I wrote a piece back in January 2014 for a competition run around the #SKILLS2014 Summit. I didn’t win. At the time I was convinced I needed to start a Free School, but I didn’t develop the idea. After Meaning Conference 2014, I’m now 110% sure that we’re mis-educating our children.

What follows isn’t the idea as it stands to be developed — for starters it lacks the insight I’ve gained on my adventures with The Work Project this year, it also leans towards tech as the summit was launching the ‘Year of Code’. I’m just sharing the original piece as a starting point, to make me get the idea out there.

Here we go…

Solving the ‘skills gap’ for now and the future needs the strategic and practical reconnection of education with the workplace, while creating engagement that inspires and motivates students.

Strategically, debating and deciding curriculum fluidly on local, regional and national levels with industry input, would make this reconnection. The external insight would keep educators informed on evolving skill requirements.

Practically, there’s fun to be had! It’s time to disrupt learning structures and deconstruct the traditional classroom to create engaging teaching environments that echo modern workplaces -designed for productivity and inspiration.

This starts with utilising two types of teacher (if we need traditional teaching at all):

  • Professional, vocational teachers – with students daily to track, oversee and encourage development.
  • External, visiting teachers with insight and expertise — out there ‘doing it’ in the workplace, linking theory to the real world.

Directly linking workplaces and the outside world to education contextualises learning in practical and relevant ways. Industry involvement (external teacher/ speaker, visits, project mentoring, sponsorship), gives students a realistic view of what the world of work is like, where they want to fit into it and the understanding that achieving ambitions is in their own hands.

Reducing red tape, bureaucracy and paperwork for teachers would allow them to focus on students and their development. Technology makes this possible:

  • A system tracking achievement, attainment and progress, with input from the students themselves, would provide a rounded, instant picture of progress and also support skills development. It could feature ambition tracking, blogging, school diary, rewards and more.
  • Centralised online knowledge sharing for teachers would make ideas and approaches open source, rather than the preserve of individual teacher’s lesson plans.

Homework delivered via a Codecademy-style interface could create individual, trackable, gamified exercises with purpose that reward and encourage progress. Homework would become enjoyable and productive. BugClub.co.uk already does something along these lines for early reading.

By de-formalising and restructuring learning into projects and tasks that link curriculum subjects to real world applications, practical understanding will be gained — while developing confidence, creative problem solving and individual thought. Student-led learning with measurable outcomes encourages self-responsibility, leadership and teamwork. This could extend to remote monitoring (simple even now with basic camera tech), allowing students to work unsupervised under guidance from start to finish.

Entrepreneurship, enterprise, creativity and innovation should be encouraged throughout education. This could be through internal and external competitions, showcases, pitch events, placements and contests.

Subject boundaries should be blurred. A room full of Kano kits isn’t an IT room, it’s an opportunity to code, build, design, control, package, modify, create, communicate. It’s maths, physics, art and more — only excitingly disguised.

Music, arts, expression and representation should be a core part of every learning environment to stimulate, challenge and relax, providing creative diversity that teaches understanding, tolerance and curiosity.

Through strategy, delivery and practicality, we can reconnect education with the world in a revolutionary and engaging way. The UK Free School model means it’s already possible to develop amazing schools like this.

Let’s do it!

By Andy Swann on November 20, 2014.
Exported from Medium on July 15, 2016.