What is the reason for learning?
To ask lots, and answer more; to join the dots and make some of your own.
Learning should be a desire like an itch or scratch. Learning should be a driving force, a passion which is almost unquenchable. There should be an excitable agony knowing that you have only uncovered 1% of 1% of the world’s knowledge and understanding – there is so much already, and so much more to learn!
We hear toddlers exasperating their parents with endless ‘Why’ questions, but to me, that is fantastic. Without why, we wouldn’t explore new land, uncover hidden secrets, write new stories and songs, discover new tastes and live more interesting lives. The death of learning starts with not asking why. ‘Why’ should be encouraged all the time, even as adults!
There is a pleasure in watching friends solving a jigsaw. Working together on a shared aim, they work separately, but talking, sharing ideas, and looking to see if they can help each other out. Much of a jigsaw being built is social, and the satisfaction is not at the end when complete, but the pleasure of the journey; the small wins.
There is a tangible excitement to finding your own path, cutting your own way. No-one works better than on their own passions and interests – indeed, studies have shown that strangers can identify the difference between artwork which is commissioned and art which has been done for pleasure.
So if this is my belief as the reason for learning, what would I say is the purpose for education?
To encourage questions, to help uncover answers, to help with making connections, and to guide making their own.
I believe that we learn best when we are most interested in our learning; it follows that teachers and educators should be the ones that help to guide that interest to the most fruitful and beneficial point.
Education should equip children to uncover answers, but to enjoy that journey. Yes, it is good to find an answer efficiently, but it is just as important to discover things serendipitously, otherwise we will have a set of solutions but no contextual interest frame.
We as Educators should relish the opportunities to help young people make connections, using their ideas, enthusiasm and perspectives on life. We should encourage them to refine their focus, and allow their passion fuel their drive. We should help to link and connect things they are interested in (football) and things they aren’t (maths) in a way that helps them engage (league tables).
Our young people are standing on a diving board before the future. We don’t know how far the drop is, how deep the pool is or even, given the future conditions, if they can swim. The purpose of education, our purpose, is to help them make the best judgement possible. We can tell them that the water is deep, but if they don’t believe us, they won’t jump.
Stephen Lockyer, May 2012
(You can find out more about Purpos/Ed and the current campaign here.)