Teachers, due to the increased amount of time they spend with their students, gradually become parents and caretakers of the students in their own right. This means that they assume responsibility for the physiological and psychological development of their students (Boaler, 2009, pp. 14-16). This development encompasses spiritual, moral, social, intellectual, and cultural aspects and every teacher, through his or her subject, is responsible for contributing to the growth of his/her students in these aspects. The subjects selected for this paper are Literacy and Numeracy and these subjects are targeted towards students aged six and seven under the K-2 educational standard. This paper will present how these subjects contribute to the spiritual, intellectual, moral, social and cultural development of pupils.
Spiritual development of Students
The consensus in educational circles seems to be that it is impossible to extract spirituality from numeracy, as numeracy is primarily the study and explanation of simple numerical problems. However, mathematics and spirituality actually interconnect quite well together. This is because spirituality, at its core, is the embodiment of contentment and satisfaction with the surrounding world. It is the quest to find meaning in existence and to ascertain how one fits into the workings of the complex and intricate universe. Numeracy too, at its heart, is the quest to find meaning to different numerical situations. Through the processes of equating and comparing, numeracy parallels spirituality in its attempts to find solutions and meanings to various arithmetic conundrums (Boaler, 2009, pp. 14-16). The balance sought through spirituality parallels the arithmetic quests to find balance in numeracy. Therefore, numeracy and spirituality are highly interrelated to each other.
While textbooks seldom make this relation between spirituality and numeracy clear, the class lectures highlight this linkage between spirituality and numeracy to the students quite clearly. Students are explicitly communicated this linkage of the two subjects at the start of each unique chapter. Then, as numerical exercises of each chapter are completed in a chronological manner, the linkage of mathematical operators to spirituality is explained side by side concurrently (Clarke, 2008, pp. 32-34). This is done to convey the different parallels between the two subjects as they occur chronologically in the course. In addition, the influence of the Buddha on mathematics is also conveyed to students in an easily comprehensible manner. This additional information is used to foster an inquisitive attitude amongst the students about the vast forays of mathematics into the teachings and practices of Buddha and how the Buddha used mathematics to attain spiritual enlightenment.
In the case of literacy, spirituality is developed within the students through a variety of ways. First, a number of books and texts are selected each year that have a significant underlying spiritual tone. These texts are read aloud to the students, are read by the students themselves in a compartmentalized manner or are assigned to the students as homework readings. One of the most popular topics of such texts is environmental protection and the prospects of investing in the environment that helps human beings achieve oneness with nature. Students are also conveyed the negative effects of pollution and the way this rampant pollution severs our connection with Earth while simultaneously destroying our future generation’s prospects of healthy living (Hall, 2003, p. 44). Another popular spiritual topic that is frequently disseminated amongst the students is the benefits of spending time outdoors. Through this topic, children are taught to spend less time on electronics and use the saved time to explore nearby woods, nature reserves and zoos. Several exercises are designed around this topic, which involve student trips to national parks and nature reserves. A slew of additional outdoor activities are also arranged to bring the children closer to nature and to promote tranquillity and peace within their minds. This would aid them considerably in the future when their lives would become more monotonous and stressful. By focusing on both theoretical and practical aspects of the course in Literacy, students are not only encouraged to learn a valuable lesson but are also inspired to change their lives for the better.
Intellectual development of Students
Since the K-2 level of Literacy deals with children aged between six and seven, there is much to contribute to the intellectual development of children through this subject. Elementary school children require considerable input and support at this stage to aid their intellectual development because they are the most vulnerable at this age (Hodgkinson and Mercer, 2008, pp. 31-40). Through Literacy, they are not only introduced to words that are newer and more complex to them but they are also aided in understanding sentences with increasingly complex structure and syntax. This ability of understanding complex sentences prepares them for positively embracing the next steps in their decade-long education program. It also forms a strong base for their reading and writing skills, both of which will be extremely beneficial to them in the near future.
The social and moral themes introduced to the students through stories and poetry broadens and develops their minds. Not only does this literature expose them to different circumstances of life, it also introduces them to the different types of people that they are likely to meet in the future. By identifying and discerning good and evil within actions, children are prepared for challenges that they are likely to face while growing up. This exposure to the workings of the outside world is highly beneficial in helping the children adequately face the challenges of life head on (Hodgkinson and Mercer, 2008, pp. 31-40). In short, the literature and activities of K-2 English augments and enriches the minds of the students in addition to developing their ability to tackle their academic futures with zeal and vigour.
Numeracy, on the other hand, is even more beneficial for the intellectual development of the children. At the most basic level, the mathematical and logical operators introduced in K-2 level prepare the students to successfully complete arithmetic problems encountered in daily life (Hopkins, Pope and Pepperell, 2013, pp. 51-70). The successful completion of these problems makes the students more confident and this improved self-assurance and self-reliance will aid them significantly in the future. In addition, the students are also introduced to the notion of the mathematical and logical nature of our very lives. Real world problems introduced through this course move the students to think about everyday issues from a mathematical viewpoint. This not only helps them understand the problems faster, but also considerably eases the resolution of such problems through the correct application of mathematical and logical operators. In hindsight, such an approach broadens the scope of the students and makes them more efficient at life.
The shapes and figures introduced during this course help the students develop their visual sensors. Activities involving various shapes and figures help the students in formulating their mental simulations more comprehensively (Hodgkinson and Mercer, 2010, pp. 43-48). This helps the children understand problems readily and as they are able to map and model these problems in their mind, the children are able to solve these problems more efficiently. This mental mapping also comes in extremely handy in real-life problems that require quick and durable solutions. In addition, mental mapping broadens the horizons of the children in all aspects of life by making them sharp, present, well organized and systematic.
Moral development of Pupils
While the linkage between morality and mathematics may be hard for some people to comprehend; several morality-based lessons can indeed be gleaned from mathematics. For the subject of numeracy, the most important moral lesson for students to recognize is the power of proof (Haylock and Manning, 2010, pp. 20-27). Frequent exposures to mathematical problems that involve proofs invoke a sense of honesty and truthfulness in students. Ethically correct and morally sound decisions involve discerning facts from fiction and then evaluating these facts to arrive at correct conclusions. Students will undoubtedly face such situations in their future lives when they will be asked to either mediate a conflict or apply logic to identify facts. In such situations, the power of proof strengthened by their understanding and application of mathematical concepts will be highly beneficial and students would easily be able to resolve such situations by quick use of mathematical formulations.
In addition, mathematical problems that help students discern truth, veracity and verity are also taught to students in this course. For example, students may be asked to determine the number of sweets actually eaten by a child and then compare the answer to the number of sweets his mother thinks he has consumed (Goodwin, 2005, pp. 17-30). By comparing the two results, children would then be asked to determine if the child is telling the truth. Through the successful completion of such problems, students learn methods of reaching conclusions that are logical and factual. Side by side, these problems also teach the students to be honest and truthful in their lives as it is made clear to them that any deviation from the truth may be easily identified using basic mathematical concepts.
In literacy, the moral development of pupils is fostered through selection and reading of texts that exude strong moral values (Hodgkinson and Mercer, 2010, pp. 43-48). Students are required to listen to, read and analyze texts that promote positive moral values such as humility, honesty, truthfulness, hard work, respect and compassion. The texts that inculcate these values are in a variety of literary forms including short stories and poems. Some of the selected stories include Red Riding Hood, which exemplifies courage through trial by fire, and Hercules, which immortalizes bravery and steadfastness in face of evil. The adventures of these colourful characters hold the attention of the students, stir their imagination and rouse their spirits to make them believe that everyone is capable of doing good and remaining resolute in the face of unfavourable odds.
Throughout the academic year, efforts are made to draw the students’ focus towards stories that promote positive moral values. To reinforce these moral values, in-class activities are also developed around these texts (Goodwin, 2005, pp. 17-30). The moral values explained in these texts are sometimes explicitly highlighted to the students while other times, the moral values are allowed to implicitly take hold in the students’ minds. When students are introduced to characters in these texts that exude these moral values, they are inspired and influenced by them. This positive development inculcates the desire in them to mould themselves according to these characters, preparing them for a positive role in their future lives.
Social Development of pupils
Social development of pupils is an important aspect of numeracy. Several aspects of the course involve teamwork that fosters the collaborative and coordination skills of the pupils. When students work together in groups, not only are their theoretical concepts reinforced but they also learn to complement one another. They learn to give each other space, learn to listen to each other attentively and learn to play off each other’s strengths (Goodwin, 2005, pp. 17-30). This forges unity and cohesiveness within them and they learn to quickly bond with one another. The development of this characteristic becomes useful later on in higher academic levels when teamwork and coordination become an important aspect of various academic courses.
In addition, social skills of students are also developed through mathematical reasoning which is a core part of this course. In-class discussions are a frequent part of the academic year and students often face-off against each other in attempts to explain mathematical concepts to each other (Haylock and Manning, 2010, pp. 20-27). This develops their public speaking skills and improves their confidence. In addition, such exercises also teach them methods of successfully getting their point across in front of a large audience.
Furthermore, self-reviewing and peer reviewing are also an imperative part of the numeracy course. Self-reviewing inculcates the ability within the students to check themselves with honesty by disregarding any personal biases. This develops the characteristics of integrity and rectitude amongst them (Hopkins, Pope and Pepperell, 2013, pp. 51-70). Peer reviewing, on the other hand, develops another important social characteristic within the students; it prepares them to accept criticism from their peers. This makes the students more accepting of their shortcomings in addition to teaching them about respecting the viewpoints of others. This, in turn, teaches the students how to rebut the criticisms levelled by their peers in a proper manner. This acceptance of peer criticism along with the learning of proper handling of such criticisms is an important social aspect that will be highly useful to the students in their future lives.
Literacy also successfully incorporates the same social development into the students that numeracy incorporates into the students’ minds (Tucker, 2014, pp. 71-76). Class presentations about a variety of different topics imbue confidence into the students and prepare them in confidently handling large crowds. Group assignments foster the development of inter-personal relationships within the students and prepare them to identify strengths and weaknesses amongst themselves. This identification then helps them to accomplish tasks more quickly as tasks are divided amongst individual members based on their strengths. This learning curve would come in extremely handy during employment later on. Similar to numeracy, self-criticism and peer criticism is also an important aspect of literacy and it helps the students develop a tolerance for denunciation, censor and deprival. Overall, using similar methods to numeracy, literacy too helps the students develop their social skills for greater efficiency and effectiveness in their future lives.
Cultural Development of Pupils
Mathematics is a culturally rich subject that has developed through the infusion of influences of countless cultures over its lifespan. Therefore, the practice of various mathematical concepts contained in the course exposes the students to different cultural influences (Jaworski, 2002, pp. 19-32). At the start of the course, students are reminded that the numeral system being used globally today was first developed by the Arabs several hundred years ago. This 0-9 number system has since become the staple of mathematical expression around the world. When students are introduced to algebra, they learn about the Arabs who first developed it several hundred years ago. Notable figures such as ‘Al-Khawarizmi’ and ‘Sharaf al-Dīn al-Tūsī’ are highlighted whose early exploits into mathematics were responsible for the current form of Algebra used around the world. When students are introduced to shapes and figures, they are introduced to the contribution of Islamic researchers to geometry and the way these researchers made notable contributions to the development of polygons and stucco patterns.
The introduction of Pythagoras theorem introduces the students to Greek and Babylonian mathematicians and their expansive influence over modern mathematics (Jaworski, 2002, pp. 19-32). Simultaneously, students are introduced to Mesopotamian, Indian and Chinese mathematicians and the contribution of these individuals to the development of mathematics. In short, numeracy helps the children become more culturally aware in addition to getting them acquainted with the positive influences of various ancient cultures on current mathematics.
In a similar way, literacy also exposes the students to diverse cultural influences. The exposure of the children to English poems and short stories introduces them to the lifestyle and customs of rural England (Hall, 2003, p. 44). Similarly, literature set in Asia and Africa is useful in acquainting the children with the cultures of these areas. In addition, the exposure of students to literature of different cultures helps them develop a sense of appreciation for the variety and diversity present in the world today. This helps them become more accepting and supporting of people from different racial backgrounds. This would help the students successfully tackle racism and bigotry that they are likely to witness in the immediate future. In addition, acquaintance with past cultures will help the students compare the transformation of these cultures over the course of several millennia. This would imbue in them a deep sense of respect and admiration for the self-transformative potential and propensity present within humanity.
The early education of children is extremely important and highly influential in their later development. While the theoretical aspect of education is dominant in its own right, the mental and psychological development of children is also simultaneously indispensible (Boaler, 2009, pp. 14-16). To achieve this, teachers must ensure that their respective subjects contribute meaningfully to the spiritual, intellectual, moral, social and cultural development of pupils. As is highlighted in the paper, literacy and numeracy contribute to this evolution in their own respective ways. In order to ensure that the children of today develop into model citizens of tomorrow, their spiritual, intellectual, moral, social and cultural must therefore be fostered without hindrance of any sort or type.