Life is constant change. Learning through change is what we need to support our children to do. As adults we can continue to learn only through formal classes and formalised institutions but that will never be sufficient. I believe learning happens everywhere and anywhere. The boundaries between formal learning in schools and informal learning at home will be blurred, challenged and reshaped to suit every individual. It is time to change the mindset “I learn at school and rest at home” into “I learn at home and I lean at home”. Redefine education beyond the classroom walls and the curriculum outlines.
The fears about the future of our children, about the future of education are turning into a panic. The “lost time” and the “gap” between groups of children seems daunting. These are fears about loosing what we have, but I am exited about what we will gain. Online adult education has already re-shaped the idea of education and learning, we lean at work, we learn at home and we learn in a classroom. We will have to implement the same strategy for our children- see the learning as a every-day process in our simple life. The power of education is in it’s flexibility.
Through the conversation with my students i realise most of them are missing the school they knew. They recognise that they need time and space to sit down and focus their mental abilities on learning. That is undeniable basic need for learning. As a teachers we spend a lot of effort and time to remove any distractions from the learners and force them to think about the topic we would like to teach them. There is varied success between schools and between teachers in establishing environment for learning. This can not be easily achieved in a busy household with completing needs between household members. Formative learning needs to happen in time and space without distractions. Schools will have to stay strong as establishments for quiet learning, offering children access to room and a book and time and place of quiet.
Learning it is not only formative. The education with it’s flexibility and looseness has embraced learning thorough experience. Schools trips are organised to expand the horizon of the children. Educational visits and conversation with professionals are used to inspire and educate children. Finances are invested for children to be able to “work” in a safe school kitchen, or wood work or science laboratory. This is where collaboration with parents can enrich this part of education. Trips can still be organised by the school, but also families can be encouraged to visit museum/theatres/parks. This learning does not have to happen only through school, but schools can facilitate it. Build strong collaboration between the providers of educational experience and the children.
The curriculum is based on learning just because it might be needed. Students are always questioning “Why are we learning this?”. I think “Why” will be more obvious to everyone once we solve the “How are we going to learn this?”. Basing curriculum learning in a classroom with 30 children limits the ways a topic can be delivered/ explained. The time limit imposed on teachers by the length of the lessons and the number of lessons available impairs that wonderful flexibility of the education. As teachers, we need to make sure students know the curriculum. Students need to have an overview of what they need to learn, but give them the power the learn it in different ways.
Students can use various resources to learn parts of the curriculum. They can watch a good program on TV and experiment in their own safe way. They can create revision cards or posters or use exam questions. Students can take time outside school to repeat/revisit the part of the curriculum that they need to. Teachers should be more of a coach/mentor to guide the students through the curriculum, check their understanding and encourage them. But students should have the power to choose how they are learning with that why are they learning it is more obvious. Let the flexibility of learning be enriched with the input students can choose.
The fear about the “lost time” is unfounded because every experience is learning, even if it is not linked to the curriculum. The fear about “closing the gap” can be easily addressed by offering the children that need safe learning environment by giving them access to school premises when they need it, but at the same time not to stop children learning outside the school. Work with the parents as partners. Share the idea that parent is an educator and teacher is a parent in absence. We are working for the better future of our children. Involve other agencies and embrace their educational impact. Design a truthfully flexible education to fit each student and each family.
Flexibility can create error-tolerant education where if children do not learn a particular topic in year 9 term 1, they can easily catch up later. Flexibility will allow children to spend different amount of time on particular topic, depending on their understanding. Flexibility will not allow loosing time and loosing education for our children. Children demand that flexibility because they are unique in every way.