|Tuesday, 1 March 2005|
Humanising Education - the Pleiades Project
by Lionel Wijesiri
Supreme Court Judge, Justice Nimal E. Dissanayake at the Law College Awards ceremony recently made an interesting remark.
He said," Humanising education is about inculcating the necessary values, understanding tolerance and the ability to integrate with all groups of people in a disciplined manner. This is very beneficial to the society."
He is absolutely correct.
Education in Sri Lanka, I believe, had become a rigid impersonal process.
Critics say that schools (or most schools) damage and stifle children's natural capacity to learn and integrate with others. The system instils fear in failure, tension and avoidance of trying and being wrong with embarrassment in front of others.
The problems our society faces today require more than intelligence and technical know-how for their solutions. They are basically problems of living together and of co-operating in making our country a place where all of us can live in peace.
We need people who can accept and respect others as well as themselves. If the schools are society's means of preparing people to live in society they must be concerned with these objectives. That is why we need to add a fourth R to education - Relationships.
The Pleiades Project
Today's dramatic reality is that education as one of its most important social institutions, lack socially significant guidelines. This makes it difficult to formulate and implement a system of intellectual, moral and physical education that corresponds to the demands of the society's development.
Four years ago, an ambitious project was implemented in Colombia. It was termed 'The Pleiades Project'. (The term Pleiades comes from Greek mythology and refers to the seven daughters of Atlas who were pursued by Orion and were turned into a constellation to escape him.)
The project was expressed as an invitation to a "great movement of continuous support to institutions where groups of children, youngsters and adults meet like in a constellation of dreams, to fabricate a new world that we yet do not know".
Pleiades generated a wide social mobilization of the civil society around the schools of Colombia. The National Ministry of Education was the initiator.
It invited government and private institutions to participate in the project with the conviction that education is a very essential issue and that all society should face and take responsibility for it, because the future of education means the challenge of the future of a country.
Intellectuals, teachers, social scientists and parents agreed on the idea that basic education becomes the first big step in the construction of a peaceful country. Pleiades attempted to start the construction of the route.
The objectives of Pleiades were based upon the experience that when schools have the support of the community, they are capable of reaching significant developments in the quality of education.
The project unfolded through national and regional committees where the diverse individuals of the civil society were present. They helped with the management of Pleiades to the schools in Colombia.
The study material consisted of three tools, each one related to one of the aspects of the schooling life (knowledge and the development of knowledge, the quality of the school life and the improvement of the endeavours toward education) presented in the form of three games.
To work with the quality of life in the school, the project designed the first game called: 'The star of five points' which relates to five topics: teachers, activities, classmates, physical spaces in the school and educational materials.
Over a million children began talking about what they like and dislike about their schools: "I like the library", "I like the way my teacher dresses and solves problems", "what I don't like is when there is no water in the school," "we don't like the English subject because we don't understand anything"
The second game, which was designed to research the ideas of the children about learning and knowledge, was called 'To ask questions and write books'.
In this game students wrote a question about the subjects and after working in groups they organized the subjects and created a book with a topic present in the questions, in a way that it would be useful for the educational community.
Some of the questions which showed where the heart of Colombian children are: Why is Colombia at War? What are the people from other countries like? What will be the future of the children? Why are there children in the streets?
In the third aspect of the school life, the children were invited to formulate their desires without restriction. They worked in groups and found out which desires were realistically possible to achieve in a short, middle or long-term through a class project, a school project or a community project.
In the final national tabulation of results, there were more than three thousand projects created to help change the negative aspects of the problems revealed by the children.
Also, there were 15,113 books published with topics involving the history of their towns, why the children take drugs, Colombia, war and peace, poverty in Colombia, peace tools, etc.
At the conclusion of the project, a group of written materials were created with information about the unfolding of the project and the work to enhance the process of escorting the schools in the future.
'The Pleiades Project' has achieved positive quantitative and qualitative results. It has helped the Government to effect significant improvements in the educational system in Colombia.
Definitely, for our educational authorities there is lot to learn from the Pleiades project.
Produced by Lake House