"Lived Liberal Values in Germany"
Learning has always been my passion. However, I found that my inquisitive and curious spirit diminished as I went from a top student in grade school to a back-bencher in college. For the diverse individuals that we are, the shortcomings of the education system are quite incredible. In college, I turned to extra-curricular activities rather than academics for growth. I held internships in the field of psychology, constantly organized social events, and was involved in volunteering work with various NGOs for different causes.
All this helped me understand different working styles, approaches used for bringing change - and most importantly it helped me identify what I would enjoy doing as a career. I then decided to expose myself to diverse situations, learn from real-life experiences by working in the field rather than sticking to a formal educational degree. I facilitated learning journeys to build social consciousness and leadership skills for holistic development of youth.
A diverse group
Participating in the FNF's International Academy for Leadership (IAF) course ‘Education in Crisis’ allowed me share my story, many other participants resonated with. All 25 of us, a diverse group of educators, professors, ‘edupreneurs’, politicians, members of think tanks and civil society organizations from fifteen different nations, agreed that our respective education systems are deeply flawed. We need holistic learning models with scope for diversity and innovation, we agreed.
We discussed the fundamental gaps in our respective educational systems. One point that came up is the gap between the different stages of learning at the primary, secondary, tertiary and industry levels. These are consecutive stages of learning. However, there is a missing link between tertiary and industry education. This makes it difficult to come up with solutions to unemployment. There is a huge gap in what the market and the industries need and what our university degree prepares us for. Three things need to be prioritized in the education system to create a better system:
- Embedding civic education and democratic processes: We as responsible citizens need to do way more than just be the ‘voters’ invited to vote and be at the receiving end. This behavior as adults links back to not imbibing democratic systems to give decision making power and skills to students from an early age. We have only had limited exposure of civic education through youth representation in discussions or mock parliaments or learnt from the 20 pages in a civics textbook. Civic values and duties are way beyond that. We need open and democratic processes for designing curricula, campus rules, campus elections etc. This would help prepare us from an early age to vote for our representatives. A strong sense of civic engagement with lived values and ethics is an important part of liberal democracy.
- Building emotional intelligence: The fast-paced and changing nature of the world coupled with innovation and technology has made us adaptive. As educators of future generations, mental well being has to be at the fore-front to heal the sense of isolation, fear of missing out and nurturing resilient individuals. Building emotional intelligence is also essential for the job roles of the future that would not be easily replaced by robots.
- Conducting stakeholder dialogues: A major flaw of the education system is the gap in planning and execution through the bureaucratic system. Holding dialogues will enable us build a holistic overview and get the different stake-holders on board. Stakeholders would be students, parents, teachers, principals, policy makers, politicians, government, management, etc. It will build deeper understanding of why a certain decision is taken and result in stronger integration in design, planning, and smoother on ground implementation.
Germany’s Dual System
Contrary to what I have seen in India, it was interesting to know the dual education system (which means parallel two different kinds of school systems), good quality of public school (private schools aren’t popular there) and decentralization of decision making on curriculum, school functioning (from National to the regional level). Many students choose vocational learning courses directly connected to the industry’s need. This model has made Germany a leader in technology and the automobile industry.
The course beautifully integrated the diverse ways of learning like site visits, online discussions, digital platforms, mobile apps, visits to museums, talks and much reflection. We had excursions to Cologne and Munich, where we visited a school and an Industry chamber, met parliament member. Overall the way the course was conducted, made me experience a combination of lived liberal values and the German standard of quality as well as valuing time.
Kejal is a Convener, Connecting Communities at The Blue Ribbon Movement (BRM) in Mumbai, India. She recently attended FNF-IAF's leadership program in Gummersbach, Germany on Education in Crisis – A liberal way forward. In this report, she is sharing her personal thoughts.