We learn a lot from each other. So, in a way everyone qualifies to be a teacher of another. Indeed, teaching is a natural avenue that ensures that we remain interconnected and integrated mind-wise despite a long history of human effort in disconnecting minds via the creation of disciplines (or cocoons) of knowledge. Even animals called predators teach their young ones how to hunt. Birds teach their young ones how to fly. Only snakes are stupid. They never teach their young ones anything, because they abandon them to the hazards of nature and hunt for themselves.
Otherwise, learning through being taught is a universal phenomenon. But learning may be experiential learning and, therefore, informal, unlimited to institutions such as schools and universities. It is the more common learning. More frequently than not, it involves interacting with the environment directly, observing and learning from interactions with it.
In other words, the environment teaches us and we learn from it. In the 21st Century, the environment is increasingly dominated by the Worldwide Web or Internet, which is a source of much teaching and learning. One lives in the past if one is not being taught or learning from the virtual media.
Teaching and learning constitute education. And through education, whatever aims are targeted by the enterprise of education, we may or may not build communities and we may or may not usher in change. It is, of course, best that education builds communities and makes them cohesive through enhancing interconnectivity culturally, ecologically, biologically, socially, physically and mind-wise today and well in future.
It must be education for change as well, not backwards but forwards. If education can build communities for change and communities of change, then we cannot practically and collectively experience development, transformation and progress rather than as individuals, if we agree that individuals exist (in biology and ecology, individuals do not really exist).
Meaningful and effective education is for holistic change and experience. Unfortunately, this is not the case because education has been bracketed in numerous small pockets of knowledge with rigid walls through which cross-communication is impossible. So, whole human beings are difficult to teach and produce with capacity to grasp issues, problems and situations in their entirely and provide solutions that help to create and innovate.
infed.org defines teaching as “the process of attending to people’s needs, experiences and feelings, and intervening so that they learn particular things, and go beyond the given”. This definition allows for community education as well and for education outside schools, universities and other institutions
Jesus Christ taught without any need for formal institutions. Any place was good enough for him to teach and impact people with the Word of God, although in some instances anti-Christs chased him away, preferring ignorance of the Word.
The ancient Greek philosophers (men of knowledge) such as Socrates, who taught long before the advent of Jesus Christ) did their knowledge work with no need to institutionalize it. The Socratic Method of teaching has remained influencial to-date. Their teaching was effective in the sense that learners, and by extension society, benefitted immensely and passed the knowledge on to future generations. We still value the knowledge they generated and passed on, especially the critical thinking involved.
The infed.org on the other hand defines education as the practice implemented by a teacher aimed at transmitting skills (knowledge, know-how and interpersonal skills) to a learner. It seems to imply that education outside these institutions is non-education yet most education is outside these institutions.
By extension it embraces the view that teaching as a profession and training as a practice cannot occur outside the school, university or other institutions. So much teaching, learning and hence education, occurs outside institutions designated as educational institutions.
For example, traditional or indigenous societies in Africa have since time immemorial produced and had its teachers producing professionals in medicine, art, music, dance, drama, pottery, etc. It was colonialism that destroyed indigenous education and replaced it with school or university-based education. Nevertheless, there is still room for extra-school or extra-university education and for interaction between school and university education and indigenous knowledge systems. This is being exploited via the stakeholder teaching and learning enterprise that involves all across the board.
The question, however, remains, does one need a degree to teach and teach well enough for learners to benefit and excel? Jesus stands out as the greatest of the greatest of teachers who never had a formal degree in what he taught. Famous Italian scientist, Galileo Galilee made his discoveries, including the one that it was not the Sun that went round the Moon but the Moon that went round the Sun, when he had no formal degree.
He was chased from his medical programme when he was in his first year of study because he questioned his professors’ way of teaching by reciting archaic writings of ancient philosophers, without any questioning He cut classes to do his private experiments in physics instead. He even became a Professor of Physics in a renowned University without a university degree and went on to supervise students to acquire their PHDs.
The writer (Prof. Oweyegha Afunaduula) is a retired university lecturer and environmentalist.