Topic of Interest
|View the answers to this topic >>||View other topics >>||Suggest a topic>>|
Why do we need schools for understanding?*
Understanding is the ability to think and act flexibly with what one
knows. This definition is the basis of Education for Understanding.
Currently, our schools and methods of teaching are not organized to promote
Day by day, in more countries around the globe, the headlines of major newspapers highlight poor educational results, both quantitatively and qualitatively. One complaint is that schools today don’t teach students how to think critically. Students spend 12 or 14 years in a structured school system, going from one grade to another, from one level to the next with no guarantee that they will be able to think once they leave.
Among other things, the ability to think indicates the ability to establish relationships between concepts, which, in turn, indicates understanding of each of the concepts involved. Teaching for understanding asks “how should we teach so that students really understand?” Understanding is a form of learning that stimulates personal growth; it is the ability to think and act flexibly with what we know. The act of understanding has two dimensions: thinking and acting, both of which are present in our daily activities.
Years of academic research and practical experience show that understanding is a challenge both in and outside of schools. Obviously understanding does not just take place within a scholarly learning environment, but it is a responsibility of the schools to help construct it.
Learning for understanding requires learning by doing. It is impossible to understand simply by receiving information, although clearly basic information is necessary. Learning for understanding implies committing oneself through reflective action, with actions that build understanding.
The educational system, which was created over three centuries ago, requires profound changes in order for it to reconstruct its original role of transmitter of knowledge and allow it to overcome the mechanisms that produce segmentation. The educational system must play a democratic role, but this time “for all” with a much more inclusive “all” than before.
Educational reforms have been achieved in recent years with varying results. It appears that most actions have been retrospective rather than prospective in nature. In general, educational reforms are limited to replicating and expanding the model of the eighteenth-century school; modernizing it with new issues, teaching materials and, most importantly, with the greatest possible number of technological resources. This is not enough, however. Society needs and demands schools that can teach us how to think and help us to understand.
Teaching how to think requires a new pedagogy. This, in turn, requires a new structure both in the classroom and in the school in order to create new and different methods of teaching. Our real challenge is to put a School for Understanding into practice on a large-scale basis.?
Paula Pogré and Inés Aguerrondo
Coordinators of the Southern Node of the L@titud Network
(Initiative for Understanding and Development in Latin America)
School of Education, Universidad de San Andrés
*The ideas, thoughts, and opinions expressed are not necessarily of the OAS nor of its member states. The opinions expressed are the responsibility of the authors.