Empathy; the necessity of education

 
Publish Date : Sunday 21 November 2010 - 16:28
 
 
The following conversation presents an evaluation of Iran's education system by Seyyed Morteza Khalkhali who has spent his lifetime to boost the interaction between people and the society and to develop the education system with the international standards.
Empathy; the necessity of education
 
IBNA: Seyyed Morteza Khalkhali was born in 1929 in Najaf. He received his BA in teaching chemistry in 1952 and was employed in the Ministry of Education as a teacher. Soon he was famed for his teaching method which was accompanied with experiments. Thus he was offered to be an expert for planning and compiling text chemistry books. In 1971 using a scholarship he studied for 2 terms in United States' Oregon University.

Cooperating with Iranian and foreign professors, in 1975 and 1976 he established the MA level of the field of Curriculum and Education Sciences in Tehran University and received it as well.

In 1977 he retired from his job, expert and manager of the research center's social science group. Though Morteza Khalkhali was retired early but he is still cooperating with the Research Organization as well as other research institutes, moreover he teaches in some universities as a part time job and even compiles books and text books.

He has totally presented more than 40 text and supplementary text books, 60 articles and journals to the Education Minister which were themed on curriculum, the methods of teaching in particular teaching science. His latest book which was published in his 50th working year was "Iran's curriculum pathology and reforming methods". His other book was "Science and its method" which was published by Madreseh.

• Please tell us about your education activities?

I spent 57 years of my life for teaching as I tried for its eminence and to develop the teaching quality and learning. Considering the standards and universal experiences, my main object was to evaluate the education system and develop it to a desirable level. So I assessed all the attempts, successes and failures throughout the world and presented proposals in order to develop the condition.

• How much does the education system in Iran differ with the international levels?

Considering quality we encounter many problems, although many attempts are fulfilled like publishing different magazines and journals. Many professors author notes about the philosophy of education considering the global developments and theories. On the other hand we have an association called Iranian curriculum studies which holds opinions of famous professors.

• So why the level of education is so low after all?

The matter is mentioned in the book of "Pathology of Curriculum". Before answering the question the current situation must be assessed. Before the Islamic Revolution so far the opinions about the education situation and the ways to improve it were just in talking levels which remained in journals while if the Statesmen are aware of the truths the matter could develop rather than remaining as constructive criticizing. These kinds of data and researches should be published. The researches individually assess the different aspects of curriculum which exist in each organization. For instance we have a Tarbiat Moalem University, Shahid Ragaee University, expert of education as well as a Research Organization which designs curriculum. Moreover the authors and education system exist as well. But every organization works individually without interacting with others. Curriculum is a complicated procedure, our attempts would ruin if it is taken simple.

• But we enjoyed many progresses. For instance an elite student who has won the medal of Olympiad could be great evidence.

Whatsoever we hear about Olympiads and medals isn’t the whole story. Apparently progresses exist and elites, though in small numbers, receive gold in international levels. But the veiled side is something else; science evaluation, according to international criteria and as we are a determining factor, considers other issues.

• How we are a determining member?

We are members of international institutes. Now we should see that how much our theories of learning and curriculum meet international scientific and academic basics?

• Please talk about the Olympiads.

In reality the matter is always considered generally and indeed the result is always in the spotlight. Billions are spent to make students top. Which means being superior to another and the contest consistently exists, while they might have social effects. In other cities some schools hold Olympiad classes. The main purpose of education is not only raising élites but also to grow socially, emotionally and learning some basic skills. In the first few years the school teaches how to calculate, read and write which in fact existed before the Islamic revolution as well. So two aims exist so far; the first one is education in order to reach higher studying levels and the second goal is expanding skills, social and emotional ties and preparing the students to enter the society.

• Which means training?

Yes this in fact means developing spiritually, emotionally and religiously. Our education system only considers the first goal. If some 20 percent of the students get higher education what will happen to the other 80 percent. The specialists of education should think about the other 80% who should live in the society as well and choose better living ways. However our students only learn how to get prepared for higher education as they burden heavy scientific program and spend all their time memorizing formula and etc…but the crucial thing isn’t memory but thoughts. Thus we suffer from lack of skills, social and emotional abilities which causes nothing but social and political crises, deception, hasty judgments and crude communication which were solved 60 years ago throughout the world.

• What's the default reason?

Because we don’t know that we "don’t know". The sense of innocence is generated from unawareness. We think that we are serving and doing our best to revise the education system. But our responsibilities don’t exceed from presenting information to the students. Via this kind of education the inborn talents which were gifted by God would not grow.

• Let's go back to the Olympiad question?

Yes since some 12 years go we are holding memberships in some international organizations to evaluate our education system and quality which was indeed successful.

• Which organizations?

Different ones, for instance "TIMSS"(Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study). In 1995 among 49 participating countries Iran gained the 37th place which was followed by Kuwait and South Africa.!

• In which grade were we assessed?

Elementary school and in some cases guidance school lesions. For instance in mathematics Iran was 37th ! Moreover another organization named PIRLS, when the 2006 and 2001 cart is compared you can realize the differences.

• Is this comparison made in every education filed?

Almost, like in science, mathematics, reading skills and etc.

• Please tell me about reading skills?

The literacy of reading, which means reading comprehension.

• How these comparisons are made?

The statistics were according to thousands of students which were randomly chosen from Iran. In TIMSS 13,000 students were chosen in which we gained the low rows as well. The evaluations reveal that following Iran countries as Indonesia, Qatar, Kuwait, Morocco, and South Africa existed.

• What about the Olympiad?

Its good to comprehend the facts, publish them and realize them which is all related to the quality of education. Although in order to recognize the quality of education many researches have been accomplished and many journals have been released as well but it was only distributed to the élites, academic eras and MA and PhD theses but the media advertisements say something else.

• Anyway receiving a medal means gaining a high rank!

Throughout the world all those who attend Olympiads are examined for their abilities, power and persistence which means not attending any preparation exams before the Olympiads which indeed happens in Iran otherwise. A lot is cost and even students are picked. Students are shortlisted from regions to cities and from cities to provinces and etc, finally 46 are chosen for Tehran's youth research center. Following a year of intensive training only 6 are selected, in fact they learn higher scientific topics among the 6 five students are chosen through interviewing. Thus the number is chosen from 70,000,000! On the other hand all countries don’t attend Olympiads since they don’t need it. In Olympiad rules the students should only pass a 3 month course to get to know how they are examined.
In order to find solutions we should start from elementary schools. In Iran's education system information is presented to a certain level and it stops in a phase and then tests are offered and again 2 different education systems are dominated.
This is indeed a education crisis and the examples are the international evaluations. One of the reasons could be the difference between the academic and the executive era which means that the Research Organization is separate from educations institutes. In the Research organizations and universities the professors author articles; in particular during the past 10-15 years that the filed of Curriculum has been established (continuing till B.A and PhD) they think to write articles which is the latest scientific production in the world.
The academic articles should be written scientifically. But on the other side the management of education exists which flows in another stream. Usually some mangers, due to political issues and mostly because of being far from an academic era undertake management. 2 verses in Quran emphasize on counseling. One emphasizes on some of the managers who employ employees who support them and most of them don’t have academic and international information. In this method the manager councils but he makes the main decision finally. The 2nd verse talks about establishing a council in which all the members decide. This is the main differences which exist in our system.

• But after all don’t these association or articles impress?

Yes. We hold a Curriculum Studying Association as the researches and articles are very crucial as well. The problem which should be solved is polarity.

• Please tell us about the good conditions?

Some 60 years ago during Eisenhower's presidency in the United Sates and after Stalin a cold war and competition occurred. The east and the west experienced an enormous military rivalry in which the world's education revolution launched and impressed us and many more countries. We followed them defectively while they pursued the matter consciously. During those times the west enjoyed strong economy which gave them the ability to battle the Soviet since it had a despotic system and weak economy. But on the other hand the United States and the west enjoyed economical and financial capabilities. During the cold war the Soviet sent a satellite into the space. Following that, Yuri Gagarin was the first human in outer space and the first to orbit the Earth. The matter was a huge failure for the west according to military and political propagation, geopolitics and etc… 

The incident which occurred in 1957 severely affected their education system thus many philosophers and education experts sought solutions in order to progress. In a result they mostly considered science and technology and decided to alter their education system. In other words they changed the theories of learning and instead of saying that the Student should learn they believed that "The student should learn how to learn". Before 1956 the student was mostly considered and a student who gained the best score was the one who had more information but following 1957 gaining information was grouped as the 2nd rank. Educational- scientific institutes were created which invested. For instance scholars and scientists with new ideas who indeed had authored articles wee invited to form commissions. In 1960 an education revolution occurred; since 1957 many investigations were accomplished and many works were done. One of the results was learning matters of several categories which kicked off with learning, comprehending, understanding and then employing it and finally analyzing it and then it reached for creativity and so it went on. Many researches and thoughts were made on the filed and a book was penned on it which was a result of 33 noted scholars of human sciences. The new education system was analyzed in those countries and then they were examined in a global level while our education system is mostly based on gaining information. Ignorantly our society was kept in the lower levels our system hasn’t changed since the 50s and its only method is 4-option tests and exams. When the education revolution occurred in the world some books were compiled for instance $14,000,000 was spent for chemistry books. In 1964 a book was authored in order to raise values and opinions which in its first phase contained advice. Our media operates in the same way as they are always offering advises. 

The first phase is receiving and paying attention in which we only have to listen. The next level is responding positively which means undertaking responsibility. In the first phase we offer a work which should be done by the other and in the second phase we should receive a positive response which in fact requires planning, thinking and calculations. In the 3rd level valuing should exist; our demands should be a part of our values and the 4th level in organizing the values and prioritizing them moreover the higher level in the emergence of values in human's characters which means commitment. These all fell in the category of emotions and values. Talking about skills I have to explain that in schools students learn theories which should be practiced in workshops practically as well.

• Since which year skills were considered?

Since the 60s when the laboratories came in spotlight and science was produced, for instance a book was penned on the subject which was translated in 1973 into Persian and marketed its 26th universal translation such a thing happened in physics and mathematics as well. The work was accomplished in European countries as well but with a difference fir example in Italy biology was considered in 3 aspects and the student could choose one. Many Italian schools chose environmental studies. Moreover England did the same work which means that in Europe the lessons were chosen. In Iran when a new education system appeared in 1974 the same European method was chosen but with deficiencies as we didn’t have the ability to execute it since we didn’t have laboratories or research centers for the students. The theories entered the textbooks which were indeed a great development but it stopped then and there, moreover following the education revolution Europe encountered crisis as well.

• Why such a crisis occurred?

Because students spent all their time to memorize formulas and theory issues so no time was left for learning values. Thus a crisis toke place and those who entered the society couldn’t find appropriate jobs as they suffered from lack of appropriate social ties. The education was left in the identification level and the values dropped down. But Europe changed its direction in the 80s.

• How the correction happened?

The heavy curriculums were mended and daily life matters were included as citizenship issues while we didn’t do such a thing. I have written many articles on curriculum. I have an article named "The inefficiency of common models in evaluating concepts and methods of teaching"; the article says that the factor of Sputnik's limitation's dominance is these kinds of inefficiencies. So we are still living in those periods. A book exists on the filed entitled "Encyclopedia of curriculums" which is a product of 2008 and 25 chapters is related to curriculum programs.

• Why we still live in the Sputnik's period?

Because of the limitations which exists in Iran's high school education system and its history. Since 50 years were are working on 4-option tests which studies reveal that these kind of tests could emerge student's creativity.

• What should be done in order to solve such a crisis?

Two main issues exist; one that the programs are not coordinated. For instance some groups are working in the Organization of curriculum which don’t cooperate with the science group or literature. These groups aren’t specialized in particular specialized courses and groups who plan for the books. In fact the group doesn’t understand the compiler's message and plan which means not having dominance. They present methods without knowing about the book's program, aim and subject. The system's aims should be determined. 20 years vision of statements has been compiled but the results are the published journals. We should learn how to work in order to gain the aims. An institute should be established as "Scientific policymaking national assembly" to comprehend all the issues and for the executive experts, teachers and psychologist to work in. This thing should have happened 60 years ago.

• What's the role of Education's supreme role?

The council approves the bylaws but it isn’t the specialist of curriculum and strategic issues.

• You mentioned a plan what about the other?

The first plan was synchronizing and coordinating all the opinions; so all the programs and activities would be aimed at the constitution and education and etc… but no expert exists on the subject. So in the next phase an experts should be built, an expert of mathematics, science, geography and etc…for him to use international experiences and issues so he could recognize their faults and don’t repeat them. So a university should exist with some foreign professors who are familiar with the filed in order to instruct Iranian professors.

• Have you done anything in the filed as well?

I presented a plan to the ex-education minister moreover I wrote criticisms as well which were published and mentioned in the General manager's council, but unfortunately every university follows its own guides and interaction with others is considered as disturbance. With all these happening the education minister formed a council but they issued the statements themselves and me and the other 11 professors weren’t used. One of the Education Ministry's faults is that we are not used to live together. Once in every 10 years UNESCO presents a book as First class book which is guide for the 10 future years.

• What do you think about the text book's volume?

Many works have been accomplished on the filed and I don’t agree with the rest. The text books should be voluminous and the system should be corrected. Different skills should be explained in details and the books should be voluminous but the students shouldn’t memorize them.

• How sensitive were you about your children's educational courses?

I enjoy a great divine gift, a wonderful and committed wife who indeed trained our children very well as she had a great role in their lives. I spent all my time on researching and writing plans. Moreover my children were very studious as well who are culturally active as well.

• How many hours do you study in a day?

Around 8-10 hours. But nowadays it has reduced due to my sickness.

• Which poet do you like?

Rumi, Sadi and Hafez for they have philosophy and wisdom.

• Do you exercise?

When I was young I played ping pung, swam and hiked.

• What do you like to read?

Philosophical books, I study about Kant or Hegel every night.

• Do you have any plans for the future?

Yes I've decided to research about the Quran. It is a divine and universal duty since God has ordered to think and make decisions logically. I want to compile the research processes as a book which is close to international standards and then I will prove Quran's educational approach. Moreover I will write theoretical issues at least in the field of Chemistry which is my first professionalism and I will present a plan to instruct it according to researching, in this method the data is transferred to the student and he should built the scientific concepts.
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