With the launch of a new higher educational project, an online university Futurelearn, education is taking another new turn.
The project sees UK universities beginning to offer massive open online courses which could ‘revolutionise conventional models of formal education” according to the universities minister David Willetts. (BBC news)
But perhaps it will go beyond that and revolutionise how we think about systematically educating our youngsters and how we make provision.
The education system has been constantly and dramatically changing. Much of it not necessarily for the better as the curriculum gets more prescriptive, squeezes out those who don’t fit into boxes, testing becomes ever more prominent, and young people are either burnt out or disengaged by its narrow, irrelevant approach.
It’s driving more and more parents to question it; the validity of it, the methods and the practises, and the quality of the teaching that results.
It’s also driving more parents towards home schooling. And the success of educating without school, plus the increasing opportunity to learn and find support online, raises the question; are our young people actually getting what they need from this age-old system that was set up before society, technology, culture, knowledge and opportunity so radically changed.
When schools were set up few could read, write or were competent with number. So we needed those with the skills and the knowledge to teach us – it was not accessible in any other form.
It is now! And we have technology!
However we still base the model for our education system on that original idea. And despite so-called progress in our provision we still have youngsters emerging without skills.
But this is not because the majority of our modern youngsters haven’t got the capacity to learn as in days gone by, it’s because they are numbed by a systematic, antiquated, test heavy approach that turns them off wanting to learn.
Contrary to what many people think children mostly want to learn. That’s why they’re into everything when they’re young. It’s the adults around them that usually prevent them. And schooling. Both provide a slow progressive death to their learning desire.
But what if we retained that desire? What if we designed an approach that inspired them to learn more and more? What if, instead of treating them like people who needed schooling, we treated them like people who wanted to learn and set out opportunities and choices that attracted them in?
The idea behind FutureLearn is the assumption that many people want to take their education higher. And they don’t need to be forced with compulsory courses to do it. The courses and outcomes are attractive enough.
The motivation behind home schooled children’s learning also comes from their desire to do it; the experiences and approach are interesting and stimulating enough to provide the motivation.
But why are we still forcing young people under the age of 17 to learn? If we need to force them what does that say about schools’ approach?
What if we adopted a new approach? What if schools were so appealing kids were flocking in? What if the teachers were so inspiring kids were queuing to be taught by them? What if the methods used were stimulating, relevant and engaging?
In fact; why are they not?
This new approach to university learning will not be the end of school as we know it. But maybe this whole project could set parents asking: What we can learn from it to make the school experiences for our kids a whole lot better. Because they certainly needs to be.