When travelling to different countries you realise that many children are not being served well by their schools and school systems.
Some children may start to ‘fail’ on entering the first year of primary -why? They don’t speak the language of instruction and little accommodation is made for them.
Some children fail to complete primary school and never gain the literacy that they will need to open doors of new knowledge.
Some children are beaten, humiliated, some sexually abused, all in the name of schooling and one assumes , learning? Certainly not education.
Some children have learning difficulties or live with disability and again are laughed at, humiliated and certainly do not have their learning needs considered.
The behaviours of some teachers and other adults who have the huge responsibility of nurturing children and young people do not belong in the arena of learning.
Behaviours may follow a set of beliefs that are handed down -‘spare the rod and spoil the child’. “children need to be disciplined if they are going to pass tests and exams”
The adult knows best because they were beaten and it did not seem to do them any harm (?).
The good news is that this circus of schooling is just about dead, and certainly dying. The bad news is that it may take some time to wither and die, thus losing opportunities for another generation.
However, we can transform these systems with some extra investment (paid for by reducing the global arms production and trade, so that we all win).
We can start with simple things like having a curriculum with a focus only on health and the environment – thus saving many lives now (improved health and nutrition, reduced disease, increased brain power) and protecting the planet , its peoples, land, seas and animal populations for the future. So the curriculum is no more a curriculum of the past but a forward looking, problem solving curriculum that supports the development of life skills, resilience and cooperative learning skills that can be used in whatever future situation young people find themselves in.
Information technology tools can be made accessible to all -particularly those living in disadvantaged areas, in rural and isolated communities or those living with disability, HIV/AIDS and in poverty.
A drive to use solar powered computers and wi fi connections can now bring a world of learning to anyone who is curious ( note the school in the cloud -Mitra) children and adults alike, where learning is driven by relevant questions asked by interested participants.
Anyone willing to give it a try?
The world of philanthropy could become ‘cool’ and provide much needed seed funding to get real ‘learning for all’ up and running and the new breed of curious and enthusiastic young people can take it on from there.
Communities of learning can be realised where learning centres will take over from schools, where participants will be of all ages, not restricted to ‘one grade learning’ and likely to be open 24 hours, 7 days a week so that all can learn when they are at their most productive in terms of individualised body clocks and rhythms. No more will hay fever sufferers have to endure exams always when their hay fever is at their worst, menstruating girls can decide to focus their attention when they are feeling comfortable not told to perform on certain days and at certain times.
Exams will be found only in history books as will drawings of canes, paddles and other instruments of torture.
Learning will meet the needs of the individual within the context of their community -both local and global – problems of access to food , water, good health and shelter will be solved overnight as many learners will focus their attention on finding solutions to what their families have been enduring for decades. The results of learning will be seen as practical solutions and theories will be derived from this practice to apply to new problems.
Learning will be organic rather than planned and linear , responding to changes both locally and further afield.
Is this a dream? No it can become a reality if enough people get together and find cooperative solutions to schooling systems which , just like the unsinkable Titanic, are slowly sinking under its own weight of inertia and disinterest.
Long live education!