Thursday, December 17, 2009
The Power of Being an Educator: Ernesto Sabato's view on Education
Ernesto Sabato, one of the most renowned writers in Argentina, has devoted his life to learning. First, he got his PhD in physics and, after working several years as a researcher in Europe, he came back to Argentina to start his writing and teaching career. Either as a student, researcher or teacher, Ernesto Sabato has always been concerned with education. After reading his essay on Education in Latin America, I realised how much he has learnt throughout his life and, most importantly, how much we can learn from this amazing words. One of the most interesting aspects of his writing is the fact that, even though he has always been involved in high education, he is really concerned about elementary education (both primary and secondary). He claims that such education is vital for the lives of our children and adolescents and that it is during those years that students learn the most: to become full human beings. That is why Sabato emphasises the importance of what students are taught during that period. What are we teaching to our students? What is the relevance and usefulness of what they are taught? Two questions that we, as teachers-to-be, need to answer.
Content is the main concern, if not the only one, of most of the school’s syllabi. However, is content everything our students need? Or are there other aspects that need to be tackled? In my humble opinion, I must admit that I do agree with Sabato. Even though content is important, it is by no means the only thing our students need. He calls for an integrative approach to teaching in which students are guided towards self-discovery and integration of what they have learnt into their lives. We should not teach English to our students but give them the learning tools with which they will go on learning after their schooling is over. He says that instead of knowledge students should be given only the essential contents from which they will build their own knowledge. Teaching does not finish when we give our students the information. On the contrary, teaching should start there. Information and content can be taken, nowadays, from many sources, but the ability to think, reason and criticise can only be incorporated if our teachers foster and encourage them. We do not need to teach our students every single thing we know but what we teach should be done passionately and with the intention to form full human beings as the main goal.
We are teachers but, above all, we are educators. We have the possibility and the responsibility to make the best out of the role we have chosen. Teaching only English can be the easiest path but teaching people how to make use of all the potential they have will definitely be more enriching both for us and for our students.
“Not Information But Formation” is our main challenge, if you believe, as Sabato does, that education goes certainly beyond learning.