Iraj Ayman, Ph.D.
It is useful, at the outset, to differentiate between “integrated education”, as a separate concept or process, from “holistic education.” Providing a balanced combination of the main domains in a curriculum that would serve proper development of physical, intellectual and spiritual aspects or dimensions of the learner’s capabilities is usually referred to as holistic education. The purpose is to facilitate balanced growth and development of the totality of the individual’s potentialities. While physical and intellectual developments are usually the focus of the educational curricula, spiritual and moral development is either receiving a rather cursory treatment or left to be taken care by the family or other institutions in the community. Since holistic education is attending to all aspects of personality it is sometimes called “global education.”
Integrated education is usually bringing together, in one combined process, more than one element, subject, method or stream in the educational process. If we mix teaching history and geography, chemistry and biology, formal and informal education, or theoretical and practical education we are implementing integrated education. In the same manner holistic education may also be delivered as an integrated education. For example moral education can be delivered by integrating it into various parts of the curriculum such as literature, history, social studies, civics, sport, home economics and life sciences.
Each one of these two approaches has its own domain of application and its own benefits in the delivery system of education. In this presentation, without disregarding the value and function of the holistic approach in education, we want to consider a wider and multi-dimensional concept of integrated education. In order to respect human rights equally throughout the world, regardless of nationality, ethnicity, creed, and geographical location, reforms in education aimed at improving and advancing the quality in education should, as much as possible, be devised in a manner that it could be implemented globally. That is my view of global integrated education. Therefore, it is different from global integrated education, as another designation for holistic education.
The ever-increasing number of subjects, and variety of activities, that are introduced into school curricula has created a theoretical program that sounds very interesting on paper. However, it has proven practically impossible to be fully implemented with desirable quality. The old type curricula included fewer and more basic subjects. The learners were expected to master those subjects mostly by memorizing materials and mastering a few skills. Teacher training and teaching were rather simple and straightforward. Teachers could do their jobs single-handedly. In other words they did not need the assistance and collaboration of other staff members in order to do their job. This is no more the case. The content of the curriculum has increased and includes such a variety of items and activities that teaching is becoming practically a kind of teamwork rather than a single person activity. Various expertise and skills have to be employed in order to perform what is expected and prescribed in modern education.
Various developments have caused this change. On one hand both parents being engaged in working outside the home leaves very little time for them to attend to the teaching and educating of their children. Grandparents are rarely living with their grandchildren. It is more and more expected that what was taught at home be covered by the school curriculum. Modern technology, environmental concerns, new health hazards, have all added new subjects to the curriculum. Teacher training programs are not providing knowledge and skills needed in all the subjects that are being added to the school curricula. At the same time the total time that teachers and students are at the school, and the time spent on homework at home, compared with what used to be the standard in the past, is reduced. Television programs, computer games and other entertaining activities absorbs considerably more of the after school time of students. Innovations and rapid changes of knowledge and technology, as well as the development of new gadgets must be also added to the above factors.
Curriculum development and implementation has become a very complex and hard-to-manage activity. There is need to employ more talented and capable staff to manage such rapid changes at the three levels of curriculum development, preparation of needed curricular materials including educational technology, and educational personnel. However it is becoming harder than ever to compete with other job opportunities that are more attractive and are rapidly absorbing the talents needed in the field of education. The demand by more people at various age levels for more education on one hand, and the population explosion that results in a comparatively smaller contingent of older generations having to serve a much larger contingent of younger generations on the other hand, have caused an acute shortage of manpower for delivery system in education. Therefore, larger number of learners has to be taught by a smaller number of instructors.
Multi-dimensional approach to integrated education
In order to cope with this highly complex situation we need to examine the possibilities for expanding the concept and the scope of integrated education and try to make it multi-dimensional. Let us look at some examples.
1. Integration of school subjects
Combining and integrating school subjects will reduce the number of subjects to be included in the curriculum. For example one subject to be called “Our Environment” could be a combination of physical, political and economic geography together with environmental protection and some aspects of civics. Another subject to be called “Our Health” could be a combination of biology, hygiene, nutrition, and some aspect of moral education.
2. Integration of at-school education with self-learning at home
Modern educational technology is gradually making it possible to learn some subjects through various “distance education” or self-learning methods. This approach if properly devised and coordinated will reduce the burden of classroom teaching.
3. Integrating school- education with out-of-school education
There are various opportunities at home and in the community that can provide certain knowledge and skills that are normally offered by the school. Public libraries, summer jobs, assuming some responsibilities at home, services offered by public agencies and institutions can be enlisted to cover a portion of what is now expected to be included in school curriculum. This will be a kind of integration of formal and non-formal education.
4. Integrating education and learning with recreational and entertainment activities
Computer games, television programs, educational video and DVD, some sport activities, summer camps, boy and girl scouts, are but a few examples of how education can be integrated with recreation and entertainment.
5. Integrating academic and vocational education
Dividing the education process into two separate streams by separating ordinary secondary level education from vocational training, has resulted in bringing up two groups of individuals, thus dividing the society into tow camps: in one camp are those who utilize their hands namely their physical abilities and in the other camp are those who are expected to use their heads namely intellectual capabilities. The former group is not expected to use their intellectual potential and the latter are deprived of the many advantages of manual dexterity and practical skills. To give the benefits of both types of education to each individual and bringing up more balanced and capable members of society demands integrating the two streams of education into one which provides every person with the opportunity to actualize all his or her potential aptitudes and capabilities.
In short, implementation of such changes in the delivery system of education contributes to creating a learning and educational environment at home and in the community that will help the students to be surrounded, at all times, by opportunities that will be encouraging, supplementing and strengthening their educational development.[lg_gallery]
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