AMH is an independent media house free from political ties or outside influence. We have four newspapers: The Zimbabwe Independent, a business weekly published every Friday, The Standard, a weekly published every Sunday, and Southern and NewsDay, our daily newspapers. Each has an online edition.

  • Marketing
  • Digital Marketing Manager: tmutambara@alphamedia.co.zw
  • Tel: (04) 771722/3
  • Online Advertising
  • Digital@alphamedia.co.zw
  • Web Development
  • jmanyenyere@alphamedia.co.zw

Going ballistic over holistic

The curriculum we offer must be broad as it reaches all parts of the person – it must encapsulate not simply the academic but also the sporting, cultural, social and spiritual.

The 1964 film ‘Mary Poppins’ may have gained a record thirteen Academy Award nominations and won five (Best ActressBest Film EditingBest Original Music ScoreBest Visual Effects, and Best Original Song) but it is perhaps remembered for something different. The song “Chim Chim Cher-ee” may have been the best original song but another song may well be remembered more as it introduced a new word to the English language –—‘Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious’. It is now seen to mean something extraordinarily good and wonderful, while the only reason it is probably not used a lot in writing is that it is so hard to spell! It is entirely memorable though.

A variation of it which arrived in 2000 is equally, if not more, memorable but it was not found in a Walt Disney film but in a Scottish newspaper headline. In a cup competition, Celtic, which was a hugely successful soccer club, played a relatively new and lowly club by the name of Inverness Caledonian Thistle (affectionately known as Caley Thistle) and were obvious favourites to win easily – yet they were at the centre of one of the greatest shock results when they lost 1-3, which inspired the Sun newspaper headline writer to declare “Super Caley Go Ballistic, Celtic Are Atrocious”.

In this article we are obviously more concerned about education but the point here is not to say that CALAs are “fragilistic” or that we should necessarily go “ballistic” (“extremely and usually suddenly excited, upset or angry”) about it. However, we do wish to highlight another “-istic” as being of central importance in education. Education must be holistic; it must encompass the whole person, not simply the mind. ‘Holistic’ can be summarised in two words – broad and balanced.

The curriculum we offer must be broad as it reaches all parts of the person – it must encapsulate not simply the academic but also the sporting, cultural, social and spiritual. The education we offer must involve all the pupils in all aspects of the child’s life. It must be an all-round education, holistic, and should also offer a wide range of different subjects, different sports, different clubs and different experiences. We proclaim the value and importance of diversity, of colours, of the wide range of beauty, yet we often try to limit the education of our children to a monochrome existence and education. There has to be variety, just as any sports team has a variety of positions. As Aristotle pointed out, “the whole is greater than the sum of the parts” and the whole person is always going to be more valued than one with only one single part. Education must be broad.

However, it is absolutely crucial, before we begin to think we have ‘cracked’ it, to note that such a holistic education must be not only broad but also balanced. A father once commented to his son who was desperate to beat the old man at golf, and who tried to show his prowess and strength with long drives, that “it’s no good being long if you can’t be straight”; in a similar way, we must understand that “it’s no good being broad if you can’t be balanced”. There must be balance in the different parts of our education; the different parts complement each other. We must not be too fast or too slow, not too much or too little, not too soon or late, not too hard or easy, not too obvious or obscure. With all the breadth of our education, we must keep a balance to it.

So, in academics we look for the balance of Critical Thinking, Creativity, Communication, Collaboration, Character; in social we must balance leadership, responsibility, service, respect, ubuntu. In spiritual we must ensure there is balance between the eternal, emotional, relational, personal and practical; in cultural there must be practical, commercial, lateral, personal, intentional. And in sport, let us ensure there is the balance of fun, friends, fitness, forever and values. Riding a bicycle is all about balance and we know that once we have ridden a bike, we can always go back and do it. It is time we enable our children to ride the educational bicycle with such ease to go far.

If we do not make education positively, deliberately, deeply, consistently, powerfully holistic, our children will have every reason to go ballistic, not least as they will become fragilistic and unstable, like anything that is unbalanced and thin. Indeed, we may well conclude that the education we offer is either holistic or hell-istic. Where are we taking education? Are we facing another shock atrocious result here, that will be memorable for all the wrong reasons? What will be the headline then?

  • Tim Middleton is the executive director of the Association of Trust Schools [ATS]. The views expressed in this article, however, are solely those of the author in his private capacity and do not necessarily represent the views of the ATS.
  • Email: tim@atszim.org website:  atszim.org

Related Topics