The level of dynamism of today is such that it is very difficult to keep up with changes in our environment. Globalisation and the introduction of technology to the very minute details of our everyday lives means that the world is becoming more complicated in such a way that people could very easily be left behind if they are not ahead of new and innovative developments.
These developments inevitably affect education. Education today is not the same as it was fifty years ago; and if we are honest with ourselves, it really isn’t the same as it was even just about five years ago. The evolving socio-economic conditions of the world demand an equal adjustment to the way we approach the education and development of our children, otherwise they may be affected by exposure to certain environments that they may not be fully equipped for.
Many of us may agree that parenting and raising children was very different in the pre-millennial era where the authoritarian method was the prevailing approach. Today’s approach to parenting has evolved into so many other methods, and those of the middle-upper class of our society these days harbour close attention to the affairs of children. This has it pros and cons. Notwithstanding them it is very important to ponder over many factors that influence parenting in the 21st century as things have inevitably changed in the world and even within our local context. It would be difficult not to struggle if we do not pay close attention and take whatever necessary action we need to in order to keep up with the times.
Generation X (those born around the 60s/70s) and some millenials (those born around the 80s/90s) in an average stable Nigerian home would recall many elements of simplicity in their upbringing where the typical routine for a child was: wake up, have breakfast, go to school, return home, have lunch (interchangeable with returning home depending on the school programme), play for a while, do homework, have dinner, sleep…. repeat and then on weekends, play, play and PLAY. Even though this routine is somewhat similar to what children of today undergo, if we take each element of it, we would notice that the way we do things has changed to a large extent. Simplicity would not always suffice.
It would be difficult not to struggle if we do not pay close attention and take whatever necessary action we need to in order to keep up with the times.
So what makes the difference?
Technological, economical and social shifts (amongst others), individually and together, have influenced our environment such that we have to continuously adapt to a new way of doing things.
We live in a global environment where the influence of technology has really taken a huge role in everyday tasks. Technology is gradually becoming the foundation of everyday activities from waking up in the morning, to exercising to banking. Even the way that we communicate and consume information is not the same as it used to be.
It is also important to remember that children of the current generation are digital natives, so they do not even understand the concept of a world without technology. Therefore teaching and interacting with them also has to move in line with this, especially if we are trying to raise them to stand out amongst their peers (especially those in the developing and developed world). What makes it challenging is that the teachers and parents of these “advanced” children are digital converts, so they really have to ensure that they catch up with or even get ahead of the children in terms of technological skills and implementation.
In the recent years, the Nigerian economy has experienced some hardship, with the price of oil plummeting, foreign exchange rising and inflation rates also rising. Unemployment has been looming around and entrepreneurs are suffering because the business environment is not particularly encouraging. This has therefore had many effects on the disposable income and lifestyles of Nigerians. The traditional concept of men going to work and women staying at home to take care of the children is nearing extinction because even when women are not willing to, they have to work and earn a salary in order to support their homes. One income earner in most households is not enough. This has led to many difficulties with taking care of children as parents now spend many hours at work and are left with little or no time to spend with their children. It takes great effort and commitment to break out of this mould and dedicate enough time to grooming children.
Our social environment has also evolved. Inevitably, technology has a great impact on this area. As a result of the various media through which we consume information (social media, the internet, television etc), I think that children now have access to vast amounts of information that directly impacts their behaviour and interactions with people around them. The caution with this is that there might be a conflict between the information that they consume and reality. So they have a very broad perception of the world. However, when they actually find themselves in real life situations, they might struggle even when interacting with people because they are consuming all these various media within the confines of their little social bubbles and this for some is literally their own bedrooms (because consuming media today can be done on a mobile phone whilst lying down on your bed). They do not actually go out into the world physically to live these experiences that they see on their television and phone screens. I think that some effort should be made to get children away from these screens and have them interact with it other physically, so that they build stronger physical connections with people.
As much as these various environmental factors pose some difficulty in the way that we bring up our children today, I think that, as educators, adults and mentors, we should try to make an effort to help groom children around us the best ways we can whilst being conscious of applying a good balance of traditional and contemporary methods.