I just had an idea for an alternative education method for schools and thought I’d note it down here, in case someone out there may read it and draw inspiration from it to make a positive change to our education system.
So, here’s my idea:
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Primary / Elementary school: (up to age 11)
These will remain more or less the same as today, teaching things like:
- English (reading, writing)
- A little bit of history, geography, art, music, PE, dance, science, religious education, possibly another language etc
My one suggestion for primary school education is maybe to also add something like “awareness studies” in which you can learn things like:
- body language (to raise more awareness of others, to recognise friends’ feelings even when left unsaid)
- thought exercises to develop sensitivity towards others (eg A situation is described in a story, and then the students have to guess how the child in the story would feel, or they have to explain why a child in a story reacted or behaved as they did in response to a certain situation. Perhaps they can have exercises like: “if you see or hear a child say something silly or hurtful, how would you react? what is the best thing to do?”)
- appreciation (exercises in which children are encouraged to tell one another what they appreciate about one another, to build self-esteem and encourage positive feelings and love between classmates.)
- good deeds – there could be regular field trips to do good deeds like volunteer work, cleaning up an area, thinking up and running fund-raisers to raise money for causes, painting a mural to brighten up a run-down area, helping out in soup kitchens and meals on wheels, helping out at old age homes, helping out at community centres, growing veggies in the school garden for school dinners, helping the workers in the school kitchens, helping the janitor keep the school clean and tidy etc.
- “how do you feel about X” conversations, where children are encouraged to think about different issues and share with the class how they feel about them. This is a chance to explore critical thinking, and to learn to listen to others’ in loveing harmony, whether they agree or disagree with their classmates.
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Secondary school (age 12+)
This is where my hypothetical education system departs dramatically from the one that’s currently in existence.
I propose that instead of classes being split up by age groups, classes are split up simply by subject.
Every subject can be studied to different levels and, for example:
Level X may be the equivalent of GCSE level
Level Y may be the equivalent of A-level
When you first enter the school at age 12, in your first term, you choose 8 subjects that you wish to learn, and you can choose any 8, even if they’re all arty subjects – everything is allowed. The range of subjects on offer will be huge, from the traditional subjects to more specialized subjects like law, politics, business, accounting, psychology, photography, fashion design, interior design, electronics, woodwork, gardening, plumbing, car repair, learning individual musical instruments, orchestra / band, cooking / baking etc. And perhaps not all the courses are taught on the premises with in-house teachers, because that would require a huge staff.. Maybe the school could work together on a term-by-term basis with colleges and universities that teach these subjects already.
Each subject is divided into levels, where “level 1″, “level 2″ etc are set so that any teacher teaching “level 2″ or “level 3″ will know exactly what a child would have already covered in prior levels.
When you first start learning a subject you take the “Level 1 Course” in the subject.
In the second term, you have a choice to continue onto “level 2″ in the courses you’ve already started, or you can drop a subject if you didn’t like it, and pick a replacement course instead, and start that replacement course at “level 1″. You’ll always have level 1 under your belt so that should you change your mind in coming years and want to come back to a subject that you’d previously dropped, you could always carry on with a subject, carrying it on at the next level up.
This method is used from ages 12-18.
This means, that sometimes you can have a 15 year old starting out on level 1 accounting class, alongside a 12-year old who’s doing level 1 accounting. You can start a new level 1 at any time, at any age. (Even in adult colleges for adults)
With this method, you allow the child to naturally explore different subjects according to their inborn interests, and you’ll find that they naturally will want to progress to high levels (GCSE and A-level standard) in the subjects they enjoy and resonate with the most.
I once observed a child sitting in a math class, humming to himself and drumming on the table whilst staring out the window, disrupting the class because he was bored and would have been much happier in a music class, developing his true passion. By allowing children to choose their subjects, it helps eliminate disruptive behaviour from children who don’t want to be there, because literally everyone there chose to be there and can choose to drop out at any time if they wish.
In addition, the side-by-side studying with older or younger peers helps encourage a community where younger children don’t feel intimated by their elders but rather learn to see them as their equals, and older children can learn to respect their younger peers when they realise just how smart and easy to work with they can be. When you leave school, you will be interacting with people of all ages anyway, so might as well get used to it in school.
To allow for same-age-friendships, perhaps there can be one class a day reserved for all children of one age group, and this class may be similar to the “awareness classes” taught in primary school, but taught to a higher level, appropriate for each new, increasingly mature age group.
Should there be any compulsary lessons?
Beyond learning how to read and write, and do basic mathematics that would be necessary for everyday life, perhaps the only subjects I’d consider as being compulsary, or highly advised, may be:
- Health studies: How to look after your personal health, how to recognise certain conditions and what natural remedies could you use to help yourself and others (eg vitamin C and zinc when immunity is down or for healing skin and wounds, magnesium supplements if you get twitchy muscles or a twitchy eye, lavender essental oil for healing burns, peppermint essential oil for nausea etc). How to recognise and treat simple things like a sprain or a strain. How to maintain healthy eye habits, and healthy posture – and why this is important. Healthy breathing (deep not shallow). These classes may include first aid training too. Perhaps at older ages some lessons can teach about the oral contraceptive pill and possible alternatives to it since it’s not the healthiest thing to take (it messes up your hormones).
- Nutrition studies: eg teaching exactly what effect certain foods have on your body eg sugar, saturated fat, processed foods, vs vitamin and mineral-rich foods. Also how to read food labels and to know what constituents to avoid and which to consume. Perhaps nutrition studies could go hand in hand with teaching healthy cooking classes as a compulsary thing since it’s such an essential life skill.
- How to read labels on bodycare products (soaps, shampoos, lotions etc), to know which constituents are bad for you and which are good for you.
- Basic self-defense as part of PE classes
- Basic domestic skills like sewing buttons, sewing up rips / tears or taking up a hem. How to iron clothes properly, how to clean shoes and how to best work a washing machine or dishwasher. What to do if you get a stain on your clothes etc.
- Some kind of fun exercise together for fitness and to get the circulation flowing, like the Chinese practice of morning exercise routine, with synchronised group movements done to music.
- In the final year or two of school, perhaps there can be compulsary classes on how to do taxes, how a bank account works, how pensions work, what’s the best way to keep your money safe – what are your options, how buying a house works, how credit cards work, what are travel visas, and other important life skills.