It’s very easy to accept how school works because, for as long as we can remember, it has always been that way. But let’s just have a look at a few things that we just accept.
Let’s look at the origin of the long school holidays that never seem to end, the short school day which doesn’t coincide with the length of parents work days or the fact that both parents are working to support most families due to disproportionate cost of living compared with salaries.
Let’s take a look at what children learn at school and work out if how a curriculum is structured and how learning is done is still relevant in a time where information is available by a quick search and while the world has been majorly impacted by a technology disruption which has changed the focus of what careers and jobs are going to have longevity for the foreseeable future and which ones are going to not require a human to perform.
How should a Curriculum be set?
Traditional curriculums setup a set of discrete set of subjects which are mathematics, chemistry, physics, language, language, literature, history and physics to name but a few. What we have finally come to understand is that the edges are very blurred. You cannot have physics without mathematics and it would of course involve language and literature and have an existing history.
What should a Curriculum teach?
What we no longer need to know is how the memorise the periodic table or how to memorise your 12 times table or memorise the United States Presidents or United Kingdom Prime Ministers, you can simply look these things up and use the tools readily available to carry out the task at hand.
Google is my friend
The most relevant skills to learn are how to find what you need and then how to use what you have. I heard a talk by Mark Osbourne from CORE Education in New Zealand who quoted the following:
The most important the skills are 1) how to learn, 2) how to relearn and 3) how to unlearn
With the technology disruption which has happened where autonomous vehicles, speech recognition, 3D printers, powerful computers, orchestrated workflow, centralised data, digital message delivery, etc. have come into our lives, we need to understand that approximately 55% of all jobs performed by humans including administration, transport and delivery will be automated in the next two decades.
A good example is the role of a secretary, most people in business type their own emails and make their own appointments and manage their own working day using an application available on their desktop, laptop or mobile device.
With this in mind, teaching the young how to do the types of activities which cannot be computerised is absolutely necessary. So, if the current curriculum can assess a student by using a multiple choice set of answers, the likelihood is whatever this skill represents can probably be taught to a computer to perform 🙂
The most likely types of activities which are of value now and into the future are how to find answers to problems where there is not currently a best solution.
When we mentioned early on about unlearn, this may be difficult to comprehend, (maybe not, but a lot of people have done it). When you got a Samsung phone to replace the Nokia phone you had for years, you had to forget how you performed actions on the Nokia in order to more effectively relearn how to do the same tasks on a new device which does things very differently.
Are School Holidays too long?
In April 2013 in the Independent, on the subject of school holidays, the Education Secretary Michael Gore stated:
The current school timetable is out of date and only fit for the agricultural economy of the 19th century – where children had to have long summer holidays to help in the fields.
This isn’t the only reason, those long summer vacation taken across all administrative, judicial and ecclesiastical institutions from those students had no relationship with working the fields and the harvest.
He also stated that:
It was also fixed on a world where a majority of mums stayed home. That world no longer exists and we can’t afford to have an education system where essentially its hours were set in the 19th century.
The idea of changing the structure of a schooling year was rejected by the National Union of Teachers which if it was to be the only change, I would also agree; having children taught the same way as we currently do would increase the curriculum and make it even harder for the slower learners to ever catch up.
However, as we move away from a lecturing approach and into collaborative, demonstrative, research and discussion learning approaches in modern learning environments and mixing pupils of different ages, the role of teachers also becomes collaborative along with the need for assistants who are there to offer advise and talk through problems to be solved, the easier it becomes to accept the idea that the number of school days can be extended to allow the pupils to set their own pace of learning and achieve a much better result.
After two weeks of holiday, kids (same as adults) get into the swing of being on holiday, an additional week results in full relaxation, any time longer than that makes it seriously difficult to get out of holiday mode and back into work or school mode. Quoting from an article about education regression during holiday breaks:
Unfortunately, on returning to school, it’s often found that children’s learning levels have taken a step backwards; much of the hard work during the previous year was for nothing!