Changing the Education Paradigm

Posted by in Best Of, Intriguing

I’m embarrassed to say that I don’t really remember how I came across this video, but it is incredibly intriguing lecture on Changing the Education Paradigm.  The animated lecture, put on by The RSA, brings up very interesting issues about our current system of education.  I strongly recommend you watch the video, but in short, the take home points are that our current system of education is rooted in the enlightened and built on the economic principles of the industrial revolution, such as standardization and conformative thinking.  However this current model is no longer sustainable.  We need to change our paradigm by developing a system to encourage more divergent thinking, which the lecturer defines as the capacity for creative thinking.

At first glance, the video is very convincing.  He brings up many fascinating truths that many of us had never even considered a potential issue.  The use of the graphics to aid the lecturer makes following his flow manageable and easy to understand.  Not to mention is a very succinct argument with seemingly qualified evidence.

But I think there are some serious shortcomings.  Honestly, I think everyone, especially anyone in education, would agree with the lecturers take home points, that our current form of education has worked in the past but is no longer sustainable.  My mom, a retired educator of over 30 years, told me this is not a new concept.  So learning that bit of information made the lecture lose a little credibility, given this was an issue decades ago.

Another issue with it is that the lecturer never provides a concrete solution.  He suggests we change our paradigm, but he lacks an implementable plan to rectify the problem.  Yes, things need to change, but how? One can argue that just increasing awareness of the issue is the first step, and it’s absolutely true.  But then again, it’s just that….the first step.  What about the next step?  His lecture would be exponentially more convincing if he provided an idea for improvement.

I also didn’t like his argument against “batching” children by age, claiming that different students are stronger in different subjects at different ages.  His point is absolutely correct, but he’s neglecting the purpose of “batching” students by age isn’t just for academic reasons; it’s predominately to match socio-emotional maturity.  I think anyone can agree that although a 6th grader may be able to read at a 12th grade level that they should NOT be placed in 12th classes.

Last issue is money! Our population is growing, yet we have a shortage of teachers.  That means per teacher, number of students is growing, making it increasibly difficult to provide individualized instruction and proper amount of attention required in order to culture divergent thinking.  Unfortunately, as a result of school and district expectations, teachers will default to maintaining standards to keep their jobs, and thus perpetuating the current problem.

My mom suggested in interesting solution that she has urged in the past that is a elegant and simple solution to that addresses many of the issues brought up in this video. She believed the bet solution was to combine 2 or 3 elementary grade levels into one class.  This will allow teachers the time to learn the strengths and weaknesses of each student, and cultivate a method to teach them that maximizes their individual learning styles.  This merging of classes still supports the current dogma of age related socio-emotional maturity, but will now allow for more flexibility when it came to students academic levels.  I can’t speak for where my mom would stand on this, but  it may even be possible to make different academic level classes for each multi-grade class to better support the lecturers stance.

Despite my disagreements, it’s a fantastic video, and the underlying message undoubtedly correct.  But for it to fulfill it’s goal of Changing the Education Paradigm, it too needs it’s own critiques.  So now if you haven’t done so already, sit back, relax and enjoy the show.