A trip to Limerick has proved inspirational, writes Bagdora’s Bishop Vincent Aind
Ireland and India may have only two things in common in the past: British Rule and the Education System. For the rest Ireland is quite different, or so it appeared to us a group of visitors from one little corner of India as we went to Limerick recently.
The difference was much more spelt out in the present-day education system which Ireland has developed. One clear difference between India and Ireland is that education in the latter has been taken very seriously.
Not just several changes in policy but so much of the research going on in the field of education was something immediately remarked by our group. There is less politics about education and more quality added to the teaching methods and syllabus, and even to the system.
The role of Mary Immaculate College, Limerick, seems prominent in this ongoing research. The entire staff and students, even the campus, of Mary Immaculate College strikes the visitors’ eyes with genuine seriousness and focused attention on improving the pedagogy and administration. We got this wonderful opportunity to witness as well as learn something of their findings. Thanks to the invitation and generous offer made to us by the college. In our three weeks’ sojourn there we noticed that the college gets regular visitors and researchers from different corners of the world.
Mary Immaculate believes that education can and does bring about changes in society especially through modelling quality leadership, having high expectations of students, offering incentives and rewards, culture-building, intellectual stimulation, vision, shared goals, and personal individualised support.
It was apparent too us that Mary Immaculate is truly a leading institution working incessantly to improve and to transform. In order to bring about such a transformation in society it begins with the child. It tries to translate into reality what John Dewey had said in 1902: “The child is the starting point, the centre and the end. His development, his growth is the ideal.”
Each child is different, each one is unique. There is a need to maintain a balance between inclusive method and differentiation. Paying attention to uniqueness of the child requires reorganising especially the primary school curriculum. One needs a responsive pedagogy to enable every child to learn and develop. Not one set alone fits to all. The responsive pedagogy aims at holistic nurturing of the child and therefore takes into account all possible dimensions, from spiritual to moral, cognitive, emotional, imaginative, physical, aesthetic, and social etc.
The child is the starting point, the centre and the end. His development, his growth is the ideal”
Learning begins long before the child comes to the school. It begins in the family, in the work place of his/her parents, then in the school with and from his/her teacher. From this micro system s/he slowly moves into a macro system or larger environment. All along this journey his/her chrono system [time factor] plays a role.
There is concerted effort to make the child feel at home in the school and classroom. The education is child-friendly. Learning is playful and spontaneous.
The campus, the whole set-up, the teachers’ approach, everything goes to make education less burdensome for the students. Yearlong and holistic assessment of the child’s progress in various dimensions takes away tension. Thus, what is said by Prof. Niamh Hourigan is so true: “Our students are not empty vessels waiting for our (teachers’) wisdom to pour in; rather they are (in our schools) to discover the best in themselves.”
We had a wonderful opportunity to visit a few schools both in Limerick and in Thurles . We were much impressed by the atmosphere, the infrastructure, the Staff and the students. They are truly centres of ‘education’ in the right sense of the word, holistic education, in fact of human formation. The future of Irish society is indeed auguring well.
We have returned to our homeland enriched and much inspired. We hope to adopt and apply some of these elements in our educational institutions, even if it be in a small way. We really wish to make our schools more child-friendly and provide each of them opportunities to discover the best in them. Our contribution to their formation should be a significant contribution to nation building, nay more to building a truly human society.
Once again we deeply and gratefully acknowledge the beautiful gift Mary Immaculate College, Limerick, has offered to us by organising this wonderful project and having sponsored the entire trip and the programme for us and through us for the Diocese of Bagdogra. If our efforts in turn bear good fruits, this small step will prove to be a giant leap in bringing about a desirable transformation in our society here.