Explaining An Unlearning Process

Students in a classroom. Source: Twitter

This is the concluding part of this article first published last Wednesday.

The school system can hardly be described as an effective or impartial promoter or groomer of individual talents and abilities. Rather, what happens is that certification and classification thereof have become unreliable and corruption-ridden means of determining merit. It is a well-known fact in Nigeria that certificates are not reliable indicators of merit or ability, even when they are “Toronto” certificates. Nigerians are quite weary of certificate obsession and scandals as well as the glorification of its status.
The most authentic and damaging indictment against the school system is that it is an instrument of a one-sided development of the resources of the human brain. Through such one-sided and wrong schooling, lacking in balance especially at the early age, the objective or intellectual portion of the brain became too strongly developed. Youths thus became saturated with earth-bound knowledge, with a precociousness that undermined deep inner feeling and perception of issues. That was how a system of enclosing people in a “box” arose through schooling process–a mental enslavement.
Economically and socially those who did not have the advantage of high-level education became handicapped or endangered species. With rapid urbanisation and decline in traditional means of livelihood, several people got driven into poverty, agony and possible resort to crime. An introduction of the Land Use Act in Nigeria, coupled with oil exploration activities, life became hell for the poorest of the poor. Neither did politics of brigandage and gangstarism make things better for those who sit and look. Rottenness in society results from bad education and bad politics, characterized by intellectual cleverness.
Expistemology and the School System
Epistemology is the branch of philosophy which deals with the validity, authenticity, relevance and utility-value of education. How useful, relevant and valid are the stuff which learners are loaded with in schools? Especially in situations where the learners are not involved in the packaging of the stuff that they are compelled to learn, it can hardly be said that the whole needs and interests of the learners are taken into consideration. It is likely that what learners are made to learn are not always what is needful and relevant for them.
There is what is known as Reconstructionist theory in education which is concerned with the identification and correction of lapses in the structure of curriculum components and in the entire schooling process. For example, rather than teach students what they have to learn, why not give the students opportunity to choose and determine what they wish to engage in?
There is also the Theory of Apperception which is associated with Johann Herbart, suggesting that knowledge is not acquired in a vacuum. Thus the quality, quantity or volume and contents of previous experiences possessed by an individual constitute a knowledge-bank or reference point from which the individual begins his task of learning. This personal knowledge-bank which can also be called mass of ideas or personal schema vary in quality and quantity from one individual to another. Is it not true that some children are born with some unique and inexplicable experiences or abilities?
It is from the theory of apperception that learning principle of starting from what is already known to the learner before introducing new and unknown ideas to him developed in the school system. The implication of this learning principle is that local and already available knowledge-content must form the starting point and subsequent processes in the exploration and development of personal ability. We cannot transplant into an individual what he does not already have in him, neither must the principle of comparative advantage be ignored.
Message of the De-Schooling Movement
An emerging trend in the de-schooling movement is the recognition of the fact that there are lots of lapses in efforts to develop human abilities via the brain. Apart from the necessity to identify and differentiate various human abilities, there is also the need to identify priorities. Individuals have several abilities and talents, but rather than develop all of them in one process, emphasis should be placed on the economic principle of comparative advantage. Do we not find occupational mis-fits in every sphere of human activities?
With a message of Reconstruction, de-schooling movement demands that the idea that school is meant for everybody and everybody meant for school, should be done away with. Another message is that culture, background, worldview and personal schema of an individual should not be detached from or ignored in the kind of programme designed for the development of the ability of an individual. Although the school is an agent of social change, every individual must come to full blossom according to the nature of the soil or environment upon which he came into being.
For individuals and nations, development must be a process of advancement of what is indigenous and personal, raised and strengthened continuously. It is not a process of adopting what is borrowed or imitating what is alien. A man who cannot be himself and true to himself deserves pity. We burden and bundle ourselves with so much that is quite unnecessary that we must now purge ourselves of the excesses and what is alien to us.
Without advocating for the abolition of schools, de-schooling movement recommends indigenization of education, with emphasis on development of vocational skills according to the ability and aptitude of an individual. The movement frowns at imitation, compulsion and uniformity since talents differ widely. Emphasis should be on direct personal experiencing, interactions with real life and the avoidance of artificiality or pretences.
While recognizing the impact of globalization and the need for adaptation, change and global collaboration, de-schooling movement prescribes unlearning the clever wisdom of the world. Rather than pedagogy, it recommends Andragogical system of learning, with all arms of the mass media getting involved in direct transmission of knowledge. Boko-Haram ideology is a part of the protest.
Dr. Amirize is a retired lecturer at the Rivers State University, Port Harcourt.

Bright Amirize