Last week I wrote about some of the on going discussion concerning how the earlier approach to educating our children has served us well but the time has come to reform the system so that our kids are more suitably prepared for the needs and challenges they will experience when they enter the marketplace seeking employment. If we listen to our children and young adults we will hear them speaking about the need for a more relevant education and not being fully prepared to embrace the expectations that the marketplace will demand from them especially when that concerns a lack of soft skills–critical thinking, being able to collaborate and work in groups, to be a self starter and to demonstrate creativity and problem solving skills.
Recently I was asked the question: “Who has the most influence with our kids when we think about education and learning?” With little hesitation I responded by saying “parents–no doubt in my mind.” This is not a criticism levelled at parents–there is no “blame” intended here. Parents are the initial providers and guides responsible for their children’s view of the world they live in. Not only do parents send the messages but they also create the images that influence the thoughts, morals, values and insights their children will bring to the world. Unfortunately there are many parents who don’t understand this connection. Our children seek reassurance involving their search for their identity, their purpose and their feelings of being connected. If they don’t get those needs met at home they will get them met in other places but they will get them met.
Schools, then, become the next logical place to get that training. Schools and their purpose have changed dramatically in the last 20 years but curricula and teaching style/approach have not kept up to the need for change. Children have indicated that they need a different approach and so have those professionals who are asked to provide services to promote safer and more convivial communities. In many instances the services those professionals provide are stretched to their financial limits with no remedy in sight.
A group of colleagues who are experts in the field of providing progressive education have helped me put together a very brief outline of what this new approach could look like: (In no particular order of importance-it is all important)
–Kids learn at different speeds. Some are slower at grasping concepts than others. It doesn’t mean that they are slow learners but rather it takes a while to understand the concept and how to apply it in a practical way. We cannot demand that they learn quicker than they are able and therefore we need to do away with the “grade” system. There are alternatives that can be used to gauge a learners progress that are much less stressful. Grades are great for grading the quality of meat or eggs but not human beings. The “learners” will tell us when they are ready to move on to the next level or the next unit regarding a particular topic. To push them before they are ready or able just sets them up for failure.
–No homework or very limited amounts of it. “Home work” should be done at school as part of a group learning exercise so that more kids can learn at the same time rather than a teacher (educator) working with one student at at time. In some instances kids will learn from other kids by discussing solutions that other kids found. There is no proof that more homework promotes more learning.
–Learners (students) will work with their mentors/coaches (educators) and parents to design a learning/study plan that reflects the learners interests, skills, talents and strengths. Before you start with “Kids don’t know what they want or he/she will take all the easy subjects first” know that kids are voracious learners-they WANT TO LEARN and they will apply themselves more diligently if they are really interested in what and HOW the information is presented. Kids need to have a sense of having some control and some input into what and who they become when they reach adulthood.
–Standardized testing is not particularly helpful to the child but more so for the program itself. Many funding formulae are attached to the outcomes of standardized tests. Schools with higher test results often get more money. Kids don’t benefit by being compared with how others are doing. At the least test results need to be discussed with the learner to find out what can be done to raise their own test scores if need be.
–In many instances hard-to-serve kids are not those with mental health problems or behavioural problems but rather those who are bored, disinterested or having trouble assimilating the information into their day to day lives and therefore don’t see the point to listening.
–Curricula must address the needs of the “whole learner.” Kids need to learn about the causes of stress, depression, anxiety and panic–what they are–and how to mange the symptoms. They need to learn much more about substance abuse and drug abuse and how they affect physical functioning and what is dependence?
There is so much more to know and learn about regarding learner centered education. Go to U-tube and type in Sir Ken Robinson. He is an expert in the field. He offers so much clear and basic information about learning and education. He does offer a book among the many he has written on this topic targeted specifically to parents to help them understand how to get in involved with their kids, the educational system and how to get the most out of it.
As parents we need to be interested and excited about what and how our kids learn. We also need to be concerned about what is going to happen next regarding education because it can help determine progress, stability, well being, quality of life, fairness and social justice, freedom and solutions to world issues like homelessness, poverty, global health and wealth. I want to know that our kids will be prepared for what is coming and perhaps be an integral part of that change process. They are or can be the true agents of change. We need to make sure that they have what they need to to be successful.
Anyways, that’s how I see things, thanks for stopping by, Jim
Other videos about the need to change education by Sir Ken Robinson-click on the highlighted text.
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