Most parents tend to associate the word “education” with “books,” “school,” and “lessons”—there’s little wonder that this is the case, given the way mainstream schooling permeates the very fabric of education as we know it. Even those just dipping their toes into homeschooling and bespoke learning can be at a loss as to what this big, wide world has to offer us. We put pen to paper, feeling a sense of accomplishment based on the scores that appear in front of us. And because we collectively define accomplishment with these things, it’s no wonder we fail to think of learning beyond the confines of our classrooms. And I lament the waste of this opportunity for the children who yearn for more, and for the parents who have an entire world of learning materials at their disposal.
The question here is, how big of a role do these books and lessons play in determining a child’s future? Learning through books may be important, but wouldn’t learning through play and experience be an even better learning environment for children? And why do we associate the term “learning materials” only with books and stationery, closing ourselves off from a world of so much more?
Play and experience can be fully incorporated into education when done correctly – but you’d be hard-pressed to associate the word ‘play’ with learning, as mechanical and almost unfeeling we’ve made the whole prospect of learning.
The Minister of Education himself, Chan Chun Sing, has stated that teaching children to experience things for themselves can be a crucial part of education to allow children to expand and discover things on their own, way beyond their textbooks and in classrooms.
This is such a welcome acknowledgement to begin welcoming play and experiential learning into the fore of education that is also supplemented by books. Books may play an essential part as learning material, but they are simply not a sufficient stand-in for the meaningful engagement in our everyday surroundings that life requires of us; that is also almost unavoidable, which probably speaks volumes to the amount of limitation required to deny us these resources that surround us, our lives, our vicinities. It’s time we took that back.
Children may have opportunities to explore the world of history if they were brought to a history museum and had the facts explained to them while also being able to explore artefacts and ancient materials. Children may also learn about science and life skills through actual activities and experiments and tangibly learn about culture through movies and music. So, why wouldn’t we make use of these resources that we have all around us, just waiting to be explored through the curious lenses of young learners?
Instead of just relying on books, we need to allow children to have the freedom to expand beyond their perimeters of learning — in every literal and figurative sense of the word “perimeter.” Learning should be, and can be, fun and intriguing, and continues to instil a sense of wonder and never-ending curiosity about the world around them. This can, by that same token, be satiated by the world around them. Giving back the freedom to take charge of their learning experience affords them new insights into the world around them, conceiving new ideas and values for the future if we want to build a society full of bright, determined, and insightful individuals.
Most people still associate education with textbooks and studying in a classroom. It doesn’t have to be that way — Imagine If is a testament to that. While parents do see the importance of allowing their children to learn through new experiences outside the classroom, putting this into practice might feel foreign and intimidating. Yet again, Imagine If is here to provide support to learners and parents alike to do just that; to create a truly enriching educational experience that keeps on giving.
If learning outside of school is good enough for the Minister of Education, why shouldn’t it be so for the rest of us?