There are parents who are choosing to 'unschool' their children – basically, pulling them out of the classroom so they can learn in the most natural, unstructured way. It's like homeschooling, but more independent and experience-driven.
With tuition fees and cases of bullying on the rise, it's an understandable decision. But it begs the question: is unschooling the only solution to existing flaws in our education system?
What don't we like about schools right now? Homework – the kids seem to have too much of it. Grading systems – are they really a good motivational tool? Curriculums – how relevant are today's subjects for our children's futures?
Unschooling is one way to fix these problems. But there's another alternative: tech disruption within institutions.
An overhaul of our education system is long overdue. The current teaching methods, subjects and grading systems have been around for more than half a century! It's time for education to catch up with what the kids need to learn so they can succeed.
How can we unschool the schools themselves? Here are our ideas.
Get rid of four-walled classrooms
If adults can't stomach the idea of sitting in a chair and facing one direction for eight hours straight, then we shouldn't expect a seven-year-old kid to suffer through it either. Obviously no school is able to conduct lessons beside a stream or in a jungle, but learning can happen in more practical areas, like museums, hospitals and government offices – places where things are actually happening.
Stepping out of the classroom doesn't have to be expensive. For example, a student can learn about the Great Wall of China through an immersive virtual reality tour.
Doing away with classrooms will also benefit students who can't make it to physical schools. Students who live in remote areas, struggle with finances or have special needs can all benefit from distance-learning materials such as massive online open courses (MOOCs) or video-call lectures.
Curriculums don't have to be one size fits all
There are practical reasons why our curriculums were initially standardised: resources were limited, it was expensive to revise printed modules and there just was no good way to determine what each student needed.
But look at what's happening around us right now. The internet is overflowing with educational materials from TED-Ed to Khan Academy to YouTube. Modules can be revised on a computer and released in an instant. And big data allows us to personalise recommendations for everything from shopping to medicine – so why not education?
Students should be able to study what they're passionate about – and schools should be equipped to help them excel in their choices.
Grades need to go
Progressive schools are starting to adopt mastery-based learning, where students are encouraged to master a set of grade-level skills, rather than simply earn high grades. In this set-up, there are no slow learners or low scorers – students are allowed to take the time they need to fully understand concepts in subjects like science or maths.
While this would've been an operational nightmare 20 years ago, modern technology is helping teachers provide personalised education for every student. Learning apps can adapt to each student's level and skill set. Educators can use big data to profile various types of students. And evaluation season becomes less crazy with the help of AI-powered checkers and monitors.
If you could pick one thing to change about the education system right now, what would it be?
If you want to hear more about what we're brewing at the Rare Birds Labs, send us a message at [email protected]
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