A New Model of Education: Development of Individuality through the Freedom of Learning
Meeting new challenges calls for new priorities in education. It means an interactive style and education based on individual needs and abilities that should provide a completely new dimension of gaining knowledge and make learning a more convenient process. The course curricula have to be devised in view of the experience acquired from either the entrepreneurial environment or any other environment, depending on the type of the curriculum.
It is necessary to stress that there is little documented evidence of what specific factors within the curricula are effective in fostering entrepreneurial abilities in students through education and by raising entrepreneurial intentions after students’ graduation. Our research investigates five main questions: (i) What is the meaning of freedom in learning? (ii) What does freedom in learning mean to students? (iii)What should be done to increase freedom in learning and foster individuality? (iv) How can we encourage the entrepreneurial abilities of students through education with focus on women? and (v) In what direction should educational strategies be developed? The research methodology in this research is qualitative in nature. This approach involves carrying out in-depth interviews with respondents from different countries all around the world (respondents were mainly from Serbia, Iran, India, USA, Nigeria, Canada, China, Pakistan, and Philippines).
Our research shows that the modern business environment should be accompanied by the change in educational environment. Namely, it is necessary to offer multi-dimensional relationships between course concepts on entrepreneurship and the community based on entrepreneurial experiences. The new educational strategy also needs freedom in learning and teaching and an active mode of learning influences innovative personality development, which creates something unique and turns it into an entrepreneurial activity. Furthermore, the new entrepreneurship educational strategy should provide a more women-centered approach. It is also impossible to achieve all new educational advantages without close relationships between governments, schools and women’s organizations. In other words, only their synergies allow the education system to be efficient and can bring prosperity for women.
Freedom is the most important condition in almost any aspect of life. Freedom in itself is a main issue in human affairs. History is full of movements and protests of different people from different walks of life at all social levels, who were looking for freedom in various aspects of their lives. Learning is amongst those issues which has always been a hot topic in the literature of freedom. As Lankshear argues:
“Freedom and learning have been linked in educational philosophy and theory within the western tradition since the time of the Greeks, and was especially significant in Anglo-American educational debate throughout much of the twentieth century.”
Association of American Colleges & Universities (AAC&U) mentions that:
“The academic freedom implies not just freedom from constraint but also freedom for faculty and students to work within a scholarly community to develop the intellectual and personal qualities required of citizens in a vibrant democracy and participants in a vigorous economy.”
A good education system gives students the freedom to recognize their capabilities and individual potentials. In this way, as Forte elaborates, in order to give students the freedom to learn, creating a new classroom atmosphere where thinking, questioning and imagining are encouraged and are not hampered is essential. In this context, education should encourage students to work collaboratively and ask questions creatively about ideas and issues across a range of disciplines. As creative thinkers, they try to imagine and explore alternatives, and to think in a different manner. Such an approach is required for a solid academic foundation and for enhancing their intelligence, including “soft skills” such as understanding, empathy and communication skills. The use of different learning materials and various resources allows students with various principal learning styles to understand information in the most effective way. Learning is fostered by multidimensional interactions between students and teachers. To learn on their own, youth need unlimited time to play, explore, become bored, overcome boredom, discover their own interests, and pursue those interests. It helps students develop their analytical and critical reasoning skills with particular emphasis on exploring and evaluating competing claims and different perspectives. Education leads to greater personal freedom through greater competence, if it becomes organized to consider diverse perspectives. However, as Forte argues, a student’s freedom to learn requires the teacher’s freedom to teach, and these are in a close relationship with each other. In this context, current educational systems need to adopt new methods and strategies that are able to support educational goals and ensure the freedom of learning and teaching.
Women’s freedom in learning is also a critical topic to be investigated, especially in the field of entrepreneurship. Although women are improving their status in the educational systems, there are still some nuances in scholars’ approach. For instance, as Radovic-Markovic et al., (2009) mention in their study:
“The changes in women’s educational and career attainment may have multifaceted characteristics. Women might have increased their enrolment in colleges compared to men, but women may still differ in terms of the types of subjects in which they are enrolled.”
In this study, we will try to investigate the freedom in learning, individuality and women’s entrepreneurship education, concentrating on the gender differences between the respondents. Therefore, first we will discuss the educational strategies appropriate to increase freedom in learning. Then, we will elaborate on the impact of new technologies on education, based on its role on freedom and individuality. Afterwards, we will discuss education, creativity and entrepreneurship, and the linkages between them. Finally, the research methodology and the results will be presented and the chapter concludes.
A new education strategy which encourages interaction between teachers and learners needs different learning styles. Primarily, this means fostering creativity, which requires an active mode of learning, and consequently a new teaching format, where the teacher is a coach. Creative teachers are willing to change and welcome new experiences; they are not afraid to go off the main track or step into the unknown. Namely, the teachers are key figures to implement change, but they need support to understand and accept creativity in their practices. Creative teaching may be defined in two ways: firstly, teaching creatively and secondly, teaching for creativity. Teaching creatively might be described as teachers using approaches to make learning more interesting, engaging, exciting and effective. Teachers have to attract students’ interest and attention in a new way, and as a result the development of creative approaches is called for. Simplicio adds that teachers must make an effort to better understand their students and their educational needs. On the other side, learners are empowered to take ownership of their own learning processes, and to feel that they can influence their educational contents. As some authors pointed out, “these aspects point towards a learner-centered pedagogy, where personalisation and individualisation of learning have a growing role, and where pupils have a say in the fashioning of tasks”. In addition, some researchers agree that in creativity, there is always some new, critical and useful idea, understanding, information, approach or solution to a challenge that emerges at different (i.e. individual, group, organization, or even social community) levels, which could lead to better innovative performance of learners. Considering the advantages of creativity for different people at different levels, expecting widespread use of creative practices in education is a normal expectation. The creative practices in education should help learners to work on building their knowledge through defining things, which are especially important in their eyes, and in the process, strengthen their sense of self and individuality. They also involve developing students’ personal qualities, including a strong sense of responsibility in self and others. In other words, according to some authors, the new education model should be based on the individual’s growth and be able to foster individuality, flexibility and personality enabling development toward the following:
- promoting achievement;
- tackling barriers to inclusion;
- creating a learning and teaching environment that is sensitive to individual needs;
- original and creative thinking;
- intelligent decision-making;
- fostering young people’s learning experiences through multi-dimensional relationships between course concepts and community;
- support individuals to take ownership of their own learning processes;
- improving students’ relationships with teachers, where the teacher is a coach;
- acquisition of knowledge for resolution of problems;
- flexible adaptation to new situations;
- effective cooperation with others;
- learner-centered pedagogy which is focused on individual learners, their experiences, perspectives, backgrounds, talents, interests, capacities and needs with a focus on learning. In this context, new education strategies should encourage interaction between teachers and learners.
To many scholars, educational strategies should provide the learners with a fertile ground to enhance their potentials. In this way, the learner will not be hampered by disturbing and discriminating elements. As Schrank argues:
“As now defined, academic freedom...ignores the intersubjectivity of all persons in the setting... such an approach conceals the vulnerability of women and other historically excluded groups who are still marginal in the academy, and does not take account of the historic advantages enjoyed by white, heterosexual, able-bodied males... it does not acknowledge power imbalances in relations based on gender, race, sexuality, class, and other dimensions of difference...”
Educational strategies should be developed in a manner that could prevent any discrimination against women.
The impact of new technologies on education: Does technology support freedom and individuality?
New technologies allow for exploration of new areas of learning and thinking. These could support creative learning and innovative teaching and foster individual potential. Computer-based educational techniques and technologies have been considered as useful means for individualization. The different levels of interaction and collaboration characteristic of new technologies facilitate personalisation of learning paths and customization of educational services. Namely, the development and implementation of student-centric technologies will highlight a need to shift to student-centered pedagogy and the ownership of learning by learners, a quality that is indispensable for fostering creativity. In other words, digital instruments let learners learn at their own pace, teach skills needed in a modern economy and hold the attention of a generation weaned on gadgets. They can also support personal growth and intellectual maturation of both students and teachers. Adding distance courses and programs to existing services will increase the number of alternatives that students can choose from and therefore increase their freedom in learning. Certainly, students can personalize their own education through their choices. If their alternatives can be expanded, then individualization can be increased. This expansion of alternatives depends on the willingness to provide more individualized and student-centered educational services.
New technologies and tools also can enhance communication between students and teachers. As Keamy mentions:
“They allow each student greater diversity for learning, enhance interactivity between individual students and individual teachers, provide a space for personalized, flexible learning beyond the classroom walls and allow students to live locally whilst learning globally- through the use of external resources accessed via the world wide web.”
A large amount of literature deals with comparison of the modalities of electronic education with oral speech, especially with a direct, face-to-face communication, despite the fact that electronic education displays a large number of properties similar to the real world education. Similar to the face-to-face education, electronic education is interactive in nature. The result is that the behaviour in electronic education takes on the characteristics of both the documents – the written and the informal education. Regardless of the advantage in terms of the speed of exchange of information virtually and to larger distances, electronic education revealed some additional misconceptions, e.g., the tasks will not be solved faster if set electronically, which is not truly the case.
Technological platforms require educational policymakers to devise new approaches for learning methods. These technological platforms provide the learners with lots of opportunities, such as what is learnt through an online learning or a combination of face to face with online learning systems. Moreover, in short range we can expect that the learners could learn with software that is customized based on their kind of intelligence and learning methods. Various online applications could be used to enable teachers to become more and more innovative in their teaching styles, as well as students to develop their analytical and creative skills and to learn and think creatively. According to Liarokapis, the advent of virtual environments in higher education has the potential to bring a significant change in the learning experience of learners. Namely, the online learning environment is quite different from a traditional classroom, in which one has limited interaction and almost unlimited access to learning resources. In other words, online courses require participants to take on new and different teaching/learning behaviors, which are quite different from the old ones. Recent research has compared online learning to face-to-face learning qualifications, explored the effectiveness of online instruments such as discussion boards and chat rooms, addressed evaluating effective online instruction, and assessed the value of online courses in specific fields of study. Draves provides a list of reasons why he believes that the Internet enhances learning, including such advantages as being able to learn at a peak time of the day, learning at your own speed, accessibility to more information, an ability to track personal progress, and the capability to test personal learning efforts. In addition, the e-learning students are in an environment where professors respond to students’ needs on demand whenever students could reach them online, and not only in the classroom. Teaching and learning take on a more collaborative sense in an e-learning environment.
We can conclude that with new technologies in hand, the process of learning in the classroom can become significantly richer as students have access to new and different types of information and can combine face to face learning with e-learning opportunities. This combination provides them a lot of opportunities to learn more new things in quite a different environment. Students can do their research projects and control experiments in completely exciting and interactive ways, and can be provided the freedom to communicate their results and conclusions in a variety of media to their teachers, students in their classroom, or students worldwide. Advocates of high-tech classrooms say computers are not intended to replace teachers. But they do believe in a fundamental change in the teacher’s role in the virtual learning environment.
Linking education, creativity and entrepreneurship
Entrepreneur is a change agent of his/her society, who generates employment opportunities for others and him/herself. Therefore, it is necessary to pay attention to improving skills of entrepreneurs and their education, which should increase their competencies. Considering the importance of education for entrepreneurs, recently, it is evident that entrepreneurship is one of the fastest growing sciences in today’s undergraduate curricula in the United States and worldwide. In the past 3 decades, formal programs (majors, minors and certificates) in entrepreneurship have more than quadrupled, from 104 in 1975 to more than 500 in 2006. The development of courses in entrepreneurship has been exponential.
The concept of creativity is one that is often discussed in conjunction with entrepreneurship because creative thinking is an essential element in the formulation of business ideas and is necessary at every stage of business development and execution. Talking about creativity brings different definitions to our minds. But, usually creativity has been defined as “the production of novel ideas that are useful and appropriate to the situation”. It means escaping from existing perceptions and concepts to open up new ways of looking at and doing things. Recent literature suggests that creative individuals are more likely to engage in entrepreneurial behavior. To highlight the importance of creativity, Schumpeter’s idea of “creative destruction” is a good sample to be discussed.
In existing literature, creativity has also been regarded as a form of knowledge creation and how it can benefit learning opportunities. Moreover, creativity and innovation have close links with knowledge and learning. Hence, creative education involves a balance between teaching knowledge and skills, and encouraging innovation (NACCCE report 1999). To many scholars, creativity is considered as the main success factor of well-known entrepreneurs all around the world.
Creativity has long been thought to be characteristic of highly gifted and noble people; however, such an argument has been proved to be a wrong attitude. A number of researchers consider creativity as a component of innovation which is the basic aspect of entrepreneurship. Although every individual has certain creative abilities, the extent to which these potentials will be developed largely depends on how much these abilities are encouraged and well treated. It is in this view that education plays a crucial role and significantly determines whether its outcome will be “passive imitators” or “active, creative contributors”.
In traditional learning systems, students are passive participants at all the educational levels. Their personal creativeness is not encouraged, nor are they challenged to think critically and originally. On completing the process of formal education, they are capable of more or less successfully reproducing the information they learned in the course of their schooling; however, they don't learn to implement the acquired knowledge in practice and use this knowledge as a basis for creating new ideas and making business decisions autonomously. The knowledge students acquire in the course of their education process has frequently turned out not to be really applicable or be rather inadequate to meet the modern requirements of the business environment.
“Learning by doing” is a non-traditional approach in which students are actively engaged in experiences that will reinforce lessons and teach skills that will have a lasting impact and, thus, help them become better learners. In this context, multiple perspectives take the educational experience beyond the classroom to cultivate real-world applications and to elaborate the matter in question. Service learning, community-based learning, community action research, internships, study abroad, and similar experiences all provide opportunities for authentic learning that engage students in using their critical skills to understand and to better the world. For instance, acquiring entrepreneurial knowledge not only helps students identify entrepreneurship activities, but also stimulates them to run their own businesses and to be more adaptable to the fast changing entrepreneurial environment. According to Ashmore, students start to understand that although a business may be successful today by performing a given set of tasks, tomorrow a quite different set of tasks or skills may be required. Therefore, the modern business environment should be accompanied by a change in educational environment. Consequently, it is necessary that permanent adjustments between these two environments should be made that will be beneficial for both individuals and the society.
Education has also been noted as one means to infuse women more concretely into the entrepreneurial experience. A recent study found that education plays different roles in countries’ economic development at different stages. For example, in a developed country, the level of education was found to be one of the significant variables affecting the performance of female enterprises. Considering the importance of education for women as entrepreneurs, it has recently become evident that the new Age is looking for new forms of education, such as creative education. Creative education and training should help women to raise their creativity, logical thinking and entrepreneurial activity.
Namely, entrepreneurship emerges from an individual’s creative spirit into long-term business ownership, job creation, and economic security. Women bring commitment and integrity because they care about economic empowerment, entrepreneurial development and innovation. The special understanding of innovation within that framework, and the role that women play in creating and commercializing that innovation are necessary. In addition, women’s participation in the human capital-generating activity, which was of historically lesser degree before, is now increasingly essential to innovation entrepreneurship, that being education in science, technology, mathematics, and engineering, which likely obscures the need to study female entrepreneurship in this context. Whatever the causes, the study and, ultimately, the improved engagement and success of women in innovation industries, including through entrepreneurship, are urgent needs in both domestic and international economic, legal, societal, and development contexts.
Due to different approaches to female entrepreneurship, it can be suggested here that this field of research is considered to be very broad. Some of the theories outlined in this research can be linked to the study of this phenomenon, such as gender theories, managerial theories, public policy, etc. In our opinion, all of these approaches should be as integrated as possible in order to provide a complete understanding of female entrepreneurship. In addition, a shift in thoughts and research in the field of female entrepreneurship is also necessary. It should follow the changes in the roles and tasks of women as entrepreneurs as the main conductors of these activities, influenced by new flows of economic operation in the age of globalization. Namely, the recognition of the capacity of women entrepreneurs in our global community is no longer a matter of debate, but is a realisation that female entrepreneurship is now one of the major factors contributing to the development of many countries.
The research methodology for our research is qualitative in nature. This approach involves carrying out in-depth interviews with respondents from different countries all around the world. Also, we designed an online questionnaire that helped respondents answer the research questions in a better manner. Respondents varied by gender, occupation and country. Our research investigates five main questions as follows:
- What is the meaning of freedom in learning?
- What does freedom in learning mean to you?
- What should be done to increase freedom in learning and foster individuality?
- How can we encourage the entrepreneurial abilities of students through education with focus on women?
- In what direction the educational strategies should be developed?
In order to collect the required data, a number of questionnaires were sent online to the respondents and they filled out the questionnaires and sent them back to us. It should be noted that the respondents were from different countries, but mainly from Serbia, Iran, India, USA, Nigeria, Canada, China, Pakistan, and Philippines.
The research findings are presented according to the aforementioned research questions. The general information of the respondents is as follows:
Here we present the research findings based on the conducted survey. The bar charts showing the differences in responses between male and female respondents are presented in the Appendix section.
Question One: What is the meaning of freedom in learning?
With the first question we were looking to elaborate the meaning of freedom in learning. Based on the qualitative stage of the research, the following choices were proposed:
a. Each student must be involved in deciding which skills to develop.
b. Students are free to express their opinion even if it is wrong.
c. Students can recognize their individual potentials.
d. Flexibility in learning, taking into account the time and place of learning.
The occurrence of answers is shown in the following pie chart. As shown in Figure 1, almost all choices have the same occurrence. But, choice one is to some extent (30%) the most preferred.
The bar chart (see Appendix) does not show any significant difference between the responses of male and female respondents. As you could see in the bar chart, the order of the selected choices and their proportion is the same. Therefore, freedom in learning to male and female group respondents has the same manner of occurrence distribution.
|Figure 1 Responses to the question on the meaning of freedom in learning|
Question Two: What does freedom in learning mean to you?
With this question, we were asking the meaning of freedom in learning from the standpoint of respondents. The responses were different, but we categorized the answers in the following categories. It should be noted that some of the main samples from each category are included.
a. Freedom in choosing the course and the course content:
Adopt programs to suit individual interest and needs; option can be provided by others but choice should be according to students’ talent; creating an educational atmosphere wherein students are able to choose and develop skills that are in line with their innate ability and background; to be the motivating and responsible agent of his/her own learning process; it means being allowed to observe and participate in decisions, design and functionality of an educational system that encourages specific goals.
b.Freedom in learning without religious, political, or any other kind of constraints:
Freedom from political and religious interference; learning without interference of external environmental force; it is an interaction between the teacher and the students which must reflect freedom and not rigidity.
c. Freedom for expressing ideas and opinions:
Students and teachers should be involved in creating a flexible environment by sharing new information and developing skills; students are free to express their opinion and discuss a lot of topics, ask questions and make close connections with professors and other students; students are free to express their opinion even if it is wrong; the ability to demonstrate unrestrained rights about what affects students’ future either within the classroom or outside.
d. Learn and expose anything which relates to skills, potentials and creativity:
Learning beyond the syllabus; to find something in the hope of learning new, interesting and useful information.
e. Freedom to learn the truth:
To be free to ask questions and discuss them without obstacles; opportunity to express one’s own opinion and to develop original thinking.
f. Flexibility in learning, taking into account the environment (time and place) of learning:
To have space and opportunities to grow as teachers and learners through an intensified use of learning management systems; the educational environment needs to build a solid platform for the individual on completion of their education to help them use the knowledge and skills obtained during the course of their studies.
Question Three: What should be done to increase freedom in learning and foster individuality?
With the third question we were looking for the most effective and efficient solutions to increase freedom in learning and foster individuality. Based on the qualitative phase, the following choices were given to the respondents for the third question.
a. To obtain better learning environments for students
b. To obtain freedom in teaching
c. Fostering young people’s learning freedom through multi-dimensional relationships between course concepts and community
d. Supporting individuals to take ownership of their own learning processes
The following chart shows the occurrence of each choice. As it is shown in Figure 2 the most preferred choice was C (45%), i.e. fostering young people’s learning freedom through multidimensional relationships between course concepts and community. Choice D was the second preference of the surveyed population (32%). It was about supporting individuals to take ownership of their own learning processes. One of our most exciting findings is that these choices were the ones mentioned in question two, as the respondents’ perception of freedom in learning.
|Figure 2 What should be done to increase freedom in learning and foster individuality?|
The bar charts (see Appendix) do not show any significant difference between the ideas of male and female respondents regarding the actions to be done to increase freedom in learning and foster individuality. The occurrence distribution of both groups is almost the same.
Question Four: How can we encourage the entrepreneurial abilities of students through education with focus on women?
In this question, we were searching for the best choice to encourage the entrepreneurial abilities of students through education. The following choices were designed according to the qualitative phase:
a. Fostering creativity through education.
b. Offering students the tools to think originally, develop and test their business ideas.
c. Fostering innovative personality development that creates something unique and turning it into entrepreneurial activity.
d. Offering multi-dimensional relationships between course concepts and community-based entrepreneurship experiences.
The frequencies of each choice are shown in the following pie chart. Figure 3 shows that choice D (40%) was the most preferred action to encourage the entrepreneurial abilities of students through education. Then, offering multidimensional relationships between course concepts and community-based entrepreneurship experiences were highly preferred. Moreover, choice B and C, respectively 23% and 20%, were almost equal in the eyes of our respondents.
|Figure 3 How can we encourage the entrepreneurial abilities of students through education with focus on women?|
Based on the bar chart (see Appendix), there is a difference in opinion between the male and female respondents. While female respondents believe that fostering innovative personality development of individuals who create something unique and turn it into entrepreneurial activity is one of the most effective ways to encourage the entrepreneurial abilities of students, male respondents believe it to be the less preferred choice. But, the most preferred choice for both male and female respondents was to offer multi-dimensional relationships between course concepts and community-based entrepreneurship experiences. As you might see in the bar charts in the Appendix section, the order of male and female respondents’ answers is as follows: D, B, A, C, and D, C, B, A.
Question Five: In what direction should the educational strategies be developed?
With the last question, we were looking to find the most appropriate direction for the educational strategies to be developed in order to reach the mentioned goals that were the subject of the other questions related to increasing freedom in learning and fostering individuality, and encouraging the entrepreneurial abilities of students. Therefore, the following choices were provided based on the in-depth interviews:
a. To be more oriented towards the individual needs of students
b. To increase an individual’s level of independence and freedom
c. To increase creative abilities and original thinking
d. All of the above
The occurrence of each choice is shown in the pie chart below. Figure 4 reveals the preference of all three choices simultaneously to direct the development of educational strategies (67%).
|Figure 4 In what direction should the educational strategies be developed?|
According to the bar chart (see Appendix), the most preferred choice for both male and female respondents was D. But the most exciting point is that male respondents considered choice A (i.e. to be more oriented towards the individual needs of students) in the second place and with a considerable percentage (i.e. 21% of male respondents). This claim also could be supported by the male respondents’ ideas in question two, as most of the male respondents were looking at the “freedom in learning” concept as to have freedom in choosing the course and the course content, while female respondents were mostly arguing about the freedom in expressing ideas and opinions, and freedom in learning without religious, political, or any other kind of constraints.
Our research shows that creative education based on freedom of learning and teaching helps to foster creativity and original thinking. Accordingly, the existing education system and educational programs for women’s entrepreneurship should be redefined. They have to obtain multi-dimensional relationships between course concepts and community based on entrepreneurship experiences. Consequently, the creative and interactive education should provide a completely new dimension of gaining knowledge. This active mode of learning provides innovative personality development in the individual who creates something unique and turns it into entrepreneurial activity.
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Annex 1 Distribution of the answers based on the respondents’ gender.
1. Question One: What is the meaning of freedom in learning?
2. Question Three: What should be done to increase freedom in learning and foster individuality?
3. Question Four: How can we encourage the entrepreneurial abilities of students through education with focus on women?
4. Question Five: In what direction should the educational strategies be developed?