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The 4 pillars of education

June 28, 2010 11 comments

In the 1989 film “Dead Poets Society”, Mr. Nollan, the principal of Welton Academy, starts his speech by asking the students of the class of 1959 what the four pillars are. The answer? Tradition, Honour, Discipline, and Excellence. Surprisingly (or not?), many still believe these to be the four pillars of an educational system. I wouldn’t say I totally disagree with that, a one should follow certain principles and respect some values, but these are not the pillars of education. There are way more important things to be observed in any classroom than those values. The four pillars of education are its core, main players. And if we are to discuss the future of education, these four pillars have most definitely to be high on the agenda.

But what are the 4 pillars? The 4 pillars of education are the ones most deeply connected to education: Teachers, Schools, Parents, and, obviously, Students. I have some thoughts on the roles of each one of these pillars that I’d like to share with you on this post. Any comment, as usual, is more than welcome so we can enrich the discussion. Here goes:

1. Teachers: Teachers and students play the leading role in the educational play. We, teachers, must bear with the fact that it doesn’t matter how hard schools or parents try to change, if we don’t buy it, nothing will change. This means teachers have got to be more proactive and step up to the challenge. If we compare education to a film, teachers take centre stage together with students. Education should be more learner-centred as information is available to all and students do not depend on teachers to read about anything. Teachers, then, are the supportive actors in the educational play, the ones who are responsible for all the discoveries made by the main character (the student) as the plot unfolds. One of the reasons most people have chosen to become teachers is the fact that teaching is one of the most rewarding professions in the world – and if you’re a teacher you know I’m not speaking financially. The reward comes from seeing learners progress and turn into conscientious citizens. If teachers don’t play their role correctly, the play is bound to be a disaster.

2. Schools: If teachers play the role of the supporting characters, the schools are the setting. There are, as you all know, many other people in a school than teachers and students, and most of the time their role is the same as the role of the crew. They’re not there to be in the spotlight. However, if they don’t do their job properly, there’s no way the film will be a hit. Principals, directors, coordinators, and all the staff should make sure they provide teachers and students with all the necessary conditions for the story to follow its course. This means schools should be more responsive – it’s only by listening to their main stars that they will understand what they have to do. Forcing teachers and students to do things in a certain way is not the way to go. Listening to them and helping them do what they believe to be necessary is a much better way to get there.

3. Parents: Parents are the guest stars of the film. They’ve been students themselves and they can’t simply pretend they’ve forgotten what it is like. They can’t ignore that the world is different these days, either. However, parents should help teachers and schools by being more present in their children’s education. They should get to know the school and the teachers they’re sending their children off to. If they don’t trust the school’s and the teachers’ decisions, it’s not by going against their decisions that they’ll help. It’s only by playing an active role that parents can help schools and teachers do a better job.

4. Students: The stars of the show, they can’t be treated as if they’ve got all the power in the world. Students should know that there are limits and these should be observed even by superstars. Any good main actor understands that it’s important to pay heed to what directors say. Michael Jackson had a vocal coach, Michael Jordan listened to his coach, and Al Patino has got to trust what his directors say about his acting. This doesn’t mean they should simply follow. Much on the contrary. Students ought to be able to listen to others and then think about their own deeds. Students should understand that teachers, schools, and parents are trying to help them shine and become the stars they are to become.

If any revolution is to be carried out in the educational setting, the four aforementioned pillars should all work together. The key word for this to happen, as I see it, is trust. It is only when each pillar is able to trust that the other is doing its job properly that we will have a strong foundation for education to thrive. It is only then that we will achieve our ultimate goal.

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