One of the political debates in this country right now is centred around the concept of an ‘education revolution’. This is something I have argued many – times – before. Although my argument was based mostly on the economic principal of a free education supplied by the government and paid for by taxes (as well as health and social services) the focus is meant to shift more to the specifics of exactly what our education system needs to become in order for Australia to progress any further.
What we have at the moment is a 200+ year old system based on text books, chalk boards and grades. No matter how technologically driven a classroom may be or how innovative a teacher is in their ideas, there is no escaping the aforementioned system. This is simply because it is a system endorsed highly by the corporate and government sector.
The corporate sector wants pen pushers and numbers people. They don’t want creativity, no matter how much propaganda we see stating otherwise. The government wants these same type of people to work for them in the public sector as well – including teachers who, as part of some cruel joke, go through this system only to become the ones pushing a new generation through the same closed-off environment.
The concept of the classroom is one I have quite a problem with. I cannot simply stand in front of my students day in and day out and dictate an outdated curriculum to them. This is something I avoid doing at all costs. However, the unfair part of this story is that people are now after ‘results’. Results based on the overall grade a student gains. Let me be blunt – if the student is not suited to that particular subject, then they should NOT have to study it. Yet they are, because there is such a limit of choice in the curriculum.
Students want to experience something they call the ‘real world’. Yet they don’t have a clue how things work outside of their sheltered classroom because, until they reach senior school, they have no idea what a workplace looks or feels like, what is expected of them and how to interact with new people.
Let’s do away with lesson plans and the concept of one teacher per classroom. Let’s do away with programs that teach to an exam or to a text book. Let’s start to develop a curriculum where students will actually contribute something worthwhile to society.
This is my plan for exactly how that will happen:
The creative students can do the following – spend a year developing, working on and launching a marketing campaign for a local charity organisation. They could also develop software that other students at the school could use. They could work on the publicity for the school – saving administration hundreds of hours a year as well as money.
Technically minded students will spend the year either helping out with medical research at a partnership hospital. They could do engineering work at an airline or they could design and build renewable energy sources for the school to use – which would cut down on greenhouse emissions and save the school money as well.
The students with a keen interest in literature and academics could be the ones writing student-centred curriculum or designing websites devoted to learning, not just for their school but for all schools, to share their knowledge, create partnerships with international schools, meet new people and to take part in international studies and student exchanges.
Practically minded students could work in a number of trades for their school and their community. Carpentry, maintenance, building, steel work. They could also work very closely with the technical students in building the school’s renewable energy sources.
Of course, students could jump from one area to another if they choose – a student may think that working on a creative project will be fun, but then become bored because they feel as if they would prefer to work on something more technical that requires specific knowledge. No doubt, there would be much crossing over and working together between all students.
My next point is about age and development:
Not all students develop at the same age. Some peak early in the classroom while others may take a few extra years. Why should all students in the one class be the same age? I certainly don’t share my workplace with only other 28 year olds, so why should a student spend most of their time socialising with people their own age?
If someone shows signs of being ahead of other students academically, then they should be allowed to work with older students. If they have completed a number of worthwhile projects for their school and community and proved they have the ability to contribute well to society, then what is to stop a school from allowing them to graduate early? What is to stop them from going on to tertiary studies or gaining employment and really contributing, fulfilling their potential?
Yes, I understand that children need to learn the basics of Maths, Science, English and the Humanities, however this takes place mostly in primary school, and even there, the classroom environment that we have now should change dramatically to a point where students are working and contributing similar to how they would be in high school, particularly in the upper years of primary school.
Students should also not be limited by what the school or the departments deem to be the only necessary texts and learning materials. They should freely be able to choose what resources they require to complete their learning. This is the same constriction that the workplace puts on the adult – not being free to choose and decide what would work best.
My next point is about the ability to think for ourselves. Sadly, many adults do not know how to do this. They are dictated to and nod their head every time their boss speaks. This is exactly what students are becoming. No longer do we have a class full of teenagers who question what the teacher says. They simply repeat back what has been said in class as if they were a parrot. Research requires the skill to differentiate useful information from useless information and to dig for facts and statistics. What will students do when they enter a research field one day and are unable to decipher any information without being told what to look for? Where will our great minds come from?
Yes, we will probably have a good amount of skilled tradesmen and technically minded people, but where will the new information come from? Our new discoveries, who will find them? Where will the creativity we witness in the media and entertainment industry come from?
The reason why this situation is like this today is because of years of conditioning students to believe everything that is said. I refer to you to a post from earlier this year in which a student publicly stated in class that teachers were smarter than students. I find it hard to believe that he was joking, it was said with so much conviction. I have since been asked if it were a joke. I wish that it was so.
Many people in the media and in politics would be quick to dismiss this fad as being the fault of the Internet or the entertainment industry. How many times can those two elements in our society be the scapegoat for a problem which is, in actuality, the fault of the two accusing parties?
No more lies, please.
To answer the question, this is my idea of an education revolution. Students actually LEARNING because they are contributing. They are thinking for themselves. They have an understanding of how the real world works.
Too many times I am having to explain to students that the concept of the ‘real world’ as opposed to the school world is a myth. There is life outside of school of course, but if you do not experience that life as much as possible before leaving school, then you are in serious trouble. School, sadly, does not adequately prepare our students for that life. Until something is done and our politicians wake up and realise just how outdated our current system is, then they will continue to be lost in a world that they are not ready for.