What I Think Tank

The Future For Education

with 3 comments

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Everybody usually agree that education is important to give our kids. This is why many countries fund public schools in order to give every kid, both rich and poor, the ability to educate themselves and increase the prosperity of their country. Private schooling is often seen as an elite business that only the rich can have. While this may have been the case 150 years ago, it’s not true any longer. Exactly because everybody agrees that education is important for our kids, there would exist a market for educating all of them at an affordable price. Education doesn’t have to be expensive. It can be done cheap, and still be of high quality and perfected to the individual.

The weakness of public schooling is that it’s one single model – one size fits them all. The gifted children are being dragged down by the less gifted children, and those with learning problems cannot keep up with the rest of the class and find education frustrating. This leads to lazy children without discipline who end up not learning very much. I still remember the days at school, and the single most notable thing I remember from those days were how crowded, rowdy and undisciplined it all was. I would try to sit and soak up whatever I could of what the teacher said, trying to make the hours at school worthwhile, while ignoring those who obviously wouldn’t care, but it’s not that easy for everyone, and it’s hardly a cost-effective system.

I grew up in Norway, and before going to University I went through 12 years (9 years primary and 3 years high school) of education in what is called “likhetsskolen” in Norwegian. “The equality school”, or perhaps even “the egalitarian school” – not necessarily equal in rights and value, but equal in skills and abilities. All who are of the same age are crammed into the same classroom of up to about 30 kids, regardless of abilities. You know the drill. The teachers do not wield with discipline or structure, and the result is thereafter. To be honest, it’s chaos – perhaps only beat by American urban public schools in low-income neighborhoods. So I believe I know a thing or two about how dreadful the experiences of a public school system can be.

It’s unsustainable. It’s a waste of time, money and effort. Teachers are taught bad methods and aren’t given authority or challenges. Needless to say, the same is the case for the kids. It simply cannot go on any longer.

What do I think? If we cannot get people to understand that we need to create a free market in education, we need to change the system from within to save what possible future there is for our kids in the public schooling system. We need to individualize and reorganize. I think the future for education lies in open source education material and individualized education with one child – one computer. While you may think buying a bunch of computers will be expensive and impossible, try to think about how far we’ve actually already come in the wasteful public school system with computer labs and even laptops for children? Taking that into consideration, think about how extremely much you could save if no schools would have to buy another text book. Imagine the savings. How would they get their material? Digital! With the great progress in computer technology as of late, and after I learned about Curikki, I immediately understood what the future is. Why do we for instance reproduce old textbooks in maths and reading that have been the same for a hundred years? Why do we print them up in endless amounts and buy new books each and every year? Why are there so many different books created that aim to do the exact same thing? It’s wasteful. How can it be different? Easy solution: Create open source material available on the Internet. Create software for computers that can limit all its functions to educational purposes and have each kid sit in their own “bubbles” in front of the computer and do math, science, history, social sciences etc at their own level. The whole class doesn’t have to do the same thing at the same time. They can progress through the curriculum on an individual basis, with teachers and assistants going around helping the kids. No longer do you have to divide the year into semesters. Kids can learn at their own pace. Why should we stop a kid from excelling two levels in one year if they are able to and want to? They can strive for success and to get high scores, without the teacher having to “tone down the competitiveness” in “respect” for the less gifted children. With this kids can theoretically compare their scores to test scores from all over the world, if they so wish, and teachers can keep track of them digitally and give feedback to the kids and their parents whenever they please.

Social activity and friendships are still made in between classes, and you could have special team projects to teach social skills and team work, where the teacher could mix and match kids of different abilities and levels, by seeing how they do on the computers. Different kids have different skills, so different projects would have different teams, avoiding the problem of creating “cliques”. All they know is that they can excel in their own work at their own pace. You avoid the complete “class distinction” that the left is so overly afraid of, and you still get the skill level matching that the right is so obsessed with. In the end, kids are taught at an individual level with efficient and cost-effective methods, and teachers can be given authority and get back in control of their classes. Education can be made fun for each kid. If some kids need special programs, there are endless possibilities of letting them get this, since those who manage and enjoy the individual digital program will still get what they need – fun challenges in an orderly context.

What might have been a problem before is now very easy, especially when it comes to primary education. Of course, the best solutions will always come from the free market marketplace of ideas, and nothing can substitute the great value and success a private school system would bring, not to mention it’s the only choice that is right, since the nature of a public school system is intrinsically immoral and unjust. We deserve and have the right to a free market school system. … But what we deserve and what we have are often two different things. So we need to deal with what we’re being limited to, and there are a lot that can be done in terms of reforming current systems, and liberalizing the children, freeing up wasteful spending and getting rid of ineffective methods. An individual based digital school is something people should fight for. Coupled with a voucher system, the road from this and to achieving a completely private school system would be remarkably small. Of course, what I’ve talked about here may actually not succeed. I cannot know before I’ve tried, and in a public sphere everyone must try. That is the downside. I would be very glad to see if people have specific examples of private schools that run just like this. I’m sure it probably exists in America, and I’m also sure they have had great success with it. I just don’t know about it, so please let me know in the comment section.

I also understand that what I imagine would be harder to realize the higher level you get. In advanced math it’s harder to standardize grading methods, and long individual study papers still need a lot of manpower to get through. But in academia I’m sure the digital world of books will take completely over in just a matter of a few years. No longer will students have to waste money on a whole bunch of books every year. All books will be released digitally, and endless amounts of resources can be spared. Finally I can see the digital age in education creeping in on us, and it’s not a day too soon!

Written by Morten Rolland

February 25, 2011 at 3:42 pm

3 Responses

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  1. I agree with all but how you opened. I suspect most countries provide public education more out of a desire to have some control over how good the little bees will learn to become grown up, responsible, obedient worker bees.
    States never do anything that is not, ultimately, going to provide them with more leverage to control the masses and keep them thinking that government cares. They do care. It is jusst that they care about themselves staying in power not those who put them there in the first place.
    Call me cynical.


    February 26, 2011 at 10:20 am

  2. Hello,
    You said:(Education doesn’t have to be expensive. It can be done cheap, and still be of high quality and perfected to the individual).I agree with you 100%

    Saeed Mubarak

    February 25, 2011 at 4:22 pm

    • Indeed. My suggestion aside, I know there are private schools and charter schools in America that outperform all government run public schools in the same state at the fraction of the cost. One that comes to mind is the American Indian Public Charter School in Oakland, CA. It’s definitely possible to do well, even where some would say it’s impossible. The very nature of a government program means it’s less effective and more expensive than what have to be the case.

      Morten Rolland

      February 25, 2011 at 4:30 pm

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