By Abdirasaq H. Nuurre (Xuubay)
In Somalia, where more than two decades of civil and proxy wars devastated the lives of millions of people, different education philosophies quietly emerged from the ruins of the country’s learning structures. One is dominant and active at the moment while the other is on the horizon awaiting an opening to challenge the last. How the Somali educators and policy makers harmonize these different opposing philosophies in unison and effectively use the outcome to recover and advance education is so far an unheeded subject.
Any noble cause rely on values and human capacity for guidance to a successful triumph whence all other necessary elements emerge for action. Education is no exception. To their credit, Somali educators made a significant difference by saving and, in fact, improving considerably the country’s education sector giving hope to millions of desperate youth. Also, Somali diaspora have been for decades the forefront for the country’s education recovery effort through either a direct individual impact or a group exertion such as fundraising activities.
However, if human assets are in action to the best of their capacity toward the mission, applying different education philosophies may thwart any effort to effectively develop reliable and sustainable education system. Therefore, adopting an appropriate education philosophy to revive and advance the country’s ailing education sector is an essential factor to consider before it is too late, particularly when developing and applying a national curriculum or when designing instructions that serve the country’s own specific educational goals.
Much of the discussion to restore the country’s education sector centered on one specific area: developing a nationally approved curriculum. Apparently, Somali educators either ignored or at best did not pay enough attention to other equally important areas, one of which is the values through which the national curriculum is applied. However, one specific educational conference attempted to address the importance of incorporating philosophy in Somalia education. The conference was held in Mogadishu a decade and half ago by Formal Private Education Network in Somalia (FPENS).
The participants of the conference, who were from different foundations and associations which at the time ran more than 50 schools, discussed obstacles on the way in order to advance Somalia education forward. The network identified one of the problems as “lack of unified and clarified educational philosophy.” It developed eight points to address the philosophy problem. Among the eight-point solution FPENS proposed: education should be based on the principles of Islam, subject matter has to be translated from the Somali environment and culture, and girls’ education has to be encouraged throughout the country. The eight-point solution were outstanding ideas in Somalia education outlook, but do they address the philosophy problem and the mechanism through which, for example, a curriculum are applied in schools?
The proposal was a broad concept derived from the existing traditional philosophy, where students are usually sidelined to be part of their learning process and teachers are promoted to exclusively dominate the entire learning process. Nevertheless, while FPENS’ educational philosophy was not in favor for student-centered progressive idea and clearly promoted the teacher-dominated traditional education philosophy, it can be the foundation from which a better worded and more effective philosophy can be developed. The proposal was a clean “impositions from above”, expected old-style philosophy in which the group have consolidated their grip on education to, perhaps, defend their stature as traditional educators. It signaled the group’s united rejection toward the imminent reformist philosophy that may challenge their traditional views and inspire students to detach from their teacher-centered routine education values.
Education philosophy can be operational and successful when instructors carefully employ a reasonable philosophy that promotes balance and moderation, addresses the local demands, and benefits leaners. Therefore, approving a philosophy that can unite and balance the different education beliefs is needed. Such educational philosophy can, not only help find answers to the aforesaid problem, but respond to what doable education objectives the country’s educators should develop, what type of subject matter should be taught in the classroom, and what methods of teaching that should unanimously be practiced at best in the country’s public schools.
Such philosophy can advance the education, benefit learners, and empower educators to effectively execute their teaching strategies.
Unlike the “Either-Or” traditional education philosophy, where students passively learn subject matter and teachers are the only major source through which knowledge and skills are diffused, the philosophy of moderation and balance divides the responsibility of communicating knowledge between teachers and students. In this method, teachers facilitate the learning process and remain the leading force responsible skill and knowledge transformation while students can freely explore knowledge, in addition to what they learn in the classroom, from other reliable external resources. Students should play a lesser but more active role by not passively learning subject matter, but effectively participating in the learning process. Thus, teachers should be responsible for planning, organizing, and implementing for both the official and the operational curriculum.
In this philosophy, teachers will decide the scope and sequence, syllabus, content outline, textbooks, and the course of study based on experiential education concept, wherein the curriculum focuses on the needs and the benefits of the students. However, the conception of the planned experiences, which are a set of combined educational, social, emotional, and physical skills that students learn from the school will be shared by teachers and students in the planning and in the implementation process. Therefore, through this concept students can share their educational, social, and physical skill experiences.
Overall, teachers should be responsible for the implementation of the task of teaching. Teachers must cover the components of the program of study such as content, skills, and objectives and validate whether students learn the subjects at least at some minimal level of understanding.
Besides the coverage task, teachers should be responsible on managing the classroom and the students as well, most of whom are difficult to manage and educate because of the country’s long-term wars. These important tasks can be successfully achieved through positively engaging students toward the subject matter, the teacher, and the classroom.
On the other hand, unlike entirely focusing on learning through experience as the strategic foundation of education progression and completely rebutting the positive learning elements within the traditional philosophy, the balanced educational philosophy employs relevant components within the progressive education. For example, while it is not practical to reject all of the “impositions from above” traditional concept, the individual’s cultivation and learning experience are superbly and equally important to preserve. Therefore, some of the impositions from above such as textbooks and teacher supervision methods are necessary learning elements in a country like Somalia where education is emergent. Without supervision from teachers, students may depart themselves from gaining the required skills and knowledge from relevant sources to unedifying unsafe materials. Therefore, there should be some type of direction from teachers along with encouraging students’ learning prospect through experience and through individual cultivation.
To conclude, there is a need to identify an appropriate educational philosophy which clearly defines the purpose of education, the role of the teachers and the students, and the type of subject matter that should be taught in Somalia’s recovering education sector. There is no a single philosophy (traditional or progressive) that can be exclusively accurate and effective at the same time to successfully advance education in Somalia without the support from the other philosophy. When educators adhere to one specific philosophy, they still need to employ the positive learning components from the other values. Therefore, a synchronization of the different existing philosophies is the appropriate response to avoid any potential contentious rivalry between Somali educators to improve the ailing education sector without giving in the country’s central principles.
Abdirasaq H. Nuurre
Abdirasaaq is a writer, a medical professional and a health scientist, MS. He is currently pursuing a PhD in teaching and learning at Indiana State University.
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