Empowering communities through Student-Centred Learning

According to one American researcher, Palestinians get it; do we?

As I was exploring materials for the IEC2014 seminar on empowering identity and community building through Cooperative Learning, I came across an article by Dr. Louis Cristillo on Palestinian education.

Strangely, this tale from a faraway land somehow encapsulates our red thread of the relationship between business, student-centred learning and 21c skills on the one hand and empowerment and community building on the other.

But more importantly, it also supports my previous point that Religious Education should be used to train P4C to help students facilitate authentic identity and community building skills to get to grips with cohesion issues in post-modern Britain. (See RE page for more on this).

In Palestinian higher education – off the streets and outside our media panoptikon – a struggle is unfolding in classrooms. Here faculty are pushing back against the hegemony of teacher-centered instruction and embracing, in principle if not in practice, the global movement toward learner-centered pedagogy.

This is a radical departure from their legacy of teacher-centered methods inherited from European models of education in the service of colonialism, state formation, modernization, and the development of human capital, which we touched upon months ago in Business, Gvt & Collaboration as a skill.

In his article, Dr. Cristillo, who has served as co-lead investigator of the study on undergraduate teaching practices in the West Bank and Gaza, writes:

“… this struggle is typically framed in neoliberal economic discourse by international donors such as UN agencies, the European Union (EU), the World Bank, and the US Agency for International Development (USAID) in which learner-centered education is the basis for producing a nimble, tech-savvy labor force ready to compete in the market-driven arena of the so-called global knowledge economy.

What this paper argues instead is that the real significance of education reform in Palestinian higher education is local, not global. The struggle over the center — teacher-centered versus learner-centered instruction — is about transforming discourses and practices that are shaping emergent properties of a diverse, pluralistic society of a future independent, democratic state in Palestine and for its social, economic, and political development”

from Struggling for the Center: Teacher-Centered vs. Learner-Centered Practices in Palestinian Higher Education by  Louis Cristillo*

It’s one thing for the education systems of Europe’s great nations to be miles behind the carbon rich and business driven United Arab Emirates; it’s quite another thing to be behind struggling Palestine, who is aware that the discussion on teacher-centered versus learner-centered instruction is not so much about attainment, as it is about transforming and facilitating a diverse, pluralistic society of a democratic state.

We can hear the faculty heavies on the West Bank shaking their heads, murmuring: “Lefty, child-centred learning.”  

More on lefty, child-centred learning.

More on 21c skills.

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* Louis Cristillo is a lecturer in Anthropology and International and Comparative Education in the Department of International and Transcultural Studies, Teachers College, Columbia University. According to the article bio his interests include education and development in the Middle East, religion and identity, education and social theory and methods in educational research.

Article published in Higher Education and the Middle East: Empowering Under-served and Vulnerable Populations, Viewpoints Special Edition, October 2010, The Middle East Institute Washington, DC.


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