One of the fundamental reasons why we have this factory model of education is to ensure that citizens are educated in mass between the 18th to 19th centuries when it was important to get a large workforce that will facilitate the industrial revolution happening at such a time – the Prussian model. While this is fantastic for that time, it is obnoxious for the 21st century. After all, the economic model is no longer the same.
Sir Ken Robbinson, the author of creative schools, Salman Khan, the founder of the popular Khan Academy and author of the one world schoolhouse and Prof Linda Darling Hammond, an Education Emeritus at the Stanford Graduate School of Education and author of the flat world and education are few of education thinkers I know across the globe who agrees that this current education model is no longer working. They have expressed in different talks fora and writings as well as through their researches why there is an urgent need to change the education model in a way that will resonate with the challenges and opportunities in this century. So, I’m not sharing a lone opinion, I only stand on the shoulder of giants.
While the Prussian model (the current school system) worked in the past, the sage on the stage, sit in rows model appears to be failing us in the 21st century. There is a wide disparity between what we are teaching in schools and what is required in the real world.
The gap is wide.
Tell me again, when last did you apply quadratic equation and Eigenvector in real life (teachers and academics should stay out of this)?
But that is not the only problem.
Students are bored, they no longer find school interesting. As soon as they cross seventh or eighth grade, they are already over-schooled. You will see it on their face. They ask teachers questions every day, questions that are not part of the curriculum. Teachers are neither trained nor prepared to answer such questions. Like;
Why do I need to study the area of a triangle?
I don’t even know why myself. I only know that the area of a triangle is ½ bh. I’m an expert at that.
What is the application of polynomial division in the real world?
I know you have to find the quotient using the dividend and the divisor and sometimes you get a remainder. But, I don’t know how you will apply it in the real world.
And guess what, I’m not the only one, the curriculum doesn’t know too. Or at least, did not inform us.
These types of questions never end and we don’t seem to have answers for them.
How about one size fits all. It happens only in the schools. Even at the tailor’s shop, no matter how much you look alike, they will still take your measurement to give you your size and sometimes even taste. But in schools, no, everyone has to learn the same thing, at the same time in the same environment by the same person using the same method. The sameness is just too unrealistic.
This is silently affecting the students without us paying attention, hence, the types of questions they ask in the classroom.
To put it simply, one of the fundamental problems with the model is the fact that while the time available for students to learn is fixed, their mastery level varies significantly. This is like giving priority to the system rather than the humans in that system.
However, we must realize that we no longer have reasons to keep this model of schooling. Not only because it is no longer giving us the kind of result that will make the students apply whatever they learn in the real world, but also because we have an alternative to make learning even more personal, fun, and effective.
and for the sake of emphasis, the reason why we had this model was because of scale. The government at such times needs to give education to a large number of citizens at the same time. So, the only realistic and cost-effective way to achieve this is to teach in mass.
However, technology is right under our nose to take care of the mass requirement for content delivery. Just using video lessons alone will block out a whole lot of time for teachers to pay attention to the need of the individual child. While students can learn new concepts and content using video lessons, the teacher will have enough time to pay attention to individual learning gaps and with a lot of videos in place, students can easily move up at their own pace or repeat the video for mastery when required.
As educators, irrespective of the level, we will be doing a whole lot of disservice to our 5-year-olds if we don’t adopt technology to make learning more personal and effective.
It is time we do the needful and bring technology into our classroom. As educators, we must begin to learn and relearn appropriate technology that will help us provide personalized education at scale.
Physics and Math Teacher
Alburaimi Private School, Oman