hear little conversation and are restricted in their play and movement, who don’t go to school, or attend irregularly at a school that is poor and overcrowded, such children may have begin with good intelligence, but in a poor environment it has little chance of developing. Even if they are transferred to a more favorable environment later on, as when a bright child from a poor background is given a place at a secondary school, it is very difficult to make up for what has been lost. A few may succeed, but for many this early deprivation means so much wasted that, potential intelligence that is never developed. This is a matter we shall discuss more fully later on; the point to make here is that a child is the product both of this inheritance, and of his environment, acting upon each other, or interacting
We, as teachers, have no control over a child’s inherited qualities, but the better we understand them the more we can help to make good use of them. There are aspects of environment, too that we cannot control, but during school day there is a great deal that depends on the school and the teachers. The social and spiritual environment, all that comes from people with right feelings, ideas and actions, these are within our power, and we can do much to provide conditions in which our children can grow and develop as fully as they can.