I just spoke to a parent of a student, frustrated that the standard in a so-called ‘high achievement’ school seems to be dropping. The unspoken question seems to be “why are schools still stuck in the Reading, Writing, “Rithmetic rut?” Or, as some wonder, why are schools not educating the whole child?
A reports earlier this month in TIME magazine, Why it’s time to Replace ‘No Child Left Behind’ is enough to make one agitated!
Many studies say that rut in question, is an obsessive exam mentality that needs an overhaul. School systems have become fixated with preparing children to pass exams, but don’t have the resources to prepare them for the other exam out there –the exam known as Life! Which is exactly what that parent was anxious about.
US policymakers have been alerted to this. A recent Harvard study of student achievement on global perspective (EducationNext.Org) found that unless we fix math and reading skills, the outlook in the global economy looks grim.
Not that this is exclusively an US problem.
Europeans, too are worried. A recent study on how education and training is meeting the needs of the digital world and the European economy (‘The Future of Learning: Preparing For Change’) say that schools need to make a fundamental shift if Europe is to remain competitive. Students will need to be competent in “problem solving, reflection, creativity, critical thinking, learning to learn, risk-taking, collaboration, entrepreneurship.”
Should we take our curriculum back to the drawing board? Should we redesign the classroom?
Yes, but... If there are is one thing I am frustrated about, it is the rush to plunk computers in front of students, and think this will solve all our problems. The argument goes like this. Our kids are digital natives, so getting them to take down notes on ruled paper, and listen to a teacher is not the best way to engage them.
I work in digital and analog environments, and have been a big advocate of bridging the gap between these two realms. That does not mean replacing one with the other. A tablet will not automatically make a child collaborative and yearn for deeper knowledge, just as (to paraphrase an old saying) owning a library card will not automatically make a person well read. Preparing students for a 21st century workforce requires us to make them much more than just digital. The European JRC European Commission study calls for education to be more “personalized, collaborative, and informalized.” One could write an entire paper on these three areas.
Sure let’s redesign the classroom, but let’s not discount the importance of a value added teacher who brings extra-curricular knowledge into his/her material. In fact, the term ‘High Value Added Teacher’ is now being used by one Harvard study –see video below.
Also, on a more optimistic note, there’s a great experiment about ‘Active Learning Classrooms’ worth watching. I like how it is not just the students, but the teacher who is adapting to the new learning classroom as well. Inspiring video!