Although there’s no single model, there are
some common principles and approaches that
I believe all schools should adopt.
To begin with, education has to be personalized to every student. If anyone reading this
has two or more children, I’ll bet you that they
are completely different from each other. If
you’re a parent, you’re never confused by which
of your children you’re talking to. The reason is
that we’re all unique. We all have our own talents, passions, motivations and interests.
Education has to address us all as individuals. Sometimes I hear people say that we can’t
afford to create personalized education for
everyone. The fact is that we can’t afford not to.
In the United States, something like 30 percent
of students don’t finish high school. It’s a much
higher figure in some parts of the country.
That’s a massive waste of talent and ability and
a huge drain on the national economy.
Many kids drop out because they don’t see
the point in school and don’t feel it’s about
them at all. The best way to improve education
is to reengage them personally.
CC: How do you go about addressing
students as individuals in education?
KR: What does it mean to personalize
education? It means, first, that schools have to
have a broad curriculum that allows all students to discover their real strengths and the
areas in which they flourish.
Second, teaching has to take account of
how different children actually learn. Not all
kids learn best sitting still for hours absorbing
verbal information. Some children respond
best to visual information; some need to move
and express themselves physically.
Third, the schedule of the school needs to
be more flexible to allow learning across age
groups and between disciplines.
And fourth, assessment has to be more
descriptive of what students have done and
rely less on single numbers and grades, which
give very little information and tend to turn
the whole process of education into a kind of
standardized obstacle course.
The good news is that we can do all of
these things now and some of the most successful schools in the country are doing them.
seeing education as a mechanical or industrial process to seeing it much more as a human and organic one. Gardeners know that they can’t make plants grow. Plants grow them- selves. Gardeners provide the right conditions for that to happen. Good gardeners under- stand those conditions. Running a school or teaching a class or raising a family is much more like gardening than [like] engineering. It’s about providing the best conditions for growth and development. And if we get that right we’ll see an abundant harvest of talent, commitment, imagination and creativity in all of our children and in all of our schools. There have always been schools that have been practicing the sorts of principles I’ve been talking about. There aren’t enough of them yet, but encouraging schools to person- alize and customize education to real children is where the revolution [in education] will come from. I’m not waiting for some shaft of enlightenment to emerge from our govern- ment buildings. Real change almost always happens from the ground up. Part of my mis- sion is to encourage more and more people to make changes in the work they do. If enough people do it, that’s a movement. As Gandhi once said, we should all aim to be the change we want to see in the world. C
“If you’re not
prepared to be
wrong, you’ll never
come up with
CC: How are the successful schools you
see doing these things?
KR: New digital technologies make it
perfectly possible to personalize the curriculum and the schedule, and the tools and applications that are now available make it easier
than ever to change the nature of teaching and
learning. I don’t mean that technology is the
answer to everything. I argue in all my talks
and books that it is not. But it is a game
changer for why we’re educating our children
and for how we can do it.
The big change, I believe, has to be from
CREATIVE COMMONS/SEBASTIAAN TER BURG
AUGUST 2012 ;e Costco Connection