An excellently written article by Anurag Behar on getting into the field of education and what it means.
Education is a field that requires deep expertise. This is complex expertise. It is the coming together, in the form of practices, of knowledge and understanding, of a range of disciplines and fields. The practices are mental, meaning how to think, act and feel, and to know what knowledge to use. They are social, meaning how to behave and work with others. And they are systemic, meaning how to think and act in light of the larger context.
To clarify these abstract notions, we talked of some examples of knowledge areas that come together in the practice of education. First, in the classroom. An understanding of child development and psychology is essential. Understanding the influence of the home and social environment on children is critical. The nature of the subjects being taught and learnt, and their content, have to be well understood, and then integrated with effective pedagogical approaches. One has to know how to tackle the practical issues of any classroom (e.g. an angry child, children learning at different paces), and perhaps, above all, how to engage with children, since at its core this is a matter of human relationships.
Second, in the school. What kind of school environment supports the pedagogical approaches of the classroom, how does one organize and reorganize (because things always go wrong) the teachers’ time, the timetable, the school calendar. How does one prioritize the meagre resources available to make all this happen. How does one engage with the local community and parents of the students, how does one work with other stakeholders.
Third, in the system within which the school functions. What would be an effective curriculum, how does the system develop it, how is it reviewed, and how is it then implemented. How to develop textbooks for different subjects and grades, what efforts for inclusion of children from disadvantaged groups may be more effective, what kind of support do schools and teachers require, and how does one effectively enable change in the schools. What kind of teacher education is most effective, and how to make it happen, how does one prioritize the financial spending. These are all just examples, the reality is much more complex.
He left unhappy, despite my emphatically telling him that all this doesn’t mean that someone like him can’t work in education, but only that he must come in as a beginner, ready to learn and unlearn. The reality is that educators with decades of experience are still at it.