This is my perspective on how we need to educate children for their futures not our pasts. It is a personal view based on my experiences in education and feedback from the European projects I have been involved in.
They are not in any particular order. Of course, most aspects I list cannot be viewed as individual facets but affect each other and often duplicate.
Really interested in your comments on these thoughts, do I go far enough, what else would you include? I purposely have not directly mentioned technology as I see technology as basic tools, that can be used in the processes described here.
1. Autonomy – to build responsibility
Autonomy transfers the responsibility for learning to the learner, places the learner in control. This should be an evolving, individualized, process that starts from the beginning of education by providing simple, supported, choices. This would evolve, as the learner develops, in to more choice, more personally directed work, more autonomy.
The concept, also instilled from the start of the process, is that the learner must understand why they must have education with examples of what education can bring, and what can happen without education. They need to see the big picture of what it is all for.
The aim is to produce learners than can self-direct themselves in a responsible manner, for ends that they desire.
See also, Self-criticism, below.
2. Personal relevance – as opposed to rigidly adhering to a class, school, authority curriculum
This concept starts with the premise that every child will not need the same knowledge as the next. Clearly there is a base every child must have, but in my entire life, for example, I have never had to calculate the area of a circle or use Pi, I have had to become strong in mental arithmetic, simple algebra, understand statistics, but calculus never.
Let’s look at children as individuals not as groups. That educational success is not just a set of test scores but a preparation for an individual’s life, not just societies perceived needs based on 20 century requirements. We need students prepared for the future digital world.
3. Collaboration – as against competitive, individualized testing
Learning to collaborate and work in teams is an essential skill to learn, also that every member of the team must contribute.
Knowledge has become so deep and atomized that we need ways to be able to bring the parts together to solve problems and build innovative solutions. It goes further, in my opinion we need experts in bridging profession and academic fields, who can act as links between the fields.
Todays individual testing regimes do not include the ability to utilise group intelligence. Instead it leads to rigorous teaching to the test that is no preparation for the realities of the future.
4. Self-criticism – rather than standardized remote criticism
To attain autonomy that is relevant , structured and efficacious the learner must be capable of self-analysis and criticism. This can also be part of the collaborative process were the group learns to become proficient and non-personal in their appraisal.
Self-criticism is best learnt from failure, but today pass and fail are the maxims of education, instead of being only part of the process. As others have said, there is no such thing as failure in education but just steps on the way to success.
Students need to understand how to analyse their work, criticise and improve, and most importantly, be happy with what they have achieved. Again this should start from the earliest schooling as a basic part of the learning methodology.
5. Autodidacts – against spoon-fed learning
I have a fondness for autodidacts, being one myself (see the name of this blog). The reality is that we need all our learners to be autodidacts, as no one has a clue what skills and knowledge they will need in their futures.
Learning to learn, is categorically the most important skill we can teach in education today.
Today’s system is almost totally tied in to the, ‘Spoon feeding mode’ with teachers and text books. This will not work in to the future.
How? I trust in group intelligence, initially throw the students a problem above their level, let them collectively solve the problem. They will. We saw this beautifully in a European project were primary children were asked to build automata without having any preparation in understanding the mechanisms required.
6. Creative and emotional – cold and formal
If we want to teach, we must engage children. A cold, logical, approach, especially of subjects that do not interest the individual, is ineffective and boring. No one, young or old, likes learning subjects they find uninteresting. Why do we expect children too, just because its for their own good, that’s patronising and does more harm than good.
There are many ways to make learning engaging, we know that the arts and music are great tools and effective ways to retain knowledge.
We need to find each child’s passion, if that is satisfied their whole learning experience is improved, of subjects they like and don’t like.
7. No stress – stress
Some individuals respond well to stress, though studies show that the quality of their work, may diminish. For most of us stress is damaging and lowers efficiency and results. A search on Google for, “Effect of stress in the workplace” brought up 1,270,000 results, its a major issue. Yet we bombard children, more and more, with stressful pass/fail tests.
Breaks between lessons are reduced, school time extended, more homework given. We pile the stress on the children. Can we not understand that the damage stress does to working adults, is the same, if not worse on children that have fewer resources to cope.
Younger children go to school for the breaks, ask them, and give them. Just this once I will quote Finland, 15 minute breaks, every hour. The shortest school year, little homework, very little testing. They do OK, why can’t we?