Five Minutes with Mrs Robinson: A Principal Talks to Her Bangladeshi School in Daily Assembly (Vol.1) by Angela M. V. Robinson, Published by Beacon Books, 2006, ISBN: 978-9848528150
The book ‘Five Minutes with Mrs. Robinson’ by Angela M. V. Robinson is a collection of 106 School Assembly Talks (mini-essays) given by the author between January 2003 and July 2003 in the British School in Dhaka. It represents the author’s efforts to educate her pupils in moral issues as well as social responsibilities. In her preface, Mrs. Robinson tells us about her intention for educating the children and young people in moral issues through her 5-minute morning assemblies as well as producing this book. She says, “People are always writing to the newspapers saying that the young need moral direction, ethical teaching, visionary direction and so forth. So who is doing it, I ask? It’s a bit like education in reproductive health matters, actually. Everyone is absolutely convinced that someone should be doing it but few are volunteering and those that are doing it usually get criticized for not doing it acceptably in the eyes of those who have no intention of doing it themselves! Well, this is my attempt to actually ‘do it’!” As the readers embark on reading this book, they will find a principal’s innovative way of teaching social responsibility and moral education to her students.
Mrs. Robinson talks about various personal, social and health education topics as well as citizenship issues including current affairs, bullying, racism, friendship, cooperation, feeling positive, making responsible choices and encouraging well-being as individuals, families, schools, nations and world. The topics she chooses are simple but thought provoking for the readers to think about the connection between belief and practice. Her intention is a whole lot more substantive than mere sermonizing. For example, in the ‘Topic-2: Learning to Share Your World’, Angela Robinson stresses the meaning of sharing and then expands the meaning, to let the children know that the world belongs to all and therefore every individual has a responsibility towards others, around him or her. She says, “Sharing is very important part of being a human being. During your time at school, I hope you begin to learn that you are not only part of a family and a school but a country – Bangladesh – and a great world of other countries and people. We all must learn to live together, in respect and care. If we do not know how to share our world properly, then we end up fighting each other – and that is very bad.” In her ‘Assembly Talks-11: High Thinking and Simple Living’, the author concludes, “Many people in the world today are going crazy for consumer goods. They must have this or that! Some of them do not want to think seriously about anything. They want high living and low thinking. I think that it is far better, in a good school, to model simple living and high thinking. I think the world needs people like that and I hope you are going to be like that when you are adults.”
Communication within family members is very important for a healthy living. As the fathers and mothers are so busy today, parents and children often find it very difficult to understand each other. In the ‘Assembly Talks- 74: Communicate with Your Parents’, Mrs. Robinson motivates her students, “You turn the television off and you talk to one another. This is a home, not a hotel. You don’t just sleep and eat here. We have to make time to communicate with one another.” She also adds, “How lovely it is when family members really talk together and even argue together and share their lives and show they care by being interested in one another.”
Some people in our society think that education is only about passing exams with good grades. The author observes this as a big problem. In the ‘Topic- 93: Is Education a Race?’, Mrs. Robinson says, “Now we all know that it is important to do as well as possible in examinations, especially if you are hoping to go to university, but that does not make you an educated person. Being educated means being able to understand something about the world in which we live.” She also mentions, “Do you think it is a fine idea to stop studying certain subjects, just because you have answered a question paper on it? Is it a good idea to take O level English Literature at 15, so that you can say, ‘Aha! Now I do not need to read Shakespeare or Wordsworth or any other great writer in English?’ Is that what it means to be an educated person? I do not think so.”
The purpose of education is to help the learners to think and act for becoming enlightened individuals. If the education they are receiving in schools does not connect with reality, it is worth nothing. In this regard, the book ‘Five Minutes with Mrs. Robinson’ will help both the learners and teachers to connect education with real life. The author Mrs. Robinson was educated at the University of Oxford where she got her MA in Modern History with a Diploma in Education. She also obtained her Diploma in Ecumenical Studies from Geneva. After many years teaching in England, Mrs. Robinson entered the ministry of the Congregational Church of England and Wales in 1978, retiring in 1998. She came to Bangladesh in October 1999, primarily to teach English at St. Andrew’s Mission High School, Haluaghat. Later she joined the British School in Dhaka as Principal in 2002.The author deserves appreciation for her dedication and efforts to produce this insightful piece of writing. Finally, the point must be made that this publication is an excellent and valuable contribution to the literature on Education and Child Development.
The writer is an independent researcher. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org