The old fashioned idea of teaching was that the children should play a passive
part. They were completely in the hands of their teachers, to be molded into a
certain pattern set by formal education, and to emerge as school leavers full of
facts which, they had all too often learnt off by heart and parrot-woes. Often,
none of these facts were related to life. The children were made to absorb them
as a sponge absorbs water. this attitude was adequately summarized by Addison in
the eighteenth century. "What sculpture is to a block of marble, education is to
the soul," he said.
Nowadays, such attitudes to teaching have completely
changed and, while a certain store of facts must be learnt for examination
purposes and indeed as a background to ordinary living, today such facts are not
the 'be all' and 'end all.' Each child is regarded as an individual and not as a
cypher in an educational machine. The teacher's aim is to develop the full
potential of each child. He must be taught to respond to and to participate in
the activities connected with learning and to -co-operate with the teacher so
that everything he does is geared to his own life and to developing his control
over his own environment. Today therefore, the facts and the subjects studied
are secondary to the development of the child's whole personality. Hence,
subjects cover a much wider range these days, from technical and practical
subjects to current affairs and commerce.
To claim a child's interest, great importance is placed on purposive learning
which means practical work of all kinds for the pupil. Such work must be varied
as a child soon becomes bored when one particular activity is carried on for too
long. His interest is not stimulated neither is the require skill acquired.
New attitudes mean new methods. Oral teaching, a time-honored method is still
used, but not to the same extent. The teacher must do some talking, but children
are encouraged to talk too, to ask questions and to discuss. The teacher has
many mechanical aids to assist him in oral work. Language laboratories in which
children can both listen to correct speech in foreign languages and record their
own efforts, are extensively used. tape recordings of poetry and literature and
of plays stimulate a child's interest and foster a love for these things.
Words must be supplemented by visual aids which are important. A British
child, who has never seen South-east Asia will know it better, if he sees
pictures of rice fields of Malaysia or Singapore's colorful harbor. British
geography will come alive for a Malaysian child if he can see pictures of the
coal-black mining country. Diagrams and charts clarify many subjects like
anatomy, science or chemistry. Film strips, from which children absorb facts
much more quickly than they do from a book, are widely used too. It is one thing
to explain the growth of a plant from a seedling. It is a much more telling
experience to see it on a film taken with a time lapse camera so that in ten
minutes, growth spreading over many weeks can be seen. Mathematics too, makes
use of visual aids. Problems can be 'explained' and 'Cusenaire' equipment
provides models and blocks for measuring, all of which convey more to the pupil
than a dull textbook.
In modern teaching, great value is placed on creative subjects such as
craftwork, music, dramatics and woodwork. Here, practical work is the order of
the day and the child's progress measured by the end product.
Modern teaching includes the body as well as the mind. a child must express
himself and have an outlet. Hence, all schools provide facilities for physical
education and for a variety of games. Many provide swimming instruction.
extra-curricular activities too are considered important. Hence, visits to
museums, art galleries, theaters, and public games are organized.
We have come a long way from the old ideas on education where the three R's
or the classics were alone considered important. Now the aim is to teach a child
live and to be lived with. As with all new ideas, time will supply the answer as
to whether the child and hence the man has benefited.