Toward a Reconstructionist Philosophy of Missiological Education in Francophone Africa
Case of DR Congo
Research Paper (undergraduate) 2012 19 Pages
Table of Contents
Definition of Education
Definition and Purpose of Educational Philosophy
Exploring the Five Major Philosophies of Education
The Debate on Missiological Education
Toward a Reconstructionist Philosophy of Missiological Education
Conclusion: New Perspective
Alexander M. Sidorkin (2011) asserts: “Educational reforms in developed countries are not successful, because we do not have a clear understanding of what is education” (p.521). Sidorkin’s assertion can be generalized and applied to several contexts in Africa. The assertion unambiguously explains both the purpose and the rationale of the present paper. In fact, educational philosophy is the first course I select and design for my doctoral studies in educational administration at Atlantic International University. The conviction is that in order to contribute to the ongoing educational reform process in my country, the stakeholders need to understand not only what is education, but also what is and what should be the prevailing educational philosophy.
The purpose of this paper is then to explore five major philosophical schools in their effort to promote specific vision of education, and to apply some findings to the context of my country, the Democratic Republic of Congo, using missiological education as case study.
Missiological education is an emerging discipline still working to define itself and the challenges it faces. In this paper, it is to be understood as studies about the mission God imparted to the church. Given its correlation with God’s mission (missio Dei), the mission of the church (missio ecclesiae) is global, going from and to the whole earth (oikumene). It also concerns the whole human being (holistic/wholistic), taking into account physical, psychological, and spiritual felt needs. If education allows learners to transform their society and themselves (Sidorkin, 2011, p. 524), how can missiological students transform their churches by making them both “mission-minded congregations” and “in-mission communities”? What kind of missiological education will cause students to engage their churches in missio Dei and to transform themselves? These questions cry out for scholarship on learning theory, pedagogies/andragogies, and methodologies as they relate to the discipline of missiology. Without doubt, the study of educational philosophies will shed new light.
There are many educational philosophies which most often overlap and lead ineluctably to confusion. In general, the major educational philosophies of education include idealism, realism, pragmatism, existentialism, and reconstructionism.
As Robin Barrow (2010, p. 21) warns, there are several ways of approaching educational philosophies: studying, in their historical order, prominent philosophers of education (e.g., Plato, Rousseau); examining in philosophical manner prominent thinkers whether philosophers or not (e.g., Pestalozzi, Freire); analyzing branches of philosophy and their implication for education (e.g., moral philosophy and moral education, philosophy of science and science teaching); focusing more on specific contemporary educational issues that give rise to the philosophical questions (e.g., Is a policy of inclusion educationally desirable? Is it morally required? What is the relationship between a moral and an educational imperative?).
As far as this paper is concerned, the concentration is on the specific temporary educational issues and their philosophical questions. Therefore, the starting point is to explore the prevailing educational philosophies and to highlight how they influence the educational system. In doing so, one will be able to set the ground not only for the assessment of the prevailing educational philosophy (or philosophies), but also for the transformation of the society through education. The practical objective of such an examination is to set path for the renewal of educational system.
Speaking of the reform initiatives observed throughout Africa in higher education, Tade Akin Aina states that the importance should be given to “gender equity, changes in the organization and process of knowledge production, and a re-envisioning of universities' funding sources and mechanisms” (2010, p.21). Many authors have documented the fact that reform initiatives in higher education in Africa were due to several elements, including “outdated and often irrelevant pedagogical modes and curricula” (Aina 2010, p.29). Aina is right that in some cases universities have, unfortunately, been “the arenas of struggle for and against the changes” (36). The present paper is more interested in the process of knowledge production, pedagogical modes and curricula as they relate to missiological studies at tertiary level. Undoubtedly, educational philosophy conditions both the organization of the education system and the production of knowledge.
As Gary J. Conti suggests, one way for adult educators to understand what they do in regard the teaching-learning process is to first of all “become aware of their educational philosophies” (2007, p.19). Gary was actually referring to the work done by J. L Elias and S. Merriam on “philosophical foundation of adult education” where they argued that “true professionals know not only what they are to do, but also are aware of the principles and reasons for acting” knowing that “the person must be also able to reflect deeply upon the experience he or she has had” (Conti, 19). For sure, educational process should help both teacher and learner figure out the whole picture of the teaching-learning process, a process which should end up with clear outcomes. The clearer the educational philosophy is the most effective the educational outcomes become.
Missiological education aligns itself with the above educational principle. Missiological educational philosophy will set the path to a fruitful teaching-learning outcome. If missiology is the study of the mission God has imparted to the church, how does missiological education prepare adult learners to not only make their churches “mission-minded congregations”, but also “in-mission communities”? It is one thing to be a congregation with mission mindset, but it is another to become a community which actually involves in global and holistic missions. In the Democratic Republic of Congo, despite the existence of many theological institutions which have trained many ministers, churches are less “in-mission communities.” They don’t really engage themselves in global mission in an organized and responsible way. Study on educational philosophy can shed new light on the ongoing conversation about the educational reform.
The following analysis briefly and selectively reviews what has been said on the definition of education, educational philosophy, and the five major philosophies of education.
Definition of education
According to Sidorkin, education “is a set of methods to make learning more efficient, faster, and more focused than it is would have occurred naturally, [a] learning that is enhanced, organized, and structured.” (2011, p. 523). For Betty Reardon, education is “that process by which we learn new ways of thinking and behaving, a very significant component of the transition-transformation processes, [the] process by which we glimpse what might be and what we ourselves can become.” From these definitions, one can picture education as a transformative process by which the learner and his/her community are affected for the best. Unfortunately, the experience has shown that the existing educational efforts have not always succeeded. That is why the concept of “outcomes-based education” has emerged. According to Spady (cited by Jim Gleeson, 2011, p.1), “Outcomes-Based Education means clearly focusing and organizing everything in an educational system around what is essential for all students to be able to do successfully at the end of their learning experiences.”
Tiffany Puett (2005, p. 263) thinks that traditional methods of education have not typically aimed to affect constructive social change due to the fact that they tend to promote assimilation rather than transformation. Only the intellectual needs of students, rather than the emotional and spiritual dimensions are stressed. In many locations in Africa, transformative education seems not to occupy the essential place. A holistic approach suggested by Puett would be an alternative to current educational system. Education must be a tool of transformation, but not of mere assimilation.