By Janet Kaback - Newark Public Schools, USA
In the past, the role of the teacher was the keeper of knowledge who was considered all-knowing, who would deign to deposit some of this knowledge into the minds of his/her students. This role fit in well with society after the Industrial Revolution. The vast majority of students did not pursue higher education and were trained to work in factories where they were responsible for a certain job. The industries needed laborers, not thinkers.
However, in today's world, the ability to acquire and utilize knowledge and to apply it in various situations is the goal of the modern societies. The global economy, international travel, and the internet, shrink the world's differences as we move to develop a fast-paced, technological society. No longer do the advanced countries seek to produce quantities of laborers, rather, we need the technological knowledge and the ability to think and problem-solve that schools must now produce.
Therefore, the role of the teacher needs to change in order to produce students who are able to think, plan, and act on their knowledge. As one teacher said, "Students have to learn to discriminate between useful knowledge and less useful knowledge and decide on their own language learning priorities."
Advanced societies must change the way the schools teach to produce the citizens who will understand how to act, and how to activate in the 21st century. This includes teaching students how to seek out their own knowledge and how to discriminate between useful and extraneous information in the pursuit of a goal. It does not only come into play with language learning, but must be considered within all disciplines. Just holding a diploma with the knowledge that one was supposed to acquire doesn't cut it in today's world...using that knowledge in the correct manner and form to surge ahead in the changing world is what is needed.