What have you actually learned at high school? I mean: not while you were attending high school, but while you were literally physically present at high school? Not that much, right? For the most part, you were just sitting there from 9 AM tot 5 PM, waiting until you could go home and finally start doing something useful with your time: like learning something for instance. But isn’t that a little weird? That you actually want to go home so that you can start studying and really learn something? And what can we do to turn this ineffective high school-picture around?
First of all: we have got to realize why children are learning so little while they are at high school. Maybe it is because children of the high school appropriate age are, besides developing themselves intellectually, learning how to behave themselves in social surroundings. This is a perfectly normal for high school children. It is even required for them to develop themselves socially. However, as you can imagine, it doesn’t necessarily create the right atmosphere for a child to be able to develop themselves on an intellectual level. The distractions are killing them.
Furthermore, the things being done in the classroom are – most of the time – not time or space dependent. Hence they can in principle be done at home. By that I mean that a child doing the algebra assignments from the algebra textbook is not doing something that necessarily has to be done in class. These are individual tasks for which being located in a classroom is in no sense conducive to learning to do the task at hand. That is not to say that children might not have questions they would like to ask a teacher or their fellow class members about. However, the act of questioning in itself is in no way dependent upon the children sitting in a classroom-like configuration for most of their time. There are many other ways – think about e-mailing, Skyping and office hours – by which mandatory presence can be avoided while still giving children the opportunity to ask questions.
As you know, governments worldwide have to cut back on expenses, including educational expenses. So – and you might see where this is going – what about significantly restricting the amount of time children need to sit in class? This could reduce housing costs by having different classes at different times making use of the same classroom. Also, it would mitigate the need for high school teachers, which would neutralize the problem of there being a shortage of them. And – most importantly – it would improve the intellectual environment for children so that they can focus on studying instead of being distracted by their allegedly funny classmates. A win-win-win situation.
Surely, we should not do away with classroom teaching completely. There are cases in which being together in a classroom-setting would be the only – or at least the best – option for children to learn something. Examples would be the development of socials kills through presentations, and lectures that are explicitly intended to convey information to the children. For the remainder of the cases, teaching via the internet might very well be more beneficial for the children’s development. I would like to make you aware of the Khan Academy, which is a free online learning platform to which entire classes can subscribe. By doing so the teachers are able to obtain very detailed information about the performance of each student individually and – consequently – help the ones who need it most. Also, there are plenty of tests and other assignment available in order for children to maximize their learning potential.
So, what do you say? Shall we make the jump?