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Nation of people who are mostly located in the Midwestern part of Nigeria, Western Africa.
Excellence in Education and Culture for the New Millennium
Chief Oje Aisiku, PhD
Professor of Education and Coordinator,
Graduate Secondary Education Programs
Worcester State College, Worcester, MA
A Keynote Speech presented at the 14th Annual Convention of Edo National Association in the Americas, Inc.
Wyndham Hotel and Resorts, Elizabeth New Jersey
September 3, 2005
EXCELLENCE IN EDUCATION AND CULTURE FOR THE NEW MILLENNIUM
I want to thank the organizers and hosts of this year�s convention � the New Jersey chapter of the Edo National Association (ENA) for the invitation accorded me to serve as one of the keynote speakers. I must commend the chapter for their choice on the convention theme: �Excellence in Education and Culture for the New Millennium� realizing that our state (Edo State) is universally known for its reputation and eminence in the twin areas of education and culture. However, I must hasten to add that allotting me thirty minutes to speak on this inherently broad theme, is daunting and challenging, more so that the expectation is that I explore and present in this thirty minute speech, ways of promoting excellence in both education and culture in this new millennium. The new millennium, one might add, is itself, becoming most complicated and complex for humankind. Thus, I have taken as my first endeavor this morning, the arduous task of giving borders to this seamless topic of endless elasticity in scope and coverage. To this end, I will begin the paper by defining each of the three controlling (key) concepts in the convention theme: excellence, education, and culture. Before attempting to define these concepts, it is important to note that these are terms very often bandied around by many in and outside the field of education, terms that evoke many different, and often times, poorly articulated meanings and interpretations. This is why I have elected to devote a substantial initial part of this paper to presenting for special consideration, the pragmatic (meaning-in use) definitions of each of the three concepts, instead of simply restating their putative definitions.
Definition of the Controlling (key) concepts:
i. Excellence. Excellence is a quality of being, a virtue, superior accomplishment or achievement, outstanding value. It is a quality of eminent goodness, second to none � first class value! Thus, excellence as used in this convention theme is both a state of being, and a quality that should guide our quest for education and cultural milieu.
ii. Education. Education presents a unique difficulty to define because of its pervasiveness in use and connotation. That is, education is a concept used by many people without carefully considering its meaning and essence. In fact, most people, perhaps including many of you in this hall, could claim to know much about education simply by virtue of having had some schooling or because they use or have heard the term used in everyday discourse. Therefore, the first observation to make when it comes to defining education is that education is not synonymous with schooling. It is a concept that is studied � a Field of Study, a Discipline; it is a Process that is undergone, a Product, and a Profession of people with expert knowledge in the discipline. Thus, writing on a theme which has education as one of its key concepts, it is important that, at the very least, we first clarify what we mean by the term, education. We should distinguish between its ordinary meaning in everyday discourse and its technical meaning � scholastic and disciplined usage. It is important to differentiate between formal and informal education.
In its ordinary, commonplace use, education is defined simply as living, to bring forth; it is equated with socialization and enculturalization. This view of education is not only unacceptable, it is inherently misleading, vague and barren in insights and clarity of meaning. We in the discipline of education are more concerned with formal education; education that is taught, not caught (Fafunwa and Aisiku, 1981). Accordingly, I present for our consideration in this paper, D. Bob Gowin�s definition of education as � ---the deliberate intervention in the lives of humans using materials selected in accordance with some criteria of excellence� (Gowin, 1981, p.35 __)
Education in this definition has Product, Process and Human components. Product in education parlance is the envisaged ends stipulated in the curriculum � the material thing, the content, that must be carefully selected and designed in ways that promise excellence. The process component is the means, the strategy � instructional delivery system embodied in the intervention feature in Gowin�s definition. It�s typically done by a professional with specialized expert know-how. Finally, the human component explicitly suggests that we educate humans, the only species that have infinite capacity to know, i.e., learners.
The three elements dynamically interact; they constitute the interwoven web of variables that give vitality and meaning to educational excellence.
A careful analysis of the triad of elements reveals the following compelling pedagogical concomitants which must be addressed to achieve excellence in education:
1. Curriculum Augmentation. This involves introducing into the general curriculum, differentiated educational materials through compacting, textbook modification, and enrichment activities. It demands replacing traditional content with in-depth learning experiences, group jumping strategies,and providing opportunities for learners to pursue individual interests.
2. Altering curriculum. This means teaching content that enables students to engage in and apply critical thinking activities and skills typically left out in general education classrooms.
3. Problem Based Learning (PBL) Curriculum development and delivery systems that permit the development of problem solving skills as well as the acquisition of general knowledge.
4. Acquiring advanced level understanding of the content and process that are used within particular disciplines.
5. Exploring authentic scenarios and contexts for school learnings in ways that promote not just replication, but association, interpretation, and application.
6. Developing self-directed learning skills that foster how to learn.
7. Empowering the individual to take control of his/her learning through organization and feeling of accomplishment.
8. Putting web quest to work in the design and implementation of the general curriculum.
(Adapted from Rud Turnbull, et al, 2004, p. 212)
iii. Culture. This third controlling concept in the convention theme, like the first two, lacks precise definition. It presents its own unique complexity, particularly when examined in the context of education. This is because culture is viewed primarily as symbols and meanings invented or created by humans, fostered and perpetuated through education.
Sir. E. B. Taylor defines culture as �--- that complex whole which includes knowledge, belief, art, moral, law, custom, and any other capabilities and habits acquired by man as a member of society� (Taylor, 1871, p. 1). A more contemporary definition that seems to have relative agreement among most social scientists is the one reported by Alfred L. Kroeber, and Clyde Kluckhohn. As they reported, �culture consists of patterns, explicit and implicit, of and for behavior acquired and transmitted by symbols, constituting the distinctive achievement of human groups, including their embodiments in artifacts; the essential core of culture consists of traditional (i.e. historically derived and selected) ideas and especially attached value� (Kroeber and Kluchkhohn, 1952, p. 161)
Two main characteristics of culture are worth highlighting given the thrust of the definitions presented above:
- culture as dynamic, complex and changing; and
- culture as systems that must be viewed as wholes, not as discrete and isolated parts
These characteristics and the element of �acquired distinctive achievements of human groups� stipulated in one of the definitions of culture presented above, permit one to pursue two inter-related lines of analysis: how culture come into being in terms of its shared elements, and the membership of groups that share the identified cultural elements. The ultimate upshot of such analysis is the relationship among human groups that could lead one to mapping out a system of cultural groups intersection � one group constituting a macro culture having within it a number of micro cultures.
Toward a Theory of Macro � Micro Edo cultures.
It is my position that there are identifiable cultural elements shared by all people of Edo ancestry � acquired patterns of behavior, customs, beliefs, capabilities and habits, traditional ideas, values, morals, rites, languages, etc. These shared elements common to all Edo people regardless of their present locations, constitute what I like to refer to in this paper as the Macro Edo Culture. My claim is that variations of the macro culture that exist today as micro cultures are mere consequences of migration, location, and environmental circumstances. In fact some anthropologists explain cultural variation entirely in terms of survival instincts and practices of sub ethnicities. Bullivant (1984) views culture as �a survival strategy --- subject to the circumstances (environment) in which a human group finds itself.�
The Ora people in Owan West Local Government Area,as a unit or subgroup, presents a good example to illustrate micro cultural variation of a common Edo macro culture. History has it that Ora people are off springs of Prince Okpame who left the Benin Kingdom as a youth and returned to reign in the Kingdom as Oba Ozolua the conqueror (1481 � 1504). Thus, the culture that emerges today among the Ora people are derivative and variation brought about by the people�s survival strategy and response to the environmental circumstance of their location outside the immediate Benin-City environ of the kingdom. They (the Oras) like most other peoples of Edo State, share same ancestry, though with some notable differences in the history of migration, location and circumstances of each subgroup.
In essence, one can explain the Edo human group as macro culture which has within it, overarching values, symbols, beliefs, traditions and norms, shared to some degree, by all its subcultures or subgroups of micro cultures: Akoko-Edo, Esan, Esakon, Ora, and not to forget, the Edo people in the immediate Benin-City environ. As noted earlier, all Edo people have same ancestry and same heritage. Hence one is able to claim, confidently, the existence of a common macro Edo culture. Admittedly, over time, as groups began to migrate, they began to respond to special geo-social and metaphysical environments (to use Bullivant�s terms). Cultural elements, including dialect as version of Edo language, unique to each migrating group, began to evolve as each group mediate, interpret and reinterpret, perceive and experience the circumstances of their new environment. This explains the subtle differences we see among the many Edo dialects of the sub-Edo ethnics. I will elaborate upon this subject of dialect in my recommendation on language later in the paper.
To summarize this section of my presentation, I like to submit unequivocally, that we must acknowledge our one-ness as a people of shared historical ancestry, we also need to accept the challenge of extracting common cultural elements in our macro Edo culture and to take that challenge seriously as we plan our school curriculum in the welcome pursuit of excellence in education and culture. This challenge becomes the in-road to one of the two basic recommendations I intend to focus on in the remaining part of this paper.
Recommendations and Discussion:
Given the foregoing definitions and analysis of the terms, excellence, education, and culture � the controlling concepts in this year�s convention theme, I conclude by presenting for our collective consideration and immediate action, the following two broad recommendations. Each recommendation, consisting of specific benchmarks, is to provoke and guide our immediate follow-up action plan.
Extracting and delineating a common Edo culture as the primary focus of curriculum alignment and augmentation in the state school system.
This recommendation can be achieved by infusing elements and components of the identified common Edo culture into what we in education call �plug-in� curriculum modules. These modules are intended to permeate subject offerings, not a concentration in a single subject. Plug-in curriculum approach is interdisciplinary, integrated and thematic.
It takes creative curriculum planning to implement this recommendation and requires strong interest and commitment on the part of the government. I present my services, in all modesty, as a curriculum expert, to train officials of the state Ministry of Education, drawing upon facilities and expertise that I know exist in our State University � Ambrose Alli University, Ekpoma. I believe that I speak for ENA, and certainly for Edo Okpamakhin in the pledge to assist the state government in exploring measures (such as what I am recommending in this paper) designed to promote excellence in education and culture. In addition to donating books, computers, and the likes, we should offer our professional services to train appropriate staff in the state Ministry of Education, who would ensure that our teachers have the critically needed pedagogical knowledge to augment the curriculum and teach our students the skills to live effectively in this multi-media technology and information explosive millennium.
Designation of a common Edo language to be taught in all schools in the state at communication proficiency level.
This can be a high school graduation requirement and for awarding state financial benefits (such as scholarships) in tertiary institutions.
I�ll digress briefly to share with you all that Edo Okpamakhin USA, came into existence following a paper delivered by our eminent father, Chief Anthony Enahoro, at the 1997 Atlanta Convention of this great body, ENA. In pursuance of one of the charges in Chief Enahoro�s paper, Edo Okpamakhin made the development and teaching of a common Edo language, one of its cardinal ventures. I call on every one in this hall to come on board because a common Edo language is critical to our cultural preservation and educational excellence.
A not-too-well known fact about Edo state in the context of our common macro culture is that Edo is multi-dialectical not necessarily multi-lingual. I recognize that I might be delving into an area in which I have no expertise, but I make these observations knowing the intricate link between language and culture.
I say that Edo is multi-dialectical, because there is a difference between being bi-dialectical and being bi-lingual. According to Ricardo Garcia (in Banks, 2001) bilingualism is the ability to speak with distinctively different language systems while bidialectism is the ability to speak with different versions of the same language. Ora, Esan, and Esakon dialects, to a large extent, are versions of the same language system. They are not different languages but dialects of an Edo language. I challenge the language scholars among us, to identify or evolve that one Edo language which others will be versions (dialects) of.
Those who may not want to take this recommendation seriously should note that a common language acts as ethno-cultural and political unification agent, as well as a communication agent that fosters unity and understanding. The Igbos, Yorubas, and Hausa-Fulani, for example, have this common language advantage over us. The political emancipation of Edo People into a virile united force in the Nigerian geo-socio-political system is intricately dependent upon how seriously our government, our politicians, concerned groups, such as ENA, Edo Okpamakhin, Edo Professionals, etc. take up this recommendation for immediate implementation.
As noted earlier, I do not claim to be an expert in language, but I am one in Education; Curriculum Theory and Development, in particular. I know how to link culture,ethnicity, and language, appreciating the fact that:
� Language is the medium through which ethnicity is transmitted and cultural identify is formed
� Ethnicity and language intertwine: language is the medium and ethnicity is the message
� Language serves as a mirror of ethnicity and culture, reflecting a person�s values, beliefs, and attitudes
� Culture impacts language, in particular, its vocabulary items in emergent dialects in significant ways
� Fundamental goal of language acquisitions is communicative competence
� The ideal goal of language acquisition is literacy
(Derived from Garcia in Banks, 2001)
In essence, through a common Edo language, we can have a stronger sense of identity and Edo cultural sensitivity � this becomes an educational value statement translated into curriculum goals and content. This is how education serves as the tag that links culture, ethnicity, and language to achieve cultural excellence as the crown virtue of the educated man.
I would like to end this presentation with the practical question: how do we measure excellence in education and culture in the new millennium in terms of producing a well educated Edo person, as product of our school system. In other words, who is the well educated, well cultured Edo person? I submit the following as desirable characteristics of the well educated and well cultured persons. The well educated, well cultured Edo person should demonstrate:
1. Complete literacy in the English language and proficiency in a common Edo language while preserving own home language (this demands incorporating linguistic diversity into curriculum materials).
2. Proficiency in solving problems and thinking critically (Emphasis in instructional delivery should be on how to think, not what to think).
3. Fully developed sense of self respect and insight into one�s own uniqueness, interests, and capabilities.
4. Capacity for creative _expression and aesthetic judgment.
5. Habits conducive to good health, physical fitness, and personal safety (against the prevalence of HIV/AIDS and other sexually transmitted diseases).
6. Self-Discipline to combat corruption and nepotism; and to uphold sound ethical judgment in personal, social and political life.
7. Understanding and appreciation of one�s own micro culture, balanced with acceptance of, and respect for, the macro Edo culture.
8. Ability to fulfill obligations of a citizen of democracy, including participating in and contribution to the integrity of the electoral system.
9. Concern for and protecting public health, property and SAFETY.
10. Ability to make informed decisions concerning the environment.
11. Interest in continuing learning (as the saying goes, a person stops living when he/she stops learning).
12. Awareness of career options and training opportunities for possible self employment.
13. Familiarity with the electronic information systems.
14. Ability to use modern multimedia technology, including computers, the internet, web quest, etc.
(Derived and Adapted from Posner, 2004, p. 76)
Finally, the self reflection quiz attached to this paper is intended to permit you to rank yourself in the scale of competence concerning the well educated well-cultured Edo person. How you fare in terms of your score in the quiz determines the degree of your excellence in education and culture in this new millennium.
Thank you for inviting me, and thank you all for listening. God bless Edo State, God guide our executive governor, Chief Nosakhare Igbinedion.
Fafunwa, A. Babs. And Aisiku, J.U. (1981) Education in Africa: A Comparative Survey. London; George Allen and Unwin
Gowin. D. Bob (1981) Educating. Ithaca, NY; Cornell University Press
Aisiku, J. U. (1987) Perspectives on Curriculum and Instruction. New York, NY; Civiletis International.
Banks, James A. (2001) Cultural Diversity and Education: Foundations, Curriculum, and Teaching. Boston; Allyn and Bacon
Posner, George J. (2004) Analyzing the Curriculum. Boston; McGraw Hill
Turnbull, Rud (et al) (2004) Exceptional Lives � Special Education in Today�s School. New Jersey; Merrill Prentice Hall
Self Reflection Quiz on the Well Educated, Well Cultured Edo Person
(Score yourself on a scale of 1 to 5 on each of the following)
Desirable Benchmarks Levels of Competence
1. Complete literacy in English language 1 2 3 4 5
2. Proficiency in an Edo dialect other that own dialect 1 2 3 4 5
3. Proficiency in own home dialect 1 2 3 4 5
4. Perpetuating Edo culture and �language� in home (with
family members) 1 2 3 4 5
5. Sense of self respect 1 2 3 4 5
6. Habits conducive to good health and physical fitness 1 2 3 4 5
7. Capacity for creative _expression in songs & dances 1 2 3 4 5
8. Self discipline (e.g. Moderation in food & drink, punctuality
in events and appointments 1 2 3 4 5
9. Knowledge and appreciation of own micro culture
BALANCED with acceptance of, and respect for
the macro culture 1 2 3 4 5
10.Ability to fulfill obligations of a citizen of a democracy 1 2 3 4 5
11.Concern for protecting public health, property and safety 1 2 3 4 5
12.Ability to make informed decisions concerning
the environment (including good sanitation habits) 1 2 3 4 5
13.Interest in continuing learning 1 2 3 4 5
14.Interest and membership in Edo ethnic associations 1 2 3 4 5
15.Familiarity with contemporary events reported in the media 1 2 3 4 5
16.Knowledge of the administrative structure of the
state (LGAs) 1 2 3 4 5
17.Familiarity with the ancient history of the state
(prominent persons and events. 1 2 3 4 5
18.Familiarity with the electronic information systems 1 2 3 4 5
19.Ability to use modern multimedia technology 1 2 3 4 5
20.Attendance at 1, 2, 3, 4, or 5+ ENA national conventions 1 2 3 4 5
20 � 39 Points Need Help
40 � 59 Points Try Harder, Capable of Redemption
60 � 79 Points Need Improvement
80 � 89 Points Almost There
90 � 100 Points Exceptionally well educated and well cultured
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