Today’s world is an amalgamation of ideas, thoughts, dreams and aspirations put together in one single box – Pandora’s, the “idiot box.” The box installed in every nook and corner of the city conveying to us half-truths and full lies. All of these form the indirect way of education, a flawed and weak way. These are the ways in which globalisation is eating away the fruits of labour and wisdom of the sane.
A globalised culture, even with its perks and benefits, has become one of the most damaging forces in the world of education. In it, there is information for all but wisdom for none. Education starts from the grass-root level, but a globalised order has a trickle down approach to it. How to resolve such a dispute which is affecting the minds of the young who, from a very tender age, set aspirations based on the given scales of a globalised order?
Education is often imposed from outside which leads to a lack of identity suffered by many students in general. They are forced to read about the cultures of others, except for their own, which leads to a lack of self-esteem and demotivation. Without a sense of cultural identity, native students feel caught; the more education they get, the less they can relate to their society, and a lack in the education level results in unemployment, welfare, and a lack of self-esteem.
By bringing appropriate culture into the school, different purposes are served. On a reserve, it can mean that a student learns about his heritage, his people, and his community. This gives the student a sense of self-worth and pride in who he is and where he belongs. When this student ventures off the reserve for further education or employment, he takes with him a sense of identity. For a non-native student, it can develop the tolerance and understanding that might have been previously denied.
Culture should not be taught as a separate subject. It should be integrated into the subjects where it can be used to enhance the prescribed syllabus.
This means that the integration is different from school to school, community to community. It is important that the community plays a vital role. The culture that is to be included in the schools has to be set by the School Committee, in consultation with the Chief and Council, the elders, and the members of the community. Schools need to have guidelines made by the community. Often community members do not want teachers to venture into traditional areas of health and religion, and schools have to respect what is laid down by the community.
At some point, teachers will find themselves in a situation where they will have to get help from the community. A non-native teacher coming from an urban environment will have trouble teaching the traditional skills and cultural values of the reserve. Community members need to be ready to help out where needed. Another area that is often overlooked is the use of legends and stories in the classroom.
Unfortunately, these activities do not happen by themselves. A great deal of time and planning on the part of the school and the community must take place. The school must be willing to make the education provided by the school more relevant to the children. The community must be a willing partner in this venture.
The elders in the community play an extremely important role as they often have the stories, the legends and the skills that the younger generation does not know. Legends and stories need to be taped and written in both, the vernacular and in English, so they can be used by both, the Language Arts teacher and the native language teacher. Old people do not live forever, and there is a danger that much will be lost if records are not made now. It is important that the traditional skills are videotaped so they can be used throughout the school after they disappear.
With this careful blending of the present curriculum with the skills, knowledge and stories of the traditional community, the students become educated adults, proud of their heritage, confident of their future and a credit to their community.
By Zoya Khan