Friday, June 24, 2011

a matter of translation

Ideas like language in order to be understood, need translation. Our work, so far, has been an exercise in exactly that. What is a good idea in one context is not so in another. In the age of internet and instant communication, ideas are whizzing around the globe at an astonishing rate. Some ideas seem to stick and gain traction and others fall by the wayside. One such idea is outcomes based education.

In this part of the world, outcomes based education is in direct opposition to what has been the norm since Soviet times. The point of an education and the degree to which one had attained it, is measured by the accumulation of information as indicated by success on tests and in recitations. Clearly, education in Central Asia worked in Soviet Times by all indicators. Children were literate in two languages, teachers were well paid and had a yearly professional development trip to Moscow, there were textbooks in the farthest village schools and education was seen as a right rather than a privilege.

With the break up of the former Soviet Union,compounded by a global economy that rises and falls in a blink of an eye, the template that usually spelled success is no longer in place. Even if it was, in all probability, it would not be nimble enough to keep up with the rapid fire changes of the world. That has certainly been the case in our own country.

The new template, as yet untried, is outcomes based education that includes measurable evidences and indicators that are consistently understood across institutions. This push is a direct result of the Bologna agreement for European Universities. The hope is to make former CIS universities equally in-line and compatible.

In large measure, our task is to figure out a mechanism that supports outcomes based teacher education and makes it a transparent idea and easily understood by others. Teacher educators here have focused on inputs; recent efforts at reform have been exercises in reorganizing the ratio of class hours spent on different subjects. The challenge is get them paying relatively more attention to what their students are actually learning during those hours and how it's transferring into actions in student teaching.

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