Feature: Revisiting Educational Philosophies

By Harvinder Kaur Dharam Singh

Educational philosophies are about the purpose, process, nature and ideals of education one would like to disseminate to learners. The philosophies of education may vary from one educator to another but their grander purpose remains the same, which is, educating them. The focus of this article is not to argue which philosophy is better than the other but to highlight some philosophies that are indeed different than others and to reflect upon our educational philosophies at OUM.

Socrates focused on questioning his learners to bring out their own ideas. The inquiry method pivoted student-centred learning by building what the learners do not know on to what they already know.

On the other hand, Aristotle believed that repetitive drill would be able to reinforce knowledge. Through the process of education, individuals could learn by nature, habit and reason to arrive at virtue, happiness and political harmony. Everyone should be given the opportunity to learn to manage their roles in the society.

John Dewey was the father of the experiential movement. He contended that learners should be involved in real-life tasks and challenges to learn a subject. Teachers should have good insight of learners' past experiences which then enables them to provide quality education which is relevant and meaningful for their learners.

Maria Montessori introduced an empirical discipline known as Montessori, which aimed to focus on the development of the human individual through all stages of childhood. Montessori teaching emphasised on the child's experience, where the child is self-directed in a learning activity. The teacher's role is more observational.

John Caldwell Holt was the leading advocate for home-schooling. He believed that learning could not be forced to occur in a classroom but rather children should be taught and enabled to learn through life experiences.

While some of the above philosophies became the basis of the current education system, they have their pros and cons. A blended approach and bits of the best would probably answer the common dilemmas faced by the present society. At OUM, there are basically three main educational philosophies which are set to embrace numerous issues faced by today's Malaysians.

First, democratising education by providing open and distance learning where learners can learn as they earn and manage their other social responsibilities in their home and community. In addition, through open entry, learners are given education opportunities which they had missed out on earlier due to economical or social reasons. Had this not been put into place, many individuals would not have had the chance to develop themselves.

Second, the blended learning approach, which leverages on learning technologies and traditional teaching methods and is incorporated with various assessments methods, is put into service to address the various learning preferences and needs of adult learners. As commonly known, there is no one way that fits all learners' needs.

Third, OUM has immensely emphasised on quality graduates who should not only have knowledge and skills but who can also communicate well in English. OUM has laboriously made all efforts in producing quality curriculums, modules, tutors and assessments and did not shun in advocating English as the medium for education at OUM.

Certainly, these philosophies are meant well for our learners and the society as a whole. However, the success of OUM's educational philosophies is dictated by the extent to which philosophical values are demonstrated by its learners. So, have OUM learners acquired them?

We have seen the outcomes and contributions of OUM's education system through our graduates. Undeniably, OUM has made some difference but a little more improvement will make tremendous impact in realising OUM's philosophies. A good start will be to revisit the processes and implementation strategies of these philosophies. Examine whether the education philosophy being discharged is as desired and if it meets the expectations of our learners. We tutors can also play a vital part by being quality tutors and using OUM's philosophies to groom quality graduates.

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In my opinion, the most important factor in producing quality OUM graduates is:

Tutors who are capable and motivated
Quality learning materials
A syllabus which integrates both theoretical and practical aspects of a subject
All of the above
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