We are living in the increasingly globalised and fast changing world of the 21st century which offers both opportunities as well as challenges. Societies everywhere are undergoing widespread transformations, and this calls for new forms of education to develop our children as human resources.
What type of education do we need for the 21st century? How can education prepare young people the best way to fulfil their potential in a rapidly changing world? What is the purpose of education in the current context of societal transformation? How should teaching-learning be organised? What transformative skills should our children acquire to meet the multi-dimensional challenges of the 21st century? Farhana Mannan's book Ekush Shatok: Onyo Rokom Shikkhar Shondhaney" (21st Century: In Quest of a Different Education) attempts to answer these critical questions. It also explores how digital technologies have revolutionised education. The book also draws our attention towards some contemporary educational issues and challenges which need to be addressed for developing our children as competent as well as enlightened citizens of the 21st century.
The book is divided into four main parts. Part one provides an overview of the 21st century education. By making comparison between the 20th and 21st century education, this chapter focuses on the essential 21st century skills; i.e. creativity, critical thinking and problem-solving skills, collaboration and communication skills, digital literacy skill, social skill, leadership skill, and ethics and accountability. The author discusses why a 21st century student needs to acquire critical thinking and problem-solving skills. Students who know how to analyse and take a critical insight at ideas and solve a problem are able to make connections across disciplines, see knowledge as something useful and applicable to daily life and understand contents on a deeper and more lasting level. Digital literacy is another important skill in the 21st century which, the author believes, should be given emphasis. To be an informed citizen is a large part of being a responsible citizen, not to mention that the more digitally literate students are the better prepared they will be for the workplace or higher education.
The second part of the book examines how digital technologies have revolutionised the 21st century education. Digital technologies challenge the traditional approaches of classroom teaching-learning, and the way education is managed. The author argues for introducing a new model for understanding and exploiting the pedagogical potential of Web-based technologies. Teachers' digital literacy skill is a must for using this technology in the classroom. Recognising the 'Professional Learning Community (PLC)' as an effective model of teachers' professional development, Farhana Mannan shows how the 21st century educators can engage with online platforms to create an unbounded field of emergent connections. These connections empower teachers, allowing them to draw on one another's expertise to formulate and fulfil their own professional goals.
Part-3 focuses on the preparation of formal education for a child. It is true that there is no perfect age when a child begins his learning. But a child can be prepared for formal education at the very early age through 'play'. Although play is important to people of all ages, it is especially meaningful and important to children. Actually play is their 'work', and they put in a tremendous amount of energy and effort to it. There are at least three ways in which play is important to children: skill development, social development, and imagination and creativity. Learning occurs in all areas of development as children remain engaged in play. Play with other children is crucial for the development of social skills. But in an era of rapid urbanisation our children are found confined to apartments, where they have hardly any scope to play. In this regard, the author suggests creating 'play centres' exclusively for children in the different areas of a city.
In the last part of the book, the author attempts to analyse some contemporary educational issues relevant to 21st century education. They are reading textbooks, creative teaching-learning, developing reading habits, learning languages, adolescent sex education, performing arts, and so on. Our education system in the 21st century must equip children with the ability to think critically, solve problems effectively and respond to and thrive within a changing society. In this regard, the book will obviously be beneficial to the educational planners, teachers, parents and other stakeholders.
The writer is an independent researcher.
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