From all of us to each of them

Sometimes wisdom comes from the most casual and incidental of conversations. Discussing a vision statement made by an educational institution, a gentleman I recently met remarked that he had insisted that the word “all” be changed to “each” in the phrase “impart quality education to all children”. He went on to explain that a broad term like “all” actually ends up being so general and all-encompassing that it stands for nothing. Saying that, “all of us” should take responsibility for the state of education or about environmental pollution (for instance) amounts to saying that none of us is actually responsible. So by insisting that teachers pledge to ensure quality education for “all” children ensures that she or he does not ensure it for each individual child, but in a general sense, for the faceless numbers in the classroom. In one sense, this is the general absolution of responsibility of many institutions (and individuals) for the particular in favour of the general.

editorial However, if children are to learn, a teacher must perform a careful balancing act between the general and the specifi c. Macro-level preparation such as creating syllabi, lesson outlining and setting broad learning outcomes must necessarily take a broader view that works for the entire class. But then, we do know also that the “entire class” is composed of many individual children, each with his or her own need and level of understanding and performance. There must be enough variation in the delivery of lessons to cater to these differing abilities and levels of understanding. Having given all the children a pre-constructed basket of concepts and facts, the teacher must sit down with each child (or organize some other form of interaction) and make sure that this child takes away what he or she needs in order to achieve the learning outcome specifi ed. This also means that the watchful eye of the teacher must be trained on each child with more care, so that variations in learning styles and diffi culties (and capabilities) are catered to on an individual level. The two lead stories in this issue’s cover package focus on testing and assessment. The fi rst looks at how children can be taught to cope with a standardized test, while the second examines one approach to continuous comprehensive evaluation. Both methods require the engagement of the teacher at an unfamiliarly high level. But both articles demonstrate that this is not impossible; that it is entirely possible and feasible to achieve a minimum general standard while also watching – and providing for – a host of individual needs.

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