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We are not an alternative school.
We are the alternative to schooling.

What happens when we let learners lead the way in schools?

RN

Raaji Naveen

Aug 24, 2020

I happened to read an interesting article recently on the New Choluteca Bridge in Honduras. The designers had set out to build it to be invincible. And invincible it was! Even as natural calamities such as Hurricane Mitch battered surrounding infrastructure, they failed to shake this perfectly constructed bridge. However, it was not the fact that stood out.

Interestingly, the force of the hurricane destroyed connecting roads, causing the river to carve out a new path for itself. What was left behind was nothing but a theoretically perfect bridge that led to nowhere. While the engineers had left no scope for architectural flaws in the bridge, the fact still remains that it has no water running under it anymore.

As the author rightly notes, the coronavirus is our hurricane, pummelling our healthcare, societal, and economic infrastructures. If you are in business, large or small, the coronavirus has caused the river beneath you to change course. And that bridge you’ve spent years building and maintaining might end up going nowhere.

As an educator, I could hardly resist drawing parallels to the field of education. Has the current system of schooling become the bridge that stands tall, and the new generation of learners become the river that has changed paths?

Have we forgotten the most important person in the education system?

Amidst all the hue and cry around learning, we seem to have forgotten the learner! Ever noticed how we encourage young children to be curious about the world, have many interests, learn at their own pace, and have fun while they are at it? Why do we stop telling them the same as soon as they enter high school? Why does learning suddenly lose its ‘fun’ element and become focused only on getting a job? We interviewed a few learners on the purpose of schooling in their lives. Here is what they had to say:

From their opinions, it seems like there is a major disconnect between what learners really want and what they are being provided in conventional schools. In the current system, our children learn an annual curriculum that is rigid and archaic, easy to teach and grade and promises to serve the lowest common denominator. They often learn by a pre-set timetable, in-between ‘fun’ periods and only when a teacher is present and willing to teach. In short, what we are left with is an education system that stands tall but is not serving the learners to pursue their passions.

On the flip side, the skills they would need to stay relevant in the 21st century are empathy, leadership, creativity and teamwork – which nobody is teaching them in their schools.

Let the learner speak!

Going by the shifts we are seeing in our industry, we believe that modern concepts such as inclusion, learning how to learn, attitude/growth mindset development, social entrepreneurship, public problem-solving and phenomena learning will be the greatest predictors of success. This means we need to have a plan in place to future-proof our schooling.

When we speak of a ‘plan’, it means re-thinking the old ways of doing things and making way for an ecosystem that:

  • Appreciates mistakes (as opposed to punishing them)
  • Learning through one’s own mistakes
  • Solving problems and not “exercises”
  • Group collaborations
  • Portfolio of experiences
  • Mentoring and coaching

The way we see it, future-proofing our educational system is not as cumbersome or daunting as we imagine it to be. If we do not want to be remembered as a bridge to nowhere, we need to follow the river to where it wants to go: we need to let the learners do the talking for once.

If you are a learner, what would you want schools to know? Tell us in the comments below. We would love to hear from you!

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We are not an alternative school.
We are the alternative to schooling.

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