Our education system: Flowers and rainbows or mental torture?

“What will education be like in the future?” The question nobody has an answer to. How would education look like if you could pull the strings? Exactly the same because it’s all flowers and rainbows, or a system that’s a far cry from the forced system it is now?

Well, nobody knows. The last significant change in our education system was more than 120 years ago. Education is the first building block of a good working society. Everything starts in school: our knowledge, competences, personal development, maturation, and so on. We live for school, and school decides our future.

So, let me break it down for you: our education system isn’t working anymore. It’s outdated, ready to toss in the garbage can. Of course, teachers are trying to make it better, more now than ever. You’re all beginning to see the light. “Stop” to the teacher burn outs, to the bored students, and to the lack of good materials.

So, you know there are a lot of issues in this old system, and that it’s not all flowers and rainbows.

Peter Hinssen, a Belgian technologist naturally high on change, called today’s education system – mark my words – “Guantanamo bay mental torture”. Yes, I know, this is Belgium. But, our education system is probably not that different than yours.

I’m writing this blog post in response to a Dutch article about today’s education system on Bloovi. Dirk De Boe, an education innovator, pleads for a complete change in education. Not just one part of it. It’s not enough to just introduce technology in all classrooms, or just introduce project work (“Just let teachers collaborate more and it’ll be fixed.”) Nope, It all has to change.

Change is in the teacher’s heart and hands

Enough talking about the problems. We don’t get any further by just stating the facts and keep talking negative. After all, change has to come from the teachers. Yep, you guys! You have the real power to change your school.

Don’t wait for the government to support change: they move too slow. Don’t wait for parents to help you out: they aren’t used to new teaching methods. Don’t wait for students to speak up: they’ve been told for years to listen to their teachers.

On the 1st of September, the Belgian media was going mad about the first day of school. All happy faces, no tears. A nice thing to see. They interviewed a kid and asked if he had already learned something today. “Yes”, he said. “To be quiet”, he answered. Really funny to see on television, kind of sad to hear.

That’s why you have to start talking about innovation in the teacher’s lounge. Let your words slumber in the room. It’s a snowball that’ll keep growing and growing when you push it. Your voice is the voice of education.

Transform your school from the inside out

So, what do you have to talk about? How do you change your school? Dirk talks in his new book “EduNext” about the wheel of transformation with 8 pieces that all have to work in order to get the wheel spinning and get the transformation going. These 8 necessary pieces are learning content, learning methods, evaluation, learning time, learning environment, learning network, learning resources and organisation.

How can you transform those 8 pieces? Is there a right way or guideline that tells you what to do? No, there’s isn’t. But let’s try to interpret these 8 pieces.

Ask yourself some questions:

  • Learning content: Are the things we’re teaching relevant? What do students have to learn? Is it something they’re passionate about? Do they love learning and is it something that emphasizes their talents?
  • Learning methods: Are our teaching methods the good ones? Is “teaching” not too boring? What about more collaboration, brainstorming and discussion? Self-control and freedom? Or what about the new trending methods such as Blended learning and flipped classroom, mastery learning, microlearning, project based learning, you name it.

  • Evaluation: Still giving grades? Do your students know more with a grade? What about formative assessement and feedback, feed-up, feedforward and peer feedback?

  • Learning time: Are our lessons too long or not? Is 7 hours of sitting on a bench good for the students? What about more active breaks and vacations? Microlearning? What about homework? Is it necesarry to give so much homework or to do a test the first school day after a break?

  • Learning environment: Do your students have an old classroom with uncomfortable chairs and grey walls? It might seem weird now to some of you, but I had a classroom like that, and I’m not even that old! Maybe they have a new fresh learning environment with a lot of light? Are the seats all next to each other, or in a circle? Are there any other learning environments that inspire and stimulate collaboration?

  • Learning network: Can students get in touch with other students of other schools? Are there any foreign projects? Can they rely on professional guest speakers or pen pals? What about professional learning websites?

  • Learning resources: Is education ready for technology? Do students have internet access? Are there devices available in school? Do teachers know what to do with technology? How it could be useful in the classroom? What about the books? Are they up to date?

  • Organisation: How is everything organised? How open is the organisation? Are parents really helping, or do they have to stand on the sidelines? Is the principal participating and active in work groups, or is he just waiting for teachers to work out projects?

You have to transform each one of these in order to change your complete school. Another important thing is that all of these 8 pieces must keep in mind one goal: put the student in the middle of their own learning process.

Everything is about the student. No more bored students, but engaged students who take control of what they learn and how they learn it. You, the teacher, are not the bearer of information anymore. Students are detectives and go on a quest to discover new informations themselves. You are the role model and give guidance where necessary.

What does the future of education look like to you?

In this blog, I’ve just described and interpreted the ideas of one person. But that doesn’t mean you have to think the same way. Maybe you have another brilliant solution lying at the tip of your tong everybody is waiting for. Maybe not.

Are you ready to change your teaching or teacher role? How are you going to do that? Every little step is a step towards the future of education. Tweet about your step (@ibookwidgets) and encourage other teachers to do the same. Because to change education, we must change together.

Transform education

Lucie Renard

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