6. 21st Century Education

We are almost two decades into the 21st century and education in the world is still largely lecture based, a form of education that started in the 1800s when knowledge was passed down from individual to individual without the help of written text. The factory model education was very efficient during the 20th century, but now that we are in the 21st century, we should begin exploring better options.
The factory model education is a term that is used to describe an education structure where students are filed into a factory like school. Every student will go through the same production line and learn the same content. Without a strong regard for how well a student performs, they have a limited amount of time at each part of the production line and once their time is done, they are graded and moved along. This process happens every school year from kindergarten through to college, systematically moving students through the system with the goals of getting good grades, getting in college, and then getting a job.
In addition to the factory model education, we also implemented the classroom structure, which allowed the education system to be able to take on more students. The bigger the gap between the student-teacher ratio, the higher the capacity of the factory.
The classroom structure made a lot of sense when it was initially implemented because its main goal was to raise the minimum education level of every student. And even until recently, it was the best way to provide quality education en masse because there was limited access to resources that could help you learn. Elite schools try to keep the student-teacher ratio as low as possible, but this is impossible to do for all schools because teachers are expensive (if we want to pay them well), and we haven’t even talked about good teachers yet.
The scariest part about schools today is their ability to kill curiosity and creativity. With all the limitations and restrictions designed into a school system based off of the factory model and classrooms, teachers don’t have the flexibility and space to give to students. Important questions are dismissed due to a lack of time to explore it because the curriculum demanded that the time is spent according to the schedule. Exploration of topics beyond what is scoped is extremely limited, again due to the demands of curriculum and schedules. The saddest part about this is we never give students the time and space to think problem solve and critically think through their problems and fail their way to success, one of the most important experiences to an individual’s growth and development.
In addition, the schedule limitations and restrictions create an environment where there is no real reinforcement of the knowledge learned. When the goal is to rush through content, it is hard to help students understand the content in a way that it will be absorbed into long term memory because they aren’t given the opportunity to actively learn and ask and explore the questions that really pique their interests. Without the time to explore and play, it will be hard for the knowledge to be absorbed into long term memory, making the entire learning process of the knowledge less than ideal because the knowledge will be lost in the long term.
When considering better options, we should first take a look at the pain points in today’s education. As mentioned, the factory model is one of the issues in that it tries to put every single student through the same curriculum. The issues with this is that every student is different. How they learn and how fast they understand content is different from each individual student. Thus, personalized learning is already a hot topic and can transform the way we approach education because it becomes tailored for optimal performance based on the student.
Another pain point we see is the grading system. Grades are used to determine the success of students, but is it really measuring the right things? Students who are successful in schools and achieve good grades are not necessarily successful in the real world because schools have a certain structure and use standardization to weed out the incompatible. All other students who are not considered “good” in terms of the structure that a school has set out will have a hard time succeeding. That’s why it’s important to reconsider how we grade. Do we want to schools to find the best student according to a certain criteria or do we want schools to polish every stone that goes through the system?
Lastly, a huge pain point is the number of good teachers. Schools seem to be heavily influenced by teacher competency. And good teachers cost money. Fair. Unfortunately, if we allow that limitation to persist, there will always be a distinction between education for the rich and education for the poor. The education must be designed so that it leverages its resources to the maximum and provides quality education through the use of automation or system design. Schools should be designed to be able to generate education that is replicable so that it can be scaled with the goal of higher efficiency and lower costs. This way, schools can be accessible by all, creating a balancing force for the population.
In the first section, we explored the Core Curriculum. In this section, we explore interesting methodologies that can greatly enhance the way education can be done. Many of the approaches are already greatly talked about. My goal is to further explore these ideas as an extension to Blankslate Education.