Since the beginning of this school year, many thought-provoking, and sometimes gut wrenching, ideas have challenged me to really think about the present model of education. In recent weeks, I have blogged about Tony Wagner and his ideas regarding play, passion, and purpose, and Finland’s model of education that has been so successful. The following video clip, produced by Ericsson and featuring Sugatra Mita, Daphne Koller, and Jose Ferreira, came to my attention this week. All of these have a common thread that prompts a re-evaluation of educational ideas and practices.
I come from a traditional educational background. I attended a public elementary school, grades 1-6, then went on to a public junior high school, grades 7-9, and graduated from a public high school grades 10-12. I then attended a state university, received a bachelor’s degree, and then finished my master’s degree in the first three years of my teaching career. School was often difficult for me, but I was a good student because I worked hard and, most of the time, I was able to meet the expectations of the model. On the other hand, I never scored well on standardized tests and still remember the anxiety that I had taking achievement tests in elementary and junior high school, the SAT in high school, and the GMAT before entering graduate school. As a teacher for nine years in the public schools of North Carolina, I worked diligently with my students to help them pass state sanctioned “end-of-grade” tests in different subject areas and writing standardized tests.
It’s interesting that the model of education that existed when I was a child in elementary school had changed very little by the time I became a teacher…and is still essentially the same. And still today, students who, like me, are able to meet the expectations of the model, are doing well in the system. Those who can’t are the students who are “enduring” the school experience, and are hopefully finding their own ways to be successful.
Currently, due to enrollment issues and the changing climate of Japan in general, ASIJ is in a period of transition. Administrators, teachers, and students, through a strategic development plan, are reviewing the school’s approach to education across the board. This is an important time for the school, because opportunities for effective change exist on so many levels.
Now, we have to ask ourselves the really hard questions:
- Is our current model of education really meeting the needs of each of our students?
- Are we encouraging “out of the box” thinking and motivating future innovators with learning experiences that nurture entrepreneurialism?
- What do we as a faculty and community at large value when it comes to education?
Our PTA is currently holding screenings for the video “Race to Nowhere” for administrators, faculty, and parents. This is another film that calls out for schools and communities to re-evaluate their educational values.
We are on the edge of an educational revolution. With the “connectedness” that new technology has enabled, it seems inevitable. I think that Daphne Koller makes an important point when she states that education no longer has to be the “conveyor of content”. Access of that content is now available to everyone and we don’t need teachers to pass on information. What we do need are teachers who motivate students in particular areas and enable them to learn deeply…”developing thinking skills, problem solving skills, and a passion for the discipline.”
Sugata Mitra and his research suggest that students will learn for themselves and sometimes teach each other if they are intrinsically motivated by curiosity. How often, as teachers, are we able to allow students to pursue the things that really motivate them and incorporate play and passion into the school day? I believe that all good teachers try to do this, but within the current system, they are often bound to be the “conveyors of content”.
No doubt, we have come to a crossroads. It’s exciting to think of the possibilities.