Learning Environments

Learning Environments

To many people ‘education’ (going to school) is not possible or available, busy as they are  contributing to family life and earn a living.  For many communities ‘education’ is related to all that is important to individuals and what needs to be known in order to contribute to their families, their communities as per their traditions and their culture. The family is considered the most important schooling environment where children learn social interaction and learn to live in a particular natural environment while helping mum or dad with little chores. With time the young person takes on more work or takes responsibility for a certain area and in this ways learns from doing things while the more experienced person teaches and explains why it is done in a certain way and when, depending on circumstances. It is often from within the family environment that the required skills are taught and learned, be this herding, agricultural, manufacturing, trading, healing, artistic, military or spiritual. Those of the same trade would often meet in company and exchange views, and the modern term Company still denotes this educational impulse: of learning by doing being in the company of those who know. It is a learning by example. Another term, Union, also stems from the coming together of those of the same trade to safeguard their interests. These few examples already denote how education and trade are related and the requirement today of needing educational qualifications in order to even consider applying for a job, shows that education and the job market are inter-linked. What is today often left out of the equation is the values component, the long-term need for  sustainable and healthy environments where biodiversity and cultural diversity hold an important place.

Cultural considerations: it is paramount for a nation to safe-guard this very important heritage which springs from its own unique environment, its peoples, animals and vegetation, imparting that unique blend of qualities which created those cultural characteristics and which are not replicable elsewhere and which are its greatest gift to humanity.

Learning environments are not related only to a social context but also to natural environments having evolved from these, and so we look at these within the context of education and learning. Examples:

Learning Environments

Formal and non-formal Education

Education in the Past

Education Today

Environment and Cultures

Environmental and Social Influences

Natural Education

Traditional Knowledge

Multi-layered Learning

Learning Environments

Formal and non-formal Education

There has been education as long as there have been human beings – without learning there is no society and no life. However, education has not always been formal – in the sense of going to school or university, but has consisted of the processes and environments in which people have learned the skills and understanding necessary to flourish in the world.

‘Formal education’ is not a replacement of what people already know but an enrichment, an addition to the knowledge an individual already has. This education can be practical and experiential, learning new techniques and understanding the context of why certain techniques and practices might work better, or could work in symbiosis with valid traditional and well respected methods and techniques.

As well as the general process whereby communities learn their environments and the best way to survive in them, over many generations certain families develop lineages of specialised knowledge. These may become family ‘trade secrets’ and are passed on from one generation to the next. Some of the products of these trade secrets are now known the world over, as they have been trademarked and marketed internationally. (For example, just from Scotland we have Baxter with their marmalades, jams and soups, the Walkers with their shortbreads, and Harris Tweed from the Island community of Harris).

Crafts people have also often wanted to share their knowledge with others, to educate and learn and develop their craft. Those of the same trade would often gather together ‘in company’ locally or at yearly regional gatherings where different communities would convene, celebrate and exchange views. The modern term ‘company’ still denotes this educational impulse: of learning by doing.

The medieval Guilds and Lodges of Europe are an example of those engaged in a trade becoming part of a club, a brotherhood, a specialist group. Renaissance genius Michelangelo and all his contemporaries had such schools, specialist workshops called botteghe. In these botteghe, with practical and experiential teaching environments, the knowledge and techniques related to that trade were imparted and shared. Another term, union, also stems from the coming together of those of the same trade, often to safeguard their interests.

These few examples already denote how education and trade have historically been related. The current requirement of needing educational qualifications in order to even consider applying for a job shows that education and the job market are still inter-linked. They also illustrate some of the ways in which seats of learning may develop.

Education in the Past

Seats of learning have existed for thousands of years. These existed primarily for those who could pay for it, but also for those who were seen as being particularly gifted. For example, education was held in great esteem in 900BCE in Etruria (in modern day Italy). The sciences, the arts and spiritual development were all considered important and the Etruscans encouraged all citizens, including women, to participate fully in all educational activities. Most citizens of Etruria were literate.

In medieval Europe the monasteries, courts and military academies had often associated learning facilities and catered to those requiring specialist instruction. Monasteries became centres of spiritual learning and excellence. They also fulfilled a social function as impoverished families were able to send their children to become novices, knowing that this was a way to have them fed and educated, and a life-long career provided for them – without cost to the family itself. In later centuries the military accademies became another such institution, as it also provided an education and career for young men.

The University of Constantinople, founded in 849, by the regent Bardas of emperor Michail III, is generally considered the first institution of higher learning with the characteristics we associate today with a university (research and teaching, auto-administration, academic independence). Bologna, Paris, Oxford and Salerno all had universities by the twelfth century. However, it was not until much later that university education became a viable option for any but the most privileged.

Free organised education was available in India thousands of years ago. The emphasis was on a holistic education that developed all aspects of the individual. By 5BCE Nalanda in Bihar in India was already a famous centre of learning, catering to over 10,000 students. It attracted exceptional and famous teachers who taught and elaborated on physical, mental and spiritual subjects. At around the same time, institutionalised education also existed in China, because the ancient Chinese empires required skilled, experienced and specialised administrators.
Education Today

It is important to be aware that not being literate does not necessarily mean that a person is not educated. Their education has been imparted along different methods and is linked to a countries culture and to individual life-styles, and most often is directly related to the activities the family is engaged in. Often these individuals have more knowledge and wisdom than those who have been for many years at school or university, just that hey have learned their subject through different methods and often through direct practical experience. The recognition of the knowledge that people hold about survival, be it social, legal, agricultural, etc, should be key in all development interventions, including those regarding education.

In many countries today institutionalised education is not only a human right, but primary education is enforceable by law. This is a relatively modern mass-approach to education. However, we know that this is not the reality for all. There are countries today, like Niger, where about 86% of women are illiterate. This figure augments to 92% when considering the nomadic populations. There is no doubt that the situation requires urgent action.

Environment and Cultures

Cultural practices are shaped by local natural environments and by patterns of human activity, as well as the meaning that is given to these. Climate, soil composition and access to water will determine how people build their settlements, what plants are harvested and what animals live there, what is eaten and how the food is prepared. Local plants and animals will also determine the choice of which materials are used for building, which fabrics are used for clothing, and how much of the body is covered, and which pigments and materials are used for decoration. The type of culture that develops will also determine the type of learning environments available to the people making up a tribe, a community or a nation.

Environmental and Social Influences

To many people in developing countries education is not available. They are busy trying to earn a living and consider ‘education’ to relate to all that is important to individuals, their communities and their culture. The family is considered the most important schooling environment for small children and later on all activities the family is engaged in become the venue for teaching the required skills needed to earn a living – be it herding, agricultural, manufacturing, trading, healing, artistic, military or spiritual. Over many generations certain families develop lineages of specialised knowledge, many of these becoming places of excellence and offering instruction. On a more collective level the medieval guilds in Europe are such an example.

The natural environment will determine the activities individuals and communities are engaged in, and individuals will learn the skills that will be most needed. All the needs of a community need to be addressed, be this hunting, herding, building, clothing, food preparation, healing, etc. The number of individuals needed to cover specific needs will depend on the size of a community. The family and/or the Elders will often determine an individual’s career or this might also be determined through initiatory rites. In the majority of cases this will involve the male population. The women learn agricultural and herding skills, food preparation, bringing up children, sewing, fetching water and firewood.

Natural Education

In learning to survive in a given environment, every human being undergoes a thorough and life-long education. The ‘learning environment’ is the home environment, the community environment, the social environment, any formal education environment, the natural environment, spiritual activities and rituals – in short, the holistic environment in which the individual grows and develops.

The natural environment will determine the activities that individuals and communities are engaged in, and individuals will learn the skills that will be most needed. So just as a culture develops in relation to the natural environment, the ‘learning environment’ is also a reaction to the natural and cultural surroundings. This is one way in which traditional knowledge is passed down through generations. For example, climate, soil composition and access to water will determine how people build their settlements, what plants are harvested and what animals can be bred or hunted, what is eaten and how the food is prepared. Local availability of plants and animals will also determine the choice of which materials are used for building, which fabrics are used for clothing, how much of the body is covered, and which pigments and materials are used for decoration.

Now that the Quai Branly Museum in Paris has been dedicated to the Arts and Cultures of the Indigenous Nations, the 1st World, it is hoped that maybe a university celebrating and honouring the indigenous cultures’ knowledge and wisdom might follow and thus place these cultures on an even footing with all the other knowledge of the 21st century.

Traditional Knowledge

From time immemorial designated individuals of the indigenous nations have worked intimately with realms that many people today in the industrialised countries do not perceive anymore. This does not mean that they do not exist. These inner landscapes also require tending and nourishing and there are few left who still have this gift. They not only work on these levels, but at the same time pass on the knowledge, experience and guide others to see and experience this reality as well.

Traditional knowledge is a living system and is based on dedication, learning and experience. It is a journey in its own right and very a specialised one. It often is a life-long journey that covers many areas of knowledge and learning. Humanity is not allowed to lose this amazing rich heritage and all needs to be done to safeguard this knowledge. The indigenous nations are the stewards and holders of extensive wisdom and while they need to make their voices heard (and have done so for some time already) it is hoped that more and more organisations and NGOs will come to their aid to help maintain the environmental, livelihoods and conditions that will allow the knowledge of these inner and outer learning landscapes to be passed on to future generations for the benefit of all humanities.

While most indigenous people still have a deep and spiritual link with the natural world, many indigenous people also have a deep link to what they perceive to be the spirit-worl as well as to that great being considered to be the Spirit of a Nation. This wisdom and ‘key’ is still held by certain indigenous Elders and when speaking about the environment, then the inner landscapes of this world need to be mentioned and included, nor can they be excluded when mentioning knowledge and education or how this education is imparted and the students, the candidates chosen.

Multi-layered Learning

Many organisations and institutions have dedicated resources to developing projects and aid-packages. Many successful projects have been undertaken and the Sahel today has more tree-cover than 30 years ago. Big environmental and development schemes were initiated, only to flounder years later, as important aspects had not been taken into consideration: in many cases local populations were not consulted, their traditional methods were not taken into consideration, nor their cultural contexts respected. Dialogue and cooperation are crucial elements and often the most successful way forward is to incorporate the best of the traditional methods and local knowledge with elements and technologies of the developed world.

Technological advances have allowed databases to be compiled of traditional sustainable methods used in other such biomes in other parts of the world and this exchange has proved useful. Local populations recognised elements of their own traditions and cultures and were more willing to try new ways. These are all opportunities for learning new ways and methods, new techniques and technologies. Many environmental projects included education and training, and this often led to employment.

Powered by WordPress | Designed by: seo company | Thanks to seo services, seo company and seo company