It is widely accepted that the present education system, particularly in North America, is in desperate need of reform. For the first time in history, parents in large numbers are starting to wonder if the traditional schooling system will actually help their children get the education they need for this 21st century. Schooling today might actually be holding our kids back!
The education system’s primary purpose has been to provide its community members with knowledge of particular information decided upon by a committee of organizers. Where one lives determines the list of information the governing body requires its people to know. These lists are available online in most areas so you can read through these on a subject and grade-by-grade basis.
The list of information or content, called “the curriculum,” are created by a committee, then revisited about once a decade depending on which curriculum is in the greatest need of being made more relevant to the times. This content is also scheduled to a calendar, which all teachers have to adhere to regardless of a child’s learning style or abilities.
In addition, early in the life of public education, a group of people decided to segregate children by age and keep them together in a classroom without other aged children in there with them. We know that kids do better – both the older and younger ones – when there are a variety of ages together. Mentoring, support, and relationships form when multi-ages are in the same environment.
For the most part, traditional education informs us of what to think.
Understandably, overhauling the entire public education system, although there is a dire need to do so, would be a massive undertaking. This is why we are seeing a growth in micro-schools, homeschooling, innovative schools, and some programs within public schools as a means of trying advance the process as much as possible within the given limits.
These schools come in many shapes and sizes but generally have one common thread: a focus on learning processes, not content. Education reformists, researchers, pioneers, and the kids themselves, are telling us that it is much more important (and fun) to focus on how to think.
This graphic is from the Future Design School Facebook page:
In addition to focusing on the process of learning more than the content of it, our school in London, ON is offering these six education reform practices, which are being touted around the world, right here and right now:
1. The use of a one-room schoolhouse model puts individual learning and connections first.
“Today, the ‘micro-school’ is being touted as an important model for creating innovative, personalized learning experiences. Such an environment, the thinking goes, can ease the creation of close relationships among teachers and students. And it can provide an easy venue for experimentation.” – NPR
2. The divide between subjects like “math” or “science” is dropped to allow for studying a whole range of subjects that relate to a topic.
Finland might be the first country to get rid of school subjects but they’re certainly not the first school to be doing that! In our program, the children are given time to work on what we call “core skills” in addition to large chunks of time for project-based or problem-based learning that is multi-disciplinary and real-world in nature.
3. Homework is not assigned.
Researchers still fail to agree on whether or not homework is actually a useful or necessary tool for success in school. In fact, it is common to hear that homework is a great source of stress for families. Schools, districts, and areas around the world are stopping the use of homework. We’re happy to be one of those schools.
Our students get so much done in one day that we don’t require them to take work home. Having said that, some of our kids take their work home voluntarily because they are excited about what they are working on.
4. Relationships are valued as a critical part of each child’s learning process.
This is a wonderful quote from James Comer, MD:
We believe (and so do researchers!) that children are at their best when they feel that they really matter and are important to the adults working with them in school. Every day we make an effort to get to know and support these kids here better.
5. Emotional intelligence development, like growth mindset and character improvement, is a normal part of every day.
New research from UBC showed that learning programs for social and emotional development for children “immediately improve mental health, social skills, and learning outcomes but also continue to benefit children years later.”
In this same study, the authors were clear to note that the social-emotional learning is best when it is embedded into the curriculum over the long-term rather than just in single “one-off” programs. We agree, which is why we adopt this learning all through the years of our school.
6. Student-centered learning puts the needs of the students first.
In most tradition education systems, the focal point is on what is best for the adults from a planning, policies, or procedures standpoint rather than on what systems, environment, and processes that will support a love of learning in kids.
Student-centered learning looks different from class to class, but is generally based on the idea that students make more decisions than the adults. The teachers (we call our adults “Guides”) are certainly present but more to provide a framework for learning, programming support, and mentorship inside of a democratic environment.
It is absolutely amazing to watch what happens to kids when they have a say in how and what they learn! Taking responsibility for their own actions really informs their behaviour, too.
Our Infinity School in London, ON is accepting applications for Jan, 2018 (based on availability) as well as for the 2018-2019 school year. Our doors will be open Saturday, Dec. 2 from 10am to 3:30pm – please do drop by at 115 Askin St (parking lot in rear of building) to chat with our co-founder/ Head of School, Andrea Loewen Nair, and learn more about our innovative program. The school is an affiliate of Acton Academy so visiting their site and ours will give you a great deal of information.