IN PURSUIT OF EXCELLENCE
“Excellence is an art won by training and habituation…We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act but a habit.” Aristotle A model for defining and achieving excellence in schools is one that focuses not only on the traditional three Rs but also three other Rs. The traditional three Rs include reading, ‘riting, and ‘rithmetic. We need to focus on other three: reasoning, resilience, and responsibility. These latter three Rs complement and enhance the first three.
Reasoning is a broad term that encompasses the comprehensive set of thinking skills that a person needs to be an engaged, active citizen of the world. These skills include:
- Creative thinking to generate new and powerful ideas
- Critical and analytical thinking to ensure that the ideas are good ones
- Practical thinking to implement the ideas
- Wise thinking to ensure that the ideas help build a common good.
Good reasoning complements knowledge by enabling students to use that knowledge well.
Resilience refers to persistence in achieving goals despite the obstacles life places in our way. Everyone encounters roadblocks sooner or later; the question is how you surmount them. Resilience involves:
- Willingness to defy the crowd in your thinking and actions—to take the road less travelled
- Willingness to overcome obstacles in trying to achieve your goals
- Passion in your pursuits—going for your goals with drive, motivation, and personal involvement
- Self-efficacy—belief in your ability to achieve your goals
Schools need to build students’ resilience by creating challenging experiences for them that require resilience to see them through.
Responsibility covers the ethical and moral dimension of development. Four components are particularly important:
- Ethics—distinguishing right from wrong
- Wisdom—forging or following a path that represents a common good and balances your own interests with those of others.
- Care—genuine understanding of and empathy for others’ well-being that goes beyond an intellectual sense that you should care.
- Right action—not only knowing the right thing to do, but doing it.
Schools need to develop responsibility by creating situations that require students to develop their own unique and personal sense of responsibility.
If we continue to turn our schools merely into centres that prepare children to take exams, we are neglecting the important three Rs that will teach them how to be active, productive citizens in a rapidly changing world. In order to create a culture of excellence, we need to teach our children to:
- Apply their learning to practical, real-world problems.
- Promote students’ dialogical thinking—the ability to understand things from multiple viewpoints and to appreciate diversity.
- Take responsibility for mistakes and learn from them.
- To care about people other than themselves and to think about the effects of their actions on others.
- To use their knowledge ethically, promoting universal values like sincerity, integrity, honesty, reciprocity, and compassion.
It is only when we have achieved this paradigm shift in our approach that we will truly be centres of excellence