Re-Imagining Education

Rather than accepting that the mainstream education model is the best that it can be and the problems I described in my previous post are just inevitable facts of life which our society has to cope with, I believe that it is entirely possible for all children everywhere to thrive.

Humans have an inbuilt instinct to grow and evolve our thinking and to keep on innovating to make things better. Rather than stagnating with less than perfect outcomes by saying ‘this is the best we can do’ – we always think again and try again until something better emerges.

Looking wider than education it becomes obvious that our society is stuck in a series of human systems that does not serve us. Education is just one of these human systems, others include politics, economics, welfare, healthcare, agriculture, finance, etcetera. These systems have all reached a point where they are so hopelessly inefficient, complex, bureaucratic and falling apart at the seams that their continued existence creates many more problems than it solves.

I believe that all of these systems are falling apart for the same reason: because they operate in a way that is counter to our human nature – they treat humans like machines when we are in fact organisms.

If our human systems are to thrive then they need to function like natural ecosystems and not like factories. Natural ecosystems are not static but rather evolve continuously and fluidly in instant response to both self-generated and external stimuli. Organic systems are therefore decentralised, self-regulating, cooperative, resourceful, resilient, and always adapting and shifting in response to new information and changing conditions. Human systems need to be designed to function like organic ecosystems if they are to support a thriving, constantly evolving and healthy society.

I believe that it is possible for all children to be inspired by life, and to feel happy, fulfilled, capable and well prepared for life after school. I believe that any system that is giving children less than this is not doing a good enough job. Rather than trying to tweak the existing system I decided to re-imagine (design) an education system from scratch that would be perfectly suited to the organisms called children.

I asked myself: “How would our mainstream education system function if I were to design it from scratch?”

I started by defining the purpose of the system (why it should exist?).

Based on my hypothesis that it is perfectly possible for our education system to function in such a way that it enables all children to thrive and reach their full potential, I defined the education system’s functional purpose as follows:

The purpose of the education system is TO ENABLE each and every child to acquire the skills and knowledge and develop the capacities necessary to reach his or her full potential as thriving adults in the twenty first century.

Obviously this statement of functional purpose says nothing about how this education system will achieve this purpose.

It is possible that this purpose could be achieved in a multitude of different ways depending on the answers to the following questions:

  • What are the defining characteristics of the organisms called “children”, and in particular, how do they acquire the skills and knowledge and develop the capacities that they need (how do they learn – this includes what puts them off learning)?

  • What skills, attitudes, knowledge and capacities do children need to develop in order to thrive as adults in twenty first century human society? Is learning specific content necessary?

  • Can we know what constitutes children’s full potential?

  • Do children actually need school at all in order to achieve this learning?

  • If children do need some sort of school in order to learn effectively (an enabling learning environment), then can we define the key features of how this learning environment would function?

  • How do we turn this type of enabling learning environment into an education system that functions in such a way that all children flourish? Are there any system designs that we can learn from in terms of the process the system should follow?

The design blueprint for our new education system will be defined by the answer to these questions, so the next step is to answer them…

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