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Basic focus: Learning to know, to do…

AT ALL levels of the education system, there are certain principles that are closely interrelated, interdependent and work well together to shape an individual into a complete human being.
The first time a child goes to school and steps into a classroom, he or she is not aware of what both the world and their own future have in store for them. But as they progress from kindergarten to primary and, eventually, to secondary and tertiary levels, education acts as a tool that builds their self-awareness and propels them to an understanding of their role(s) in society.
Its aim, therefore, is to provide equal opportunities for all learners so that they can achieve the greatest success possible, through promotion of moral, social, cultural and spiritual development. It is in this way that children are adequately prepared for the world of work and societal responsibilities.
The pillars in which learning – as a process – is anchored, take the form of the actual knowledge that helps one’s mental faculties to develop, the skills imparted to an individual so that they can effectively participate in socio-economic activities, as well as exposure to societal norms.
When curriculums are tailored in such a way that emphasis is placed on ‘learning to know’, then at the centre is the development of the faculties of memory, imagination, reasoning, problem-solving, and being able to think in a logical, well organised and critical manner.
This important aspect of the system enables individual learners to understand, to a certain extent, things to do with nature, about humankind and its history, the environment in which we live, and about society itself.
When a student experiences the pleasure of knowing, discovering and comprehending various things that life offers, then one’s brain begins to act as a ‘collector of treasures’.
‘Learning to do’ is a pillar which demands that learners put into practice the knowledge they acquire in school. Today’s technology-based economy calls for intensified innovative ways of developing new skills which are more behavioural than intellectual. Therefore, institutions of learning should not be left out, but must be part of such advancements aimed at improving the well-being of society.
Education which focuses on personal competence with regard to ‘higher-order skills’ that are specific to each individual, is mainly grounded on the premise of human qualities and interpersonal relationships.
These qualities include a learner’s ability to transform knowledge into innovations and job-creation, especially after successfully completing tertiary education. In addition, ‘learning to do’ also refers to one’s ability to engage in teamwork, to communicate effectively with others, build social skills for meaningful interpersonal relations, adapt to change both at work and in social life in general, as well as being able to take risks and come up with solutions to various challenges in everyday life.
If those that tread the educational path are able to experience shared purposes and coming to an understanding that living in unity and love with other community members is important, then that in itself is a positive realisation of today’s increasing globalisation.
When this happens, education will be said to have achieved its aim of ensuring that people learn ‘to live together’. Here, what comes to the fore is the development of such qualities as appreciation of the diversity among people, and an awareness of the similarities between, and the interdependence of, human beings.
Knowledge and understanding of self and others is also important, as it should lead one to respect other people, their cultures and value systems.
Education’s pillar of learning to live together focuses not only on developing a sense of empathy and co-operative social behaviour in terms of caring for and sharing with others, but also empowers individuals with the capability to resolve conflicts through dialogue, as well as working towards common societal objectives.
In a report to UNESCO dubbed Learning to be, Edgar Faure et al (1972) pointed out that “the aim of development is the complete fulfilment of man, in all the richness of his personality, the complexity of his forms of expression and his various commitments – as an individual, member of a family and community, citizen and producer, inventor of techniques and creative dreamer.”
This entails learning to be human. It is achieved through transmission of values, skills and knowledge tailored towards personal development in relation to one’s intellect, and moral and cultural norms; in short, developing an all-round, complete person.
Therefore, in the 21st century, the goal of education should be the development of a truly learning society. Each one must learn how to learn.