Opinion piece – “But is it relevant?”

Opinion piece - “But is it relevant?” - discusses whether education is empowering.

By Efterpi Sotiriou

As educators we bear our responsibilities seriously, accountably, with steely determination. We are mostly very busy: planning, printing, disseminating subject matter, marking – ‘fountains’ of knowledge, sound instruction, disciplinarians even!

At the ‘end of it all’, we sit back proudly in reflection of ‘a job well done’ – bountiful distinctions, escalating matric pass rates, impressive personal achievements. We may be inclined to give ourselves the proverbial ‘pat on the back’… but… should we?

How do we honestly and earnestly respond to the question: has the student been personally empowered by the expert knowledge flooding the school satchel?

The plea here is for active, life-related ‘translations’ of the subject matter.

So, for example, in the fact-intense, fast-paced, curriculum-driven history classroom, as one relates / demonstrates / explains / describes the minutiae of Hitler’s foreign policy or of Stalin’s five-year plans or the Sharpeville massacre… don’t stop there!

Tackle questions of leadership, styles of political organisation, criteria in assessment of programmes, present parallels, impact on communities, who gains? Who suffers?

Consider / contemplate wider issues at stake: universal rights / individuals rights, projections of image, patterns of unrest / revolution, the impact of matters of the purse, rights of citizens, foreigners…

Extend the conversation into the personal: what kind of leader would one chose to be? Who is who in the family? How does it work? What if any, are the justifications of ‘strong / forceful’ leadership? Responses to failure, impacts of punishment…

Against the backdrop of historical information covered within the curriculum, how would the individual structure / review personal, family, South African prospects?

The possibilities for engagement, self-application and growth are tantalisingly available, ready for the picking. Opportunities not be missed.”

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