Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Harry and the pursuit of British Education

So Prince Harry calls his fellow soldiers Paki and Raghead what is new? Anyone whose children have had a British Education in recent years is either blinded by its brand or acutely aware how truly inadequate it is for a successful 21st century mindset. This is especially true of those of us seduced by a romantic notion of the British 'Public ' or Independent School system. I had to learn the hard way. Like most middle class Nigerians dreams of acquiring the frisson of British 'proper' education was part of my aspiration and did I play with my children's life for that B.S. The short version is that the education system is not designed for the emerging multi-polar or interdependent world. The more exclusive the school the greater the possibility that your child is being indoctrinated into 19th century pseudo-victorian world view with dubious intellectual grounding and extreme dollops of self loathing. I have stories about lectures still categorising people into Caucasian, Negroids et al or the everyday class profiling especially of the working classes. This perhaps would be insignificant if the core curriculum were truly about evolving young minds but bully by the time they are finished Africa is an Aids factory, they know more about the wives of English Kings than any awareness that Chinese Industrial revolution pre-dated western one by centuries.

None of the above would truly not matter if it was really truly preparing them now for a world smaller, interdependent and globally competitive. Whilst such a limiting education might work for a white British child cocooned into reflected glory from the past it is intellectual death to any African child with any eye for 21st century leadership potential. I actually do not believe the damage is ever truly repaired but it can be tempered by an active effort to de-programme. The shame is that many Nigerian parents are throwing good money after bad . There has to be an alternative to British education and we have to find it fast. Just look at Harry.

3 comments:

Onibudo said...

I have actually found that a good state school actually prepares children better for the modern world than most private and independent schools. In my mentoring work with 100 Black Men of London, I get invited into schools (usually during Black history month, of course!) to give presentations to students. In two schools, I have heard the children exclaim aloud at seeing a real live Black man in a suit. One was in a London inner city school, and the exclaimers were Black students. The other incident occurred in a so-called independent school, and the exclaimers were Prince Harry clones. And so the dilemma remains - where do we educate our children? Many say send them to Nigeria, but again one needs to be careful about that: some of the insanely expensive private schools in Nigeria have still bought into the mindset that British or American is best and their curriculum and mores and underlying assumptions all reinforce this. They are making vigorous attempts to produce youths who consider themselves a cut above the rest in the worst possible way - not because they have a more sophisticated world outlook, not because the benefit of their supposedly superior education has allowed them to experience the diversity of people, place and intellectual space which makes the 21st century world so complex yet fascinating and thus renders them fit for purpose therein, but rather the creation or perpetuation of an elitist class system that will only produce the kind of leadership in politics, business and culture that will parambulate forever and get us nowhere (apologies Baba 70). It's the same kind of mindset that their parents have which has allowed a ridiculous proportion of children who live in 'middle class' homes in Nigeria to grow up without being able to speak their local language, as it is deemed vernacular. It's one thing Prince Harry and co having a colonial mentality. It is so much more tragic when we the enduring direct victims of colonialism can't get over it as well.

by Olu Alake

afrofunkycool said...

The Nigerian system is based on the creation of the kind of elitist class system the British are known for perfecting. Today watching the Nigerian political class i am reminded of the worst excesses of Tudor rulers... We have inherited not only a federation no one wants but also all the worst racial and class based prejudices of our former occupiers...

Like you have so succintly put it how many of our leaders can survive outside the Nigerian system? A system where a patently sick man can claim to beat you at a game of Squash....Looking and Laughing....

Sincerely Yours

Anonymous said...

I totally agree. The British Private school system teaches kids that they don't actually have to attempt to be better than average; that the way things are is the way they always were and always will be. I am not surprised that Harry said this, as I did go to a private school for many years, and being of a different racial origin than most of the other students, I was subjected to similar language from many of my fellow students.

One advantage of being in that environment was that I learnt how to handle this kind of language, and I learnt that the world is so much bigger than this tiny island that many seem to think is the beginning and end of existence. This was also mainly down to my parents and my upbringing. I was very fortunate to receive such a diverse and progressive upbringing, yet many out there were not so lucky. I worry a lot about how my generation will handle the future, if they have an outlook such as this.