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High School Reform

The structure and educational approach of high schools (in developed countries at least) would be much better if it focussed more on facilitating learning and less on controlling students.

This is a huge issue and articulation of it has to use generalisations with all their problems. There may well be some national system and specific school exceptions to this situation - if so please share them in comments or in the relevant discussion group.


Some interesting web references (not fully explored yet):

Here is the nub of the problem as I see it:

  1. Schools and school systems have gradually adopted more of the student caretaker/guardian role for the community, as family units have evolved to two working parents/sole working parent households.
  2. Exacerbated by increasing community expectations of school/teacher accountability, schools and school systems have tried to manage the risk by increasing administrative procedures and requirements and reducing teacher flexibilty and effective teaching time.
  3. The emphasis on student control has led to greater student alienation and passivity, and consequent student herd behaviours which can be brutally oppressive to students who cannot or choose not to fit the typical herd model - this in turn undermines any individual passions for learning.
  4. This problem may have also been exacerbated by students' having a decreasing focus or concentration capacity reflecting increasingly short term stimulation/gratification trends in their personal and social environments (technology and economic aspects).
  5. The economic pressures on schools and school systems (or the low priority that societies give to education) have prevented any commensurate increase in staffing to respond to these increasing roles.
  6. Overall these pressures has tended to hamper the teacher's role as teacher, and constrain any educational flexibility in meeting the individual needs of the students.

Here is my proposed high school reform approach:

  1. Formally distinguish between the roles of teacher as subject matter expert and student manager - allow teachers to specialise in what they are do well.
  2. Subject matter expert teachers' primary goal needs to be the encouragement and inspiring of learning in a subject area about which they are and appear to be enthusiasts - facilitating learning in part by example and evident passion.
  3. Student manager teachers' primary goal needs to be guiding students through their personal and individual learning blockages - actively taking on the welfare role that is currently often handled by a few specialist teachers more removed from the students.
  4. Make attendance at learning sessions voluntary and subject to certain behaviour standards - those students who do not want to be there or who intentionally disrupt learning are excluded - making the learning sessions more effective and restoring learning to a privilege that is appreciated.
  5. Increase student responsibility for their own learning - expect more self-learning from prepared or selected media and via group collaborative learning with the subject matter expert teacher more of a subject matter reference and guide rather than the source of all learning.
  6. Increase student choice and flexibility as to learning paths, with choices according to prerequisite skills rather than age or cohort, and thus dispelling the passive group nature of current schooling practice.
  7. Vary the school leaving certification process to on that maintains measures of competence in core enabling skill areas but also to allow work portfolios as well as time-based exams as acceptable ways of demonstrating proficiencies in diverse areas of achievement. This range of learning areas should enable the vast majority of students to find areas of interest in which they can be engaged and achieve personal satisfaction.
  8. Allow and even encourage time out of school for students to undertake part-time work as a reviewed integral part of their education and readiness for the adult world.

What do you think? I don't see this as impossible to achieve, but I also understand that it is a huge undertaking.

Where to start with resolution? On the basis that the reform program would need to be continually refined by practical trials, the first steps would seem to be:

  • Identify existing schools and school systems that embody parts of the proposed school reforms so that we can learn from their experience.
  • Encourage other schools/school systems to implement the proposals and monitor their success/issues.
  • Start a popular movement to demand a shift in high school approach generally towards these reforms (as refined by experience) - this would seem to need a strong emphasis on political campaigning as well as articulating the educational issues in educational forums.

This is a work-in-progress statement that needs your feedback to make it better and more realistic - please provide your thoughts by either adding a comment below or by starting/joining a discussion in a relevant Big-Issues group.

Last Updated on Tuesday, 01 May 2012 22:15

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