Education Rehash

Before I begin this post, a quick disclaimer:  The ideas presented and discussed in this blog post are coming from my own brain and are based on the learning I have been experiencing this semester.  If any ideas are presented here were yours first, I apologize for not recognizing you (and please feel free to post a comment stating that this thought was yours first).

Photo by: kharied

Ok. This semester I have been learning a lot about how the current system of education in Saskatchewan may be failing the majority of the student population.  The bulk of instruction has been based on the fact that change needs to occur, but very little has been said about how this change will occur or what it will look like.  I have learnt, through lecturers like Sir Ken Robinson, that the education system we are using is largely the same as one that was used 100 years ago and that a paradigm shift is needed to administer better education.  This disproportion leads me to believe that we do not have an answer to this question quite yet (perhaps answers come in years 3 and/or 4).

Now I know some questions simply do not have answers, but my gut tells me that this one does. I asked myself this question (how can the education system change to better suit the needs of the majority of students?) in conjunction with another; if the I could recreate the education system from the ground-up, what would it look like? Now, before I proceed, I want to be clear that I’m still not entirely convinced that the old system is wrong.  I mean, I learnt the traditional way and have turned into a functioning member of society.  So I’m not saying that these changes are ones I desire to see, just simply another way of looking at eduction.

In my recreation, schools would no longer be organized by age.  Instead, they would be organized by levels, much like the current University system.  I imagine there would need to be at least 9 different levels.   Requirements for graduation would also change to something like needing 20 classes of each level (I know that only gives 180 classes but work with me here… make it 30 of each level if that makes you happy).  Let’s say that a student would need 3 Math classes of each level.  At the different levels you could have “Math 501: Mathematics of Cooking” and “Math 502: Mathematics of Woodworking” where each class would offer instruction in the basic skills of math (i.e. fractions, algebra) but they give the students the option to choose the math that they want to learn that is relevent to them (Side Note:  As I start to transpose my ideas from my brain to my computer I realize that they look a little silly but I still want to flesh this out… even just to prove to myself that it is nonsense).

Students would also be able to choose how and when they would like the take the required classes.  If I am an early riser (or if Tuesdays happen to be a very busy sports day or something), I would be able to choose classes that we in the morning (or avoid classes on Tuesdays).  I know this sounds a lot like University, but I feel this type of  a system would work well in the school system as well.the increase of access to online, it is also possible that classes would be administered online, where students from around the globe would be able to learn from the best of the best in their selected subjects.

Photo by: ~Aphrodite

Just by writing this all out, I can see some major flaws with this type of system.  How would this work for younger students (5-10) who wouldn’t know how/what to choose, or how to participate appropriately in online classes (or maybe I’m not giving them enough credit).   Also, we would need to have teachers who have diverse skills and perhaps many more teachers.  This would be solved by the use of the online classroom, but that has its flaws as well.  Not all people yet have access to the internet and it would be a grave mistake to give greater opportunity to those students who have access to technology. Children also need to be given some structure, and this system has the potential to give too much freedom.

The type of system I have described also has many advantages.  Students who are given choice may find their subjects to be more relevent and may be able to develop a deeper understanding.  Students also have many more commitments outside of school and would be able to organize their school schedule to better match their extra-curricular schedule.

Wow.. it feels good to get that out of my brain.  I hope this post has at least made you think about the current system and how you would change it if you could.  Thank you for letting me unload my thoughts on you.  Have a great day!



  1. Thanks Cole. The biggest problem with individual tailoring is that we would need an infinite number of options with an infinite number of teachers… which isn’t possible. So how then can we decide which students we will tailor too? Another question with no easy answer.

  2. You make some interesting points! I think that there are different models of education being used all over the world – some more conservative and traditional and some that are much more radical. Then you throw into the mix the people who choose to home-school or un-school, and there are definitely a lot of different ways for people to learn.

    I think what it comes down to is that our focus needs to be more on how students learn and then tailor how we instruct and assist with learning to help them be successful.

    Thanks for the thoughtful post!

  3. The reason that education has remained is because it was built on the premise that knowledge and information was scarce. Those days are gone. The ability and potential for anyone with an internet connection to learn almost anything is a reality. While I applaud your move to personalize and customize learning based on choice, we also need to consider deeply what our roles of teachers has to be. Indeed Dan, you say you made it through the system fine but many didn’t. As well, your children will have greater opportunities and expectations that you had as we begin to embrace and understand this new learning landscape.

    I like the start to your thinking here but would suggest there’s some even bigger changes that need to be explored. I don’t have all the answers but realize the complexity of the problem is massive.

  4. I’d expect that at least in the US, thanks to Mr John Dewey, the current “education” system was built around the idea that the primary function of the system is to “socialize” the kids, not necessarily to educate them. Perhaps if the state schools would forget about trying to make little model citizens according to the Socialist ruler, and just focus on TEACHING them something useful, we wouldn’t have 75% drop out rates here.

    Another flaw in the US system is that somehow someone along the line apparently felt that kids would absorb learning just by being in the school building – so if you have a hoodlum terrorizing the other kids, the ones who WANT to learn but can’t because of this cretin, then he MUST be kept in the school. Perhaps if they’d throw the bad actors out of school, the remainder could learn better, and who knows but that the drop out rate would go down?

  5. Michael,

    Those are pretty broad statements about education so I’m not sure how to address them. In the US in particular, schools have been trying to focus on improving test scores. For the most part, these tests are inferior methods of measuring learning, not to mention they are simply measuring lower order thinking skills using multiple choice testing.

    But I would agree with you about teaching them something useful. I would argue 75% of current curriculum isn’t very useful. We have to recognize that the schooling system that valued memorization and compliance must be replaced with much more meaningful, useful skills. That’s the current challenge and debate. Not every one can agree but I continue to argue and fight for an system that teaches students how to collaborate, think critically and become independent learners.

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