We still educate children by batches

Message to the department of education!

I just heard on the news today that the government is planning a more rigorous action against schools who separate students according to ability. They are afraid of students being stigmatized and want to prevent the establishment of elite classes. That is my guess anyway. In reality students know very well who master the different subjects and are for the most part aware that students have different abilities, interests and learn accordingly.

I just participated in a workshop for school leaders in Bergen with guests from Alaska Highland Tech High. There they have a system for grouping students in according to ability and moving them up separately when they show mastery of a certain set of standards. This means you could study 7th grade math 8th grade English and 9th grade science the same year. You can move on to university level in science while you are doing 8th grade level in English, just as an example. You can find the standards on their web-site and the rubrics they use to assess. Their slogan is: Education for Leadership, Educating for Life.. I think it is important to remember that school is there for the students. Students’ voice is important. Let the students decide how and where they want to learn. In big groups, small groups, groups the progress quickly, groups that give you time to process what you learn, alone or with their friends. Together with the students monitor their learning and discuss the alternatives. How can we help you master the different subjects and move on to the next level? We are here to help you in your learning!

Listening to the minister of Education on the radio this morning made me think of the RSA Animate – Changing Education Paradigms by Sir Ken Robinson. Sadly I do not think Norway is the country that will be in front in that area. Nothing to be proud of because considering our resources, we certainly should.

How then do we organize our schools?

Schools are still pretty much organized on factory lines. Ringing bells, separate facilities, specialized into separate subjects. And we still educate children by batches. We put them through the system by age group. Why do we do that? Why is there this assumption that the most important thing these kids have in common is how old they are. Is this the most important thing? The date of manufacture? As Sir Ken Robinson, we all know kids who are must better than other kids at the same age in different disciplines. Or even different times of the day. Or better in smaller groups or in larger groups. Or sometimes they want to be on their own. If you are interested in learning you don’t start with this production line mentality, that is all about standardization. I, as Sir Ken Robinson believe we have to go in the exact opposite direction. That is changing the paradigm.

Students loose the ability to be creative after spending 10 years at school where they are taught that there is one answer, and that they can find it in the back of the book, (but don’t look. and don’t copy), because that is cheating! And outside schools that’t called collaboration. We have to recognize that most great learning happens in groups. Collaboration is the stuff of growth, if you atomize people and separate them and judge them separately, we form a disjunction between them and their natural learning environment.

Take time to watch this video and discuss it in your class!

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