We are born learning and asking questions. The baby reaching out to explore a new texture is driven by wonder. Curiosity drives babies in their rapid development in the first few years of their lives. With the acquisition of language, this curiosity is articulated through seemingly unending questions. If questions have been such a fundamental drive for learning, why then, when children go to school, do they stop asking questions? And why is the drive of education the pursuit of a so-called ‘right answer’?*
Thus it has never been more vital than now for us to question the prevailing education system itself. As the technological era disrupts not only every industry, but the ways in which we live our life on every level, existing educational models are increasingly out-dated and, quite possibly, unfit for the purpose of those within them.
In my determination to make small changes to education from a grassroots level, these are my questions.
For what purpose are we educating?
What do we need and want education to look like?
Which is most important: education or learning? Are they the same?
Is the traditional role of ‘the teacher’ outdated? What does it mean to be a teacher? In what ways might adult role models still be fundamental to children’s learning, given that so many answers can be found through the internet?
What qualities are we trying to nurture through children’s learning?
Are questions more important than answers? How can we best guide children to ask ‘beautiful questions’?
What, if any, value is there in maintaining parts of our educational heritage?
Is the notion of school per se totally outmoded? What benefits are there in coming together to learn as a community? How can we harness the best parts of school learning while modernising the way in which we learn?
If children are natural learners, how can we best inspire them on their learning journeys?
Is the learning from culture and environment more important than the learning of content?
When we don’t even know what the jobs of the future will be, how can we design an education system to equip children for the future? Is the natural consequence of this that it is fundamental to nurture agility and adaptability in children’s learning?
As I root around for answers to my questions, I am starting to formulate and test ideas for alternative models for education, inspired by High Tech High and The Sudbury Valley Schools in America, the work of Bealings Primary in Woodbridge, Suffolk, the writing of Peter Gray and, of course, the work of Sir Ken Robinson, as well as a wide range of local, community and inspirational projects.
* with thanks to Warren Berger ‘A More Beautiful Question’, a wonderful book which has inspired and continues to inspire and motivate me.
Current projects – Curiouser and co.
I am fortunate to be collaborating with Nikki O’Rourke to prototype and rapidly pilot a new learning environment for families, in which children will be given the space, time and resources to direct their own learning.