Scholarly article on topic 'Good elementary education'

Good elementary education Academic research paper on "Law"

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Abstract of research paper on Law, author of scientific article — Ayhan Ural

Abstract The aim of this study is to identify good elementary education standards that would contribute to the elimination of inequalities in the implementations regarding the utilization -and making it utilized- of the right to elemetary education. Being a descriptive one, this study attempted to identify the definitions and explanations of the right to education in universal documents by a review of literature. The study then attempted to explain the drawbacks concerning the protection and the utilization of the right to education. The study proposes some standards such as accessibility, content, operation so as to eliminate the obstacles hindering the utilization of the right to elementary education.

Academic research paper on topic "Good elementary education"

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Social and Behavioral Sciences

Procedia Social and Behavioral Sciences 1 (2009) 1249-1254

World Conference on Educational Sciences 2009

Good elementary education

Ayhan Ural*

*Gazi University Industrial Arts Education Faculty, Ankara, 06830,Turkey Received October 23, 2008; received in revised form December 23, 2008; accepted January 5, 2009

Abstract

The aim of this study is to identify good elementary education standards that would contribute to the elimination of inequalities in the implementations regarding the utilization -and making it utilized- of the right to elemetary education. Being a descriptive one, this study attempted to identify the definitions and explanations of the right to education in universal documents by a review of literature. The study then attempted to explain the drawbacks concerning the protection and the utilization of the right to education. The study proposes some standards such as accessibility, content, operation so as to eliminate the obstacles hindering the utilization of the right to elementary education. © 2009 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved

Keywords: Right of education; elementary education; good elementary education.

1. Introduction

International conventions, considering education as a fundamental human right, clearly state that it is the responsibility of a state to meet the educational demands of individuals. In the Convention on the Rights of Children and International Declaration of Human Rights in particular, education is defined as a fundamental human right; still, they fail to include clear-enough statements regarding the use of this right. The right to education has been put down in these two grounding documents, which are used as references for all the human rights documents in a rather vague way that it is open for misinterpretations or various kinds of interpretations. Not specifying any scale regarding the use of the right to education has led to the fact that states adopt and employ different approaches to meeting the educational demands of individuals. This might lead to consequences hindering the use of a fundamental human right.

Human life can be described as a process in which individuals achieve the values and requirements so as to lead a happy life. Harrison (2003) states that rather than an accumulation of pleasures and properties, the richness of a happy and quality life stems from the relationship with those who share the happiness. Education has a vital role in generating a happy life. According to Noddings (2006), a good society is the one which has access to the resources providing objective happiness and which has an education system encouraging its members to appreciate and search for all possible means so as to advance the level of happiness. An individual achieves the requirements of a happy life through various means throughout his or her life. These requirements, which can also be called basic life skills, are tried to be taught in formal teaching and learning environments as well as in natural learning environments.

*Ayhan Ural.

E-mail address: urala@gazi.edu.tr.

ELSEVIER

1877-0428/$-see front matter © 2009 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved. doi:10.1016/j.sbspro.2009.01.223

Demirel (2005) defines formal education, which can be explained as a program-based education, as a mechanism of learning experiences provided through planned activities in and out of schools. It is supposed that in addition to the clearly defined formal program, formal education comprises an "implied program" that is informal but still effective on the information, skills, attitudes, behaviors, opinions and values aimed to be given to learners through formal education. Alkan and Teker (1992) state that the greatest effect of a program-based education is its shedding light on the aims and objectives of teaching and learning program. Bilgen (1994) points to the fact that the definition of education may vary according to how humans, science and values are perceived. Although it is difficult to come up with a definition of education acknowledged by everybody, we can divide the functions of formal education into three groups as the social function -good person-, political function -good citizen-, and economic function -good producer/consumer- (Kaya 1989). As is also mentioned by Ertürk (1998), education gives individuals the opportunity to create a conscious person out of themselves through these functions. Today, many documents aiming at securing human rights with a universal understanding, clearly state the significance of education as a fundamental right in ensuring the happiness of the individual. Nevertheless, the violations regarding the use of the right to elementary education reveal the implementation problems about the use of the right. Boven and Ramcharan (1996) lists the main problems in terms of the protection of human rights as problems stemming from government pledges, problems stemming from organizational structure and diplomatic environments, problems stemming from ideological competitions, priority and perspective problems, problems in identifying the facts and notions, the primitive fashion of reaction styles proposed to be solutions, responsibilities in the practice of intelligence units and financial problems.

1.1 The aim of the study

In accordance with the information above, this study aims at suggesting what the standards of a 'good elementary education', which are to secure the right to elementary education, should be. This way it is aimed to contribute to the formation of a universal application method that is clear, comprehensible, and appropriate in terms of the essence of the right and that regards the use of the right to education mentioned in human rights documents. Considering the scope and complicated structure of the subject, this study is limited to the question, "Regarding the right to education, one of the fundamental human rights, what should be the elementary education standards provided by the countries signing the conventions?"

2. Methodology

Being a descriptive one, this study provides a review of literature about the right to education within the framework of human rights and it evaluates the right to education, as mentioned in human rights documents, in terms of the concept of basic education, its functions and content. Furthermore, this study discusses the problems about the use of the right to elementary education and proposes solutions.

3. Results and Discussion

In the International Declaration of Human Rights (UNHCHR 2008) Article 26, it is stated that "Education shall be directed to the full development of the human personality and to the strengthening of respect for human rights

and fundamental freedoms.....and education shall be free, at least in the elementary and fundamental stages. In the

Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNICEF 2008) Article 28, it is stated that " ... States Parties recognize the right of the child to education, and with a view to achieving this right progressively and on the basis of equal opportunity. European Convention on Human Rights (The Council of Europe 2008), re-emphasizes the basic notion in the universal declaration with the following statement: ... No person shall be denied the right to education. The International Convention against Discrimination in Education (UNICEF 2008), defines ... depriving any person or group of people of access to education of any type or at any level and limiting any person or group of people to education of an inferior standard as discrimination. The decree of European Court of Human Rights (Dutertre 2007), suggesting that ...the State shall provide everybody under its authority with access to available educational institutions within a certain period of time, is a significant keynote in terms of international law. The above mentioned international law documents, regulating human rights, have been criticized by some authorities. The main focus of these critiques is the claim that the rights are not secured enough. Although this study seems to be limited to

the right to education, it also provides a general overview concerning the deficiencies in protection of fundamental rights. Gozübüyük (1990) defines the concept of right as an authority recognized and protected by laws. Anayurt (2001) states that according to theories of free will, benefit and integrated theories, the concept of right is benefits defined, protected and given to the service of its owner by the law systems Soysal (1996), points to the fact that the answers to the questions, whose rights and whose duties?, would vary according to the political philosophy adopted as the basics of the structure of a state. According to Shue (1996)' right comprises the rational grounds for a rightful desire. If a person has a certain right, it should be secured by the society that the person uses the right. In his criticism about the rights put forth in the International Declaration of Human Rights, Hayek (1995) states that this document guarantees that positive demands of every individual for certain benefits shall be met, without charging anybody with the duty or inconvenience for the provision of these and it fails to define these rights in a way that would enable the court to identify its contents in concrete situations. Defining human rights as demands rather than assurances, Klecker (1996) argues that the fundamental rights can be practically secured to the extent of the increase in the number or people who are aware of the fact that these demands are in effect continuous. According to Shue (1996), the ultimate aim of identifying fundamental rights is to prevent or abolish as much as possible the vulnerability levels leaving people at the mercy of others. The distinctive feature of a fundamental right is the protection of these rights so as to be able to benefit from all other rights. Mengü§oglu (1988) states that in order to provide the protection of fundamental rights, some authority would be required to replace conscience and to have recourse to and this authority would be the power called the state. According to Kuguradi (2007), defining fundamental rights as rights that could be provided in accordance with the conditions of a country would lead to serious problems in terms of the protection of these rights and would pave the way for intentional or unintentional abuses by the authorities. In the introduction of his book, Basic Rights, Shue (1996) states that the main reason why he chose to write about fundamental rights is his anger about the high, yet cheap and false promises for freedom-about the false promises given regardless of the fact that the required conditions for people to use this "promised" freedom are not available. These critiques are a few of the many criticisms over the protection of fundamental rights. According to Boven and Ramcharan (1996), in spite of all the effective studies conducted on standardization, research, analysis and consultancy services, since the foundation of the Council of United Nations and since the human rights program was put into practice, the expectations of people of the world that the organization would be efficient in protecting human rights has not gone beyond a mere promise, let alone be realized. Elementary education affects the life of a society as much as it affects the life of an individual. This fact has led to an increase in the interests in elementary education and in the search for ways to control this power more effectively. According to Spring (1997), we can categorize the approaches in educational theories about how societies should change in two groups. The first approach suggests a technological and rational model for a more organized social programming (engineering) and social improvement through higher productivity. This model is primarily concerned with the increase of economic productivity and social consistency. The society is considered as a machine programmed to provide productive functioning. People are considered as human resources, the value of which is determined according to their contributions to the smooth functioning of the social machine. This model is a good society model, which regards the child as an object to be worked on and to be shaped for the good of the society. This model can be seen in the organization of state-run schools in the United Sates of America in the 20th century. The main motive of the other social change model is the increase of individual autonomy rather than order and productivity. The target of the social change is increased individual participation and control of the social system. The model has its roots on the notion that modern social institutions attain power to a great extent from the public's voluntary recognition of legality and authority of the social institutions. Turiel (2002) defines this distinction as individualistic and collectivist cultures. Different social characteristics have a significant role in the adoption of an appropriate model for a society. However, the fact that the adopted models are different does not necessarily mean that the means to be employed to achieve the intended goals would be different. It can be supposed that each model will be put into practice within general schooling considerations and that all the members of the society will be contacted this way (Ural 2003). As is also mentioned by Fromm (1997), what is aimed by general schooling implementations is that the members of the society will acquire opinions and feelings that are allowed to reach the conscious and opinions and feelings that have to stay in the sub-conscious level through the formation of a social self-structure -character-, forcing individuals acting and thinking in a suggested way in order for the society to function properly. Rules, which can be considered as basic requirements of social living, can be defined as mandatory and voluntary norms. These rules can be taught, to a great extent, through general education implementations. Barkow (2002) defines mandatory norms as rules that are obeyed or violated depending on the

costs and/or benefits of adoption or violation of rules. These norms that are concerned with the preservation of reputability, social identity and social integrity, are completely different from the norms that are attended without thinking or avoiding. Russell (1981) emphasizes that education considering the child as an individual is totally different from education seeing the child as a future citizen. Elkin (1995) states that socialization should rest on the similarities occurring in the process of individuals' integration with the society and the culture, not on different individual characteristics and development processes.

4. Conclusion

Through elementary education, born out of the right to education, it should be provided that the individual leads a happy life as a good person, a good citizen and a good producer-consumer without being left at the suspense between his needs and other people's needs. To secure this basic goal would be made possible through analyzing the rightful criticisms over today's schools. The claim that when children completely adapts themselves to school life, they learn that they are supposed to ask "useful" questions only (Matthews 2000) is adequate alone to necessitate an immediate revision of today's elementary education and schooling practices. Noddings' (2006) remarks about the fact that in liberal democracies, public schools fail to prepare individuals for private life and that the main focus is on higher education forms and -business life- should be considered a significant warning in terms of the use of the right to elementary education. Elkin (1995) sees today's schools as a means of formation and elimination. Regarding all these criticisms, via a right to elementary education secured with a clearly set framework, individuals could be provided with the right to elementary education which would not leave them between his needs and other people's needs. This education should be based on a problem- identifying education, which is also called liberalization practice and which is also suggested by Freire (1991). Individuals exposed to problem-identifying education develop themselves to think the world and about their existence in the world critically and they begin to perceive the world not as a stable reality but as a processing and evolving reality. Noddings (2006) suggested that at the beginning of the 20th century, happiness should be added to the list of goals shaping the educational curriculum among other goals such as health, command on basic processes, being part of a family, vocational aptitude, citizenship, being able to manage free times and ethical character. A elementary education program, one of whose goals is to make individuals aware of universal values, aims at increasing the mutual attachment, appreciation and rapprochement between groups through a combined education program, suggested for communities constituted of ethnically and culturally diverse groups; contrary to discriminating education program polarizing the groups (Irwin 2002:228). Standardization of education has always been a critical issue for the fear that it might mechanize the process by hindering specialization especially in teaching profession (Terhart 1998) although it is also considered essential to ensure the control of the program. Although this situation, which can also be called the paradox of standardization, necessitates being unbiased, a general framework should be defined so as to secure the right to education, acknowledged by international conventions so that violations of the right to elementary education could be eliminated and decisions could be made in favor of the individual. Below are suggestions regarding the limits of the framework to be designed.

Accessibility: Elementary education is provided in a way that includes no notion of discrimination, and that provides free and effective access within a convenient physical access. Accessibility in primariy education can only be secured through recognition and provision of education as a public service. To provide education through a market understanding by the voluntary organizations -civil organizations- is likely to bring about consequences hindering the right to education.

Content: The content of elementary education should be parallel to the individual and social development goals and should be renewable and scientific to the extent that it would meet social needs; moreover, it should support individuals' freedom and uniqueness.

The Physical Environment: Elementary education should be provided in a convenient physical environment which would meet the individual's security, health, working, nutrition, game and rest needs. The required educational tools and materials should be of acceptable quality and quantity in elementary education.

Implementation: Elementary education is implemented through qualified administrators trained in management, qualified and trained teachers specialized in the fields required so as to meet the goals of the program and qualified and trained staff providing the other conditions for a quality and effective learning. In order to secure the use of the right to education at a universal level, each of these qualities should be defined clearly and appropriately. Only by such a definition, could the owner of the right be provided with such a guarantee. When the limits of the right are

vague or opaque, the use and the content of the right will be subjectively evaluated by the authority providing the right, instead of the owner of the right. To prevent this, a elementary education program possessing the qualities mentioned above is to be provided. Such a elementary education program is called 'goodelementary education' and it is likely to contribute to securing the right to education, as long as it is listed as a prerequisite in international conventions. 'Good elementary education' is a concept used to account for basic/general qualities of education service provided/ utilized by reconciliation of educational demands of the individual, the family and the state at a reasonable level. Generally speaking, the concept of 'basic education', which is the ground for 'good elementary education', refers to an education process providing the individual wih the necessary basic skills and abilities to lead a life with respect and honor befitting a human being. The word 'good', which is used in the concept to define elementary education, might create a variety of interpretations of the meanings of the words and concepts following it. TDK (2008), gives the dictionary meaning of the word "iyi" -good- as of desired, appreciated qualities, likeable, the opposite of bad, abundant, useful, profitable, plentiful, lucky, beneficial, providing goodness, healthy, convenient, appropriate, right, sufficient, and practical. All these definitions of the word are in accordance with what is meant by the concept of good elementary education. The main handicap here is about how to interpret what is meant by 'good' and how to agree on the meaning of the word 'good'. The following can be suggested as the qualities regarding the scales of a 'good elementary education', considering the school where elementary education program will be implemented. Elementary education should be provided to all the citizens by the countries ratifying international conventions in a way that it is free of charge and discrimination, accessible, secure, healthy, fostering a scientific attitude and academic, social and cultural development, fostering happiness, esthetic values, a peaceful attitude, universal values and curiosity; convenient in terms of time, place, content, experimental learning and staff, encouraging freedom and uniqueness. Moreover, elementary education should provide a natural environment and a program, with practice opportunities, considering cognitive, emotional, kinesthetic intelligences and development of the individual; it should be transparent, problem-solving based, socializing, democratic, ethical, fun, cooperating with families and the environment, and it should allow the individual to realize and to represent himself in the society and so on. These qualities, defined as the components of 'good elementary education' should be secured urgently without any second thoughts and without being left at the mercy of local and international authorities. In spite of the fact that the Program of International Student Assessment, which has been in practice since 1997 under the authority of OECD (OECD 2008), aims at setting standards in education, the recognition of 'good elementary education' standards the control of the implementation should be administrated by the United Nations. Regarding the protection of human rights as a philosophical, ethical and political issue, Kuguradi (1996) points at a noteworthy duty by stating that in the case that human rights are violated by its protectors, it is also a human right to protect these rights.

This study, which is conducted as a requirement of this suggestion of the above mentioned duty, has been inspired with the hope to contribute to the formation of 'goodelementary education', accessible to everybody.

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