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  • Anna Brix Thomsen

Proposal for a Progressive Change of our Education Systems. DAY 84

In this blog-post I am going to share a progressive and somewhat thought-provoking proposal for changing our education systems, but before I get to that, let me start by sharing a personal story:

As a teacher I work in a quite unique teaching environment as I work with students one-on-one or at the most groups of three or four. Based on this I get to see a different side of teaching than teachers usually do with thirty plus students in the classroom.

I teach a group of three students, that I previously taught separately. Although the lessons are going well I started looking at how all three of these students would have benefited so much more from having one-on-one lessons. They each struggle with their own unique and individual challenges that I cannot effectively assist them with when they are all three together. One of them is dyslexic. The other is self-conscious and doubts themselves constantly and the third is shy about speaking. I might not have even noticed these specific struggles had I taught these students in a classroom with over thirty students, but when I have taught them one-on-one I have seen how each of their struggles affects their ability to learn effectively. Because I now teach them in a group, I cannot sit down and focus on the student that is dyslexic to assist them with becoming comfortable with reading and writing. And with the student that is self-conscious and that doubts themselves, they quickly give up trying to explain something to me. Although their homework and assignments are nearly impeccable they seem to be escalating in their doubt towards themselves and there is little I can do about it in such a short amount of time. With the student that is shy, they are able to hide in the background and since there are doing the work impeccably (just not through speaking) I have seen how I have sometimes experienced it as easier to simply let them hide.

The conclusion I have come to, with the aim of creating the best possible learning environment for these students is that they would all have been much better off by being taught one-on-one. This way I could sit down and really focus on assisting each of them with their unique struggles rather than having to concoct a generalized lesson that hopefully has the effect that they at least learn something.

This made me consider and look at how, if this is the consequence of there being three students in a classroom instead of one, what are the consequences of having thirty students in a classroom with only one teacher? Are these children even learning? And if so, what exactly are they learning? And what about their mental and physical well being?

In many countries like the U.S and in several European countries such as Sweden, we are seeing a drastic decline in learning even the most basic skills like reading and math. Government officials involved in education legislation are doing everything they can to try and turn this around by for example soliciting researchers to do academic studies on learning as well as changing the teachers education and national curriculum. But what they are not doing is decreasing the amount of students in the classroom. Based on the PISA studies it has been shown that students in classrooms with fewer than thirty usually do better in school. So this begs the question of what priorities government officials have when it comes to education. Is it the learning and well being of our children? Or is it keeping costs down and voters happy?

I will argue that decreasing the amount of students in the classroom isn’t even enough. It would surely be an improvement to go from thirty to twenty or even fifteen. But as can be seen in my example with the three students, the most optimal learning environment might simply be to be taught one-on-one.

I remember a couple of years back where I read the Celestine Prophecy books, in one of them it is stated that for a child to effectively develop to become a whole human being, it must have at least one adult dedicated to it at all times. I remember how this statement shocked me and made an impression on me because I had never considered this need of having the undivided attention of an adult. It was provocative and it challenged my outlook on teaching as well as parenting. Many who home-school their children, for example in the U.S (In Sweden it is illegal) might agree with me on this point. However most might see it as unnecessary and even coddling to imagine each child having a designated adult assigned to them. There is furthermore the argument that children need to spend time with peers, as that is an important part of their social education. While I agree that it is good for kids to spend time with other kids, I am not sure that this is always appropriate when it comes to learning, especially when we talk about the more ‘technical’ side of learning the basic rules of math, grammar and reading. Did you know that many schools in Sweden for example have now introduced hearing protection for kids who are so disturbed by the noise in the classroom that they cannot effectively concentrate on their own work? Another important point when it comes to the importance of kids spending time with their peers is that the child-to-child environment can be brutal and full of bullying and transference of bad behavior – especially when kids are left to their own devices which is the case for almost all schools, because there simply isn’t enough staff to effectively monitor all activity. Furthermore, adults are in this case reduced to ‘hall monitors’ and ‘yard guards’ whose primary job is to break up fights and prevent students from getting hurt. I strongly recommended watching the documentary called ‘Bully’ to get a more profound insight into this problem. There are so many kids that are negatively affected by peer pressure that we ought to ask ourselves the question, how important it really is for them to spend their entire childhood primarily being in the company of other kids.

So if we here work with the premise of saying that it would in fact be best if all children were taught on a one-on-one basis, we then have to look at whether or not this would even be possible considering the current education system. Obviously it is unrealistic to imagine an education system where each child has a teacher designated to it exclusively. It might be possible for the top elite of this world to hire private tutors, but for the majority of us it simply wouldn’t be possible. And with cuts already being made on education, it simply wouldn’t be economically possible to drastically change the education system in this way. It would require too much space and too many teachers and simply isn’t practical. As such we would have to think way out of the box in order to ensure that each child is given an effective one-on-one education.

The other day I listened to a TED talk with a guy who claimed to have found a way to teach anyone a new language to native proficiency in six months. One of the things he said that caught my attention is that when the integration of learning is accelerated it means that the child has to spend less time in school. What this means is that if we can find a way of speed up the process of learning, we could actually reduce the amount of time that a child has to spend in school.

So this could be one part of the solution towards progressively changing the way we look at education. Instead what is happening in many countries is actually the exact opposite: when the results from the PISA tests come in and reveal that students are getting worse at learning basic skills such as reading and math, what does legislators and schools do? They do more of the same. They increase the amount of tests; they increase the amount of hours a child has to spend in school believing that more time will effectively solve the problem. This strategy unfortunately falls perfectly into the saying of: “If you don’t know how to fix it, then at least stop breaking it”. As such, we have to dare to think way out of the box when it comes to changing our education system in such a way that learning is optimized to its full potential for every single child in the world.

So what is the solution?

Surprisingly, we find it very close to home considering that child already has one or two designated adults exclusively assigned to them, namely: their parents.

In the current world system however, children has been expropriated or taken off the hands of the parents depending on how you see it, to create a smooth running economic system where children are ‘contained’ while adults go and work to earn money. We have come to take this system for granted as though it is the only and the most optimal way to structure our societies effectively, with the specific and sole purpose of increasing economic growth. See, there has for years been an idea that increasing economic growth is the key to a happy and functioning society, but as we are now seeing, there are clear disadvantages with this strategy, none the least when it comes to our education systems.

At the Equal Life Foundation we have come up with a proposal for changing the principles with which our societies are managed and thus the very structures of our political and economic systems. The Living Income Guaranteed proposal thus suggests a change in the relationship between work, money and citizens, where we shift focus from economic growth just for the sake of economic growth to a sustainable and economically responsible strategy for improving the overall living conditions on earth. It is a proposal that offers ‘the best of both worlds’, where the principles of social responsibility are borrowed from political ideologies such as socialism, but without the utopian ideals of a totalitarian society and where principles of independence and ingenuity are borrowed from liberal ideologies but without the insensitivity towards social consequences.

Through implementing a Guaranteed Living Income System, parents would thus be able to stay at home with their children, as they would not be slave-bound to work in an economic system built on debt. This would also mean that the decision to have a child would be able to be made with much greater consideration for both the child and one’s own well being as the responsibility of the child would be in the hands of the parents.

Some might say that very few people would want to stay at home with their kids, but the following infograph actually shows that this is not the case as up to 75% of people would stay at home with their kids if money was not an issue.

What this might also mean is that fewer people would decide to have children, as having children wouldn’t be linked to survival as we are seeing it for example in third world countries, where having a child is often considered an insurance to the survival of the parents. It is quite odd really when you think about it, how we bring children into this world, only to let them be raised and educated by someone else so that we can go to work and make enough money to feed them and buy them the newest gadgets and consumer crazes. Obliviously this would then require that parents educate themselves in order to effectively raise and educate their children, which is something that even in today’s society is highly missed.

Within a Guaranteed Living Income System we can thus change the education system at a fundamental level and implement the most beneficial solutions for a child’s development and education. This could include home schooling cooperatives, play groups or centers where parents could come and get counseling and training while taking care of their children. There is so much we could do to make education a fun, enjoyable and natural part of a child’s life, once we take the fear of not surviving out of the equation.

While this is a progressive and perhaps for some a provoking suggestion – it is important that we dare to think so far out of the box that we stop seeing the box, the confinement of a debt-based society as the only way to live simply because it is the comfort zone we have become used to. Through the Living Income Guaranteed proposal we are suggesting that a higher quality of life is not only possible, it is a necessity for us to sustain ourselves on this planet. And here we have a practical suggestion that could drastically improve the living conditions for all citizens in a modern and sustainable way without asking people to give up their freedom or the things that matters most to them. In fact we are saying that it is possible to have our cake and eat it to, if only we dare taking that leap of faith and embrace a new perspective on life and living.

More articles about parenting and education in a Guaranteed Living Income System:

Watch the hangout about Education for a New World in Order:

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