What should Parents Expect from Schools in the 21st Century?

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The current changes in the Philippine educational system, particularly with the K to12 program,expose many challenges that our educational sector has to face for it to be continuously effective and relevant in a fast-changing world. One can argue that the ways of the past no longer effectively meet the demands of the 21st Century; hence, we must reassess our expectations of schools and how they teach our children. 

Sir Ken Robinson, an English author and international advisor on education, presents the need to change existing education paradigms. In a speech about changing education paradigms readily available online, he points that schools operate like factories that churn out products ready to be absorbed in the market since these supposed learning organizations are traditionally based on the models of industrialization. The products of these schools, which go thru the semblance of factory lines in batches, are assessed of their quality based on their economic productivity or the promise of it. The rigid compartmentalization of learning may actually result to a stifling of creativity and love for learning. This production line mentality continues to alienate children who do not do well in traditional and worn-out expectations of the educational system. 

New ways of doing things are therefore necessary if we truly want our children to grow up empowered in helping create a better future rather than merely playing small, insignificant roles in the social structures and economies that have failed many of us. 
Schools, being at the forefront of change initiatives, must in itself change. Gone are the days when a school’s name and family traditions would be sufficient a guarantee for the quality of our children’s education. At its core, schools must embrace the principles of a true learning organization.

This notion of “a learning organization” was made popular by Peter Senge in his book The Fifth Discipline. He contends that in situations of change, only flexible and adaptable organizations will excel. It is therefore not enough to merely survive in a changing world; organizations also need to advance “generative learning”, or building the capacity to create and re-create their future. Learning organizations have five dimensions that set them apart from traditional organizations – personal mastery, mental models, building shared vision, team learning, and systems thinking. Among these five dimensions, systems thinking is considered to be the cornerstone of a true learning organization.

Using the words of Peter Senge himself, a school or any learning organization which embraces systems thinking is “concerned with a shift of mind from seeing parts to seeing wholes, from seeing people as helpless reactors to seeing them as active participants in shaping their reality, from reacting to the present to creating the future” (1990). 
Here in the Philippines, Benedictine International School advocates the use of Systems Thinking in the classroom. In a systems thinking school, students are trained to see the bigger picture and how the parts of a whole affect each other. 

Through this way of thinking, a student is able to be more critical in looking at situations and considers an issue fully before coming up with a decision or a conclusion. Students are trained to respond rather to react to situations, and they are more empowered to design their course of action and make responsible choices. Oftentimes, individuals only look into solutions that are close by because of their immediate short term effects on any given situation without taking into consideration their long-term and unintended consequences. Given this context, a lot of the policies that are not well-thought of result to big long-term costs. Students must then take responsibility over their own choices and do not resort to blaming when faced with a difficult situation or a comprising end result. 

In a systems thinking school, students are geared towards finding solutions and are not just relegated to become mere passive consumers of information.They take charge of their own learning and grow beyond the mold of a future good employee, with the backdrop of highly volatile economic times. Students who are products of learning organizations are trained to be more flexible and active agents of change in the 21st Century.

As parents and adults, we are in a position to see the bigger picture in helping our children choose the right school for them. We have the power to choose between allowing our children to merely survive or to thrive in a world that demands so much more from us now. Be more involved in your child’s education by expecting schools to be true learning organizations. 

To know more about Systems Thinking in schools, you may reach Benedictine international School at 951.7154 / 951.7154 / 951.8960.You may also visit the school website at www.benedictine.edu.ph or its Facebook page at www.facebook.com/BISphilippines. The school is located in Capitol Hills Drive, Old Balara, Quezon City.

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