Education NGO decries private lessons
ALEXANDRIA: Everyone adopts habits in their early years that shape their personality and that they carry with them for the rest of their lives. A child s environment at school and at home, where many of these habits are formed, may foretell their future capacity in the workplace and interaction in society.
The Egyptian Cognitive Child Association (ECC), a non-profit organization based in Alexandria, chose to focus on one particular habit, dependence and its antithesis, self-reliance, and examined the role of the educational process in cultivating these habits.
The [early development] stages are responsible for the [child s] method of thinking, his nature, his inclinations, his approach to decision making, his intellectual capacity, everything that relates to cognition, says ECC Director Ma azuza Ebeid Rizk. If in these stages the child develops in a positive way … the result will be a human being with the abilities to deal with life, with an investigative approach to thought and with the capacity to make decisions.
The association sought to address the struggle that young people face in transitioning from basic to higher education as well as to the workforce.
We found that students that graduate from secondary school mostly fail in university and that they cannot adapt to university life and its method of study, says Rizk. We also found that those who graduate from the educational system, even from universities, do not know how to work.
ECC proceeded with the conviction that the educational approach in the first 10 years of a child s life is a fundamental cause of their future struggle. Specifically, Rizk explains that many Egyptian children are brought up in an environment that fosters failure because of constant attendance by parents or educators.
In fostering failure a child is taught that he cannot rely on himself, so his mother is adjoined to him and later his teacher is [as well], says Rizk. The prevalence of private lessons also contributes to dependence on adults.
The teacher becomes the child s attendant to such an extent that he (the child) cannot write without a teacher being present, says Rizk. The problem has become more than just in supporting the child, but also teaching a child that he is unable to accept others around him [because] he always considers another person as someone who provides him with some gain.
This attitude has social consequences. The child is intolerant to change and cannot adapt to society, says Ateh Nabih of ECC.
Private lessons also frequently emphasize memorization and techniques to pass exams.
There is [a] difference between learning and learning [only] for the exam, says Nabih. Private lessons teach the child how to beat the exam, not how to learn.
The overall result is a student with a superficial understanding of the material who is incapable of independent comprehension of new ideas.
If [a child s] personality develops as a dependent one in the early years, one that views education as a process that relates only to an examination or grades, education loses its value and the child s personality has lost something very important, says Nabih.
The association took a practical approach to address the issue by providing parents with techniques to support their children without spoon-feeding them.
We cannot only target the child, because if we do our initiative will be insufficient to solve the problem, says Nabih. We primarily target the decision-makers in educational matters (parents and teachers) so that all the beneficiaries around the child can play a positive role in resolving this issue.
Training sessions were conducted for parents that provided them with methods to assist their children in designing an independent study plan and schedule.
[The parent] can take her child s curriculum and divide it up into small daily tasks, says Rizk. She provides key points for every subdivision and leaves the child to deal with it, and thereafter her only task is to supervise the child.
The association also carries out sessions to provide children with a deeper understanding of the material they learn in school. For example, the sessions complement the students lessons on the alphabet and vocabulary by engaging the child in discussions and activities that are relevant to their lives.
The deepening of understanding precedes vocational skills, says Nabih. This technique does not exist; people just take the letters and put them together. Instead, we first approach the cognitive aspect of reading, for example, and ensure the understanding of some ideas that relate to the topic as a whole. Only then does the [practical] skill follow.
These conceptualization sessions address a deficiency in the national educational curriculum. Our academic curriculum discusses many matters that a child is unfamiliar with and has not experienced, says Rizk.
The detachment of the curriculum from the students lives and the emphasis on memorization results in an arduous, unfulfilling educational experience.
The student loses the pleasure of learning [and] the memory of this enjoyment is one of the things that secures information [in an individual s mind], says Rizk.
By enabling teachers and parents to change their approach to education from one of handholding to one of supervision and guidance, ECC hopes to end the habit of dependence and transform learning from an unpleasant experience into one that individuals can savor and engage in throughout their lives.