Contextual Education

Contextual education is a method of teaching and learning, based on a constructivist theory, where information is presented in way that students are able to construct meaning based on their own experiences. Everything is studied within the physical, social, cultural, political, economic and personal circumstances characterizing real life situations, the subjective mental and emotional processes that prompt human action, and the creative role of individuals in the collective social process. Students are able to process new information or knowledge with reference to their memory, experience and to knowledge already acquired. The opinions and perspectives of students are valued, as the student’s life context and prior knowledge. Along with teaching the subject, there is a constant emphasis on establishing relationships –between the subject and all other subjects, between the data and the circumstances in which it was generated, between the lesson and the learner, between knowledge and life.

The concept of contextual education is not new or uncommon. Math problems such as “There are two apples and three oranges, how many fruits are there in all” and “A tree is 17 feet from the wall, and forms an angle of 45° from the it. What is the height of the tree” are common in school. But in higher education, teaching becomes more abstract and detached from the student’s context, and with increasing specialization, becomes divorced from all other academic disciplines. Some institutions attempt to contextualize education through teamwork, discussions, peer learning, project-based learning, internship and service learning. However, contextualizing education is not systematized in the curriculum, and remains highly dependent on the creativity and innovation of the individual teachers and institutions. An organized, collective effort to add the context to the information imparted is needed. This way, we can put the petals back together so the flower comes to view.