Could this be the new home room teacher? Image Credit: Mono

Could this be the new home room teacher? Image Credit: Mono

I don’t think anyone can disagree that the way we educate is fundamentally flawed. It is based on the old Prussian school system which is intended to create factory workers. The structure, authority, and suppressing dissent are as much part of the education as the topics they will instantly forget.

Many educational studies have shown that the topics taught through the school system have very little retention, and is done so in a way that crushes children’s natural inclination for learning. We need something new, but we have to admit all of the roles of a school.

First and foremost is education. Many, even in the university level think of this as job training, but school needs to be as much about exploration and building personality as it is vocational school. Otherwise, a few lessons and you could send children to work much younger. We all have come to agreement that children need time in a school environment to figure out who they are as a person.

Second is the social function. It is one of the reasons I really have problems with home schooling, no matter what scientific facts you deny. Children learn as much who their social self is as much as their intellectual from schooling and it is an important function.

Third is that school functions as a form of state-funded daycare. Working parents do need their children doing something all day, preferably encouraging personal growth.

Fourth is accreditation. People use schooling to show that a person has skills and knowledge to show competency for different work.

I think the first major change is with pacing of lessons. We all know catering to the middle speed of the class is a disservice to a majority of students. Half the class finds topics too slow, and half find it too fast. And that might change for the student subject to subject, even lesson to lesson.

The first major proposal is to do away with the in-person lecture as the mode of teaching. YouTube is ten years old now, we can do better. Look at work like Salman Khan and his way of teaching mathematics. His own metrics are very promising for such a difficult subject.

Lectures in video format can be played, replayed, slowed down, or sped up. The utility of video trumps in-person lectures any time. With some programming, school boards could incorporate all sorts of interactive lessons.

If I had my way, every child would be given some sort of machine not unlike an iPad. The lessons, curriculum, and modules from the earliest first grade lessons to the most advanced topics in astrophysics would be part of it. Things like grade levels would be irrelevant, and students can move along at the paces they set in the topics they are most engaged with.

So what would you put on a resume? Essentially, job postings could simply have skill requirements posted for what they are looking for. It not only would result in much better applicants, but people could orient themselves towards careers they feel inclined to. I think this could help people in their career planning, working for promotion, and give the options for self-improvement to everyone regardless of their time, or wealth.

One excellent advantage of individualized pacing of education is that students could, through almost constant testing, completely understand a concept before moving to the next. In many areas this would be very valuable, and would benefit a lot of students in difficult subjects where not understanding one thing could simply result in you getting further and further lost, like math or languages.

So what would be the role of school? With video lectures and device-based lessons and testing, we could simply stop hiring teachers and call it a day. Not so much.

As I mentioned above, lessons and accreditation are only part of the functions of schooling, and teachers may be lower in number but have a role to play. For self-improvement, and socialization, schools could function as places of group projects. This could expose students to topics that they might not have explored yet in their lessons, and develop them as people. Teachers could help students struggling with lesson modules with more time for one-on-one interactions.

Your average day at school might be some time getting physical activity in gym or the playground with your friends, or building history dioramas as part of a heritage week project. School plays, clubs, sports teams, all have a valuable role in the community, and the school could serve that function.

School might only last until the student is 18, but with a program like this, people could learn their whole lives. Often educational barriers keep people from advancing in their careers, or intellectually as people. With the lessons, testing, and accreditation, people could always work a little towards that promotion, or that topic they have a personal interest in. That lifelong learning we always talk about could be a reality.

Sadly, these ideas have multiple hurdles. There are lots of interests, with a lot of money and political influence, which would keep an improvement to education from coming about. There is an interest in keeping people from getting too much education, lest any accidental dissent or class mobility happen.