The education system is a mess.
That’s not a revolutionary statement; experts have been saying it for years, but by each passing day, the need to address it becomes greater and greater.
Traditional education systems are in a state of crisis. In Australia, the dropout rate stands at 25%. In the US, the ironically named No Child Left Behind program has resulted in an rate closer to 30%, which includes 80% of Native American students. As a result, these former students earn less, and pay less tax as a result. Over an 11 year period, the economic damage resulting from these dropout rates totals $1 trillion.
Many of those who remain do so due to expectation. They are disengaged, and pushed to focus so intently on test scores and assessment criteria that they have no time to reflect on what really matters: not on what they must learn, but on what they can learn to create the future they desire.
Sir Ken Robinson is an international education advisor and speaker. He thinks the issue lies in the system’s neglect of the three principles that define how the human mind grows.
What we need: Diversity
It’s not just important to recognise that students are different, but to allow them to explore diverse topics. Maths and science are important, but a balanced education is one that also includes the humanities, physical education, and practical, real-world classes that will help students develop functional independence.
Instead, the system promotes conformity.
What we need: Curiosity
Students must be imparted with a desire to explore. Ultimately, it must come from the teachers.
Instead, the system promotes compliance. Students are not encouraged, they are instructed. The same goes for teachers. You’d be hard pressed to find one who entered the industry in the hope of inspiring and changing lives, only for system expectations to inhibit their ability do so.
What we need: Creativity
Not only as a means to engagement, but a tool.
Instead, the system promotes standardisation.
It’s the latter of these, creativity, that is ultimately most important.
In his 2007 TED speech, Do Schools Kill Creativity?, Sir Robinson brings up a question on the mind of many: we don’t know what the world will look like in 10 years time, so how do we teach to ensure students are successful in a speculative future?
A decade later, we’re still asking the exact same question in the exact same way. Nothing has changed. The answer too remains the same.
We have to teach students to be creative. To innovate. To fail, and learn from their failure. To understand that knowledge is flexible, and can be applied outside of the specific context in which it was first presented.
When these principles underlie what is taught, it is branded ‘alternative education’, as if practical, engaging teaching has no real merit in the mainstream.
Education, at its heart, is social, not institutional. Power must be returned to the classroom, to both teachers and students, for it to be truly effective in the future of work.