A Brief History

Most education systems are hundreds of years old. Without focusing on the fact that there was a large religious aspect to the background of education, it was also what employers of industry wanted. When working in factories, employees had to be punctual, follow directions, and work tediously in line for hours on end. They didn’t want free thinking, independent people who would fight the system. Schools are exactly the same. Students sit in straight rows, raise their hand to speak or go to the bathroom, have small breaks and set hours competing against other students to be the best according to an arbitrary grade they receive at the end.

A classroom from the past

We have removed play except for prescribed times and limits. Free time is an oxymoron. Bureaucrats have even taken play and given it rules and regulations - students can’t play here, sit there, use this or use that. You eat now, play then and sit and stare at a chalkboard until the bell goes and you can leave. Is that what employment is today? Do we need people who can reiterate old ideas and memorise facts? Is that what a career is or what an employer needs in their staff today and into the future?

A modern classroom looks exactly the same

Times have changed, but has what and how we educate adapted too?

 

Are we Preparing Students for the New Generation?

Everybody has potential to achieve great things because everyone is different. We all think, act and feel different to each other, but if you judge a dog by its ability to climb a tree, it will spend its whole life believing it is dumb.

Why do we judge every student the same on something they may never achieve

Schools for many kill creativity, individuality and can be downright intellectually abusive as it is an ancient institution that doesn’t allow for growth, exploration or challenging what is given as gospel. It’s not “in the future”, but here and now we need creative, innovative, critical thinkers who can work independently and collaboratively in a way like never before, yet we still treat everyone like one size fits all. Do we need to have rote learners who can sing their alphabet or write a 2000 word essay on the influential works of Shakespeare while having to understand Pythagoras Theorem and the laws of Physics? In what job or profession is all of those skills needed? Imagine if all Doctors prescribed the same medicine to everyone? No matter who you were, how old, or your illness, everyone received the same treatment and no one questioned it. There would be sick and dying people everywhere, but we force all students to do the exact same thing. A teacher stands out the front of the room with 20 to 30 individuals with different needs, abilities, strengths and we teach them all the exact same way. It is almost like an educational malpractice. Nothing has changed.

 

Are Teachers No Longer Professionals?

Gone are the days when Teaching was a respectable profession. It has had a tumultuous heritage. Once considered a job for women, as it was one of the few they were allowed to do, it then became male dominated during the “corporal punishment” years, especially in High Schools. Families were proud if their son or daughter wanted to become a Teacher. Now people say “You’re just a teacher”. They are overworked and underpaid. The hours are long, the workload is massive, and the system restricts every movement they make. Have we forgotten that teachers help nurture the next generation of leaders, entrepreneurs, innovators, doctors, developers, and thinkers. No wonder we are shortchanging our students by underpaying teachers. What an obstacle that has been built for them.

Underpaying and overworking teachers belittles the profession

The System doesn’t allow differences - differences in students, in teachings, in subjects, in what it is we provide, and worse of all the system doesn’t trust a teachers' judgement. We need a test to summarise a students wealth of knowledge, but how many teachers would pass that test with flying colours? There’s no final test in a career, or in life. Sure, there are performance reviews, deadlines, goals, contracts that must be upheld, but there are no multiple choice questions, no standardised test at the end. Our jobs are not ranked by every other employee in the business. Employees aren’t forced to work in areas where they have no skill or ability, but in education we do. Teachers are forced to uphold a curriculum which is created by policymakers who have lost touch with what is happening in schools, or worse yet, may have never even taught in a classroom. Teachers have to justify their existence with bureaucratic paperwork and checklists, but the final decisions are taken from their hands. Instead of being a tool for learning, they have simply become a tool.

What Skills Does The Next Generation Need?

Children need to learn critical thinking and problem solving. They have to be able to communicate effectively and collaborate across various age groups and networks. The future needs people who can adapt, access and analyse information as well as showing initiative, entrepreneurialism, and agility. Above all, they will need to have imagination and curiosity to solve big world problems.

Collaboration, communication, critical thinking are all important for the youth of tomorrow

A common sentence you will read is that some of the most influential people of this century failed at school. I believe that schooling failed them. The system failed them. They managed to build empires, solve world problems, connect people, and design a future that was never before thought possible, all without using “education”.

Is There Hope?

In our connected world, Teachers are making changes. They have seen what other countries and classrooms do and are beginning to gain a voice and passion for learning. Unfortunately, many have burnt out along the way, or given up. Teachers are changing the way their classrooms are set up to allow students time and space to learn and develop. They are spending their own money to make a room to inspire. There is a massive community using social media to learn and grow within the Profession; to show best practice and what is possible within the confines of an old, archaic system. Many are designing and selling resources - not just for extra income, but to help other teachers as we all know how hard it can be. There should be more collaboration over competition in schools.

 Will education ever change?

Teachers touch the hearts and minds of every child who walks through their doors. We impact how they view the world, their perceptions, ideals and ability to grow. Teachers are often blamed when they are doing their best with what the system allows them to do.

Students may be about 20% of a country’s population, but they are 100% our future and we need to have a system that offers them the best opportunity to thrive.