By Madeleine White, educationalist, writer and Head of Strategic Partnerships, Whizz Education.
"Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world."
- Nelson Mandela
I have seen many weapons in the last few days. A meat cleaver, brandished by a blood-covered young man in Woolwich, London - caught on a homemade video celebrating the horrific killing of a young soldier in the name of religion. Words as weapons on banners in Iraq, brandished by tens of thousands of Iraqis who want to see the creation of a separate Sunni sovereign region. In this month’s blog I therefore want to add a weapon that empowers everyone equally – that of education.
Of course our received expectation as to what education should be is based on children being taught in bright shiny classrooms, by teachers who always smile and know everything. It is nice, lovely, kind and caring and always successful, leading to great jobs. Knowledge is easily passed on and flows like a stream from a tap that is shiny and ever-available. There is no dirt, hunger, hardship or discrimination…
This kind of idealisation will never be realised. In a world full of anger, hunger and hate it is also utterly irrelevant. To serve the needs of individuals, communities and nations education must instead be disruptive. It needs to challenge existing ideas and structures. It is not static or complete in itself – instead it is dynamic and alive. Education is a way of transmitting the nature of human thought, helping individuals become aware of themselves but also transmitting a fundamental sense of regional, national and global consciousness.
The internet of course speeds the whole thing up. In fact, we could liken the high speed, high tech world we inhabit much of the time to a fourth dimension, beyond the other three that currently exist on the ‘physical’ world. If the internet provides the environment I would like to argue that Educational Technology providers create the tools that enable people to reach and shape this new dimension. Therefore, if we are to use education as a weapon, we must recognise the real battlefield and so embrace technology and new teaching ideas and techniques – making use of all the things that can help us as part of our arsenal.