The Pivotal Role of Modelling in Education

Posted 4 months ago | Originally written on 6 Mar 2008

It has just distinctly come to my mind that the education systems we deploy are designed with a built-in weakness.

Most disciplines are structured in such a way as to require understanding of several fundamental phenomena. While I was at the University of Nairobi, I took what, at the time appeared to be an incredibly complex and abstract course with self-evident far-reaching theoretical and practical consequences. This was all because of a very simple reason: prerequisite coursed had not yet been taught. The course made use of advanced mathematical modeling techniques like Partial Differential Equations and their solutions, which are a whole world of understanding on their own. Unfortunately, the mathematical modeling was an independent course covered much later. There was no opportunity to examine how understandable the course would have been received had it come after the mathematical modeling course.

And that's the inherent weakness: the placement of modeling (and the absence of explicit mention of the objectives of the modeling course). Most curricula pay so much attention on what falls into the model than the model itself. It's a kind of blind, which as a justifiable guide, can be hard to shake off and leaves the students with an extremely narrow view, incapable of making significant impact.

I therefore propose that courses especially in the engineering and design realms, should focus more on modeling from the word go. As opposed to introducing modeling later in the courses, it should be the entry-point into the discipline.

The models acquired will then be iteratively consulted as the education progresses. Models include, but are not limited to Mathematics (Calculus, Algebra etc), Systems Analysis & Design, Architectures (System, Structural etc), Functional Arts (Photography, Design etc) among and endless list of Arts and Sciences.