The revolution is on. And it is spreading. As if by pre-arrangement, groups of people around the world are standing up against oppressive systems, and demanding gentler, more ethical alternatives. Whether it is the liberals in Egypt, the occupiers in The United States, miners in South Africa or anti-austerity protestors in Greece, groups of people are taking arms against oppressive, out-dated and unfair systems. A global consciousness is emerging, aimed at making things better for the majority of humanity. I call it the human revolution.
The twentieth century could be summed up by the rise of national independence and self-interest (together with the wars and conflicts that inevitably result). The twenty-first century is growing an entirely new co-operative, concerned and conscientised mindset. It may take a few more years, perhaps even a few more decades for this new attitude to be fully established. But it has begun.
In schools, change is always slow and reluctant. School leaders prefer slow, steady evolution to drastic innovation. But one school has decided to make deep and significant changes to the way we do things. A small independent school in the northern suburbs of Johannesburg has decided that it wants to produce a new generation of innovative, independent thinkers who will take their place as change-makers and global citizens. It is my school.
What follows is a list of educational principles and priorities which will be implemented in 2013 towards our staff-sourced vision for the next 5 years: To Inspire Global Thinkers Though Innovative Education. We have also created individualised methods by which we can measure our success in implementing these. (I have condensed and slightly reworded a few of the points from the original document and added my own emphases. The gist of it remains the same.)
INSPIRING GLOBAL THINKING THROUGH INNOVATIVE EDUCATION
- We should create a passion for learning within our students.
- Teachers need to be enthusiastic, inspired, passionate, committed and dedicated, in order to develop each student’s individual strengths. (Our renewed vigour and our success in what we do will mutually reinforce one another.)
- Part of inspiring is to get students to aspire to love learning, questioning and discovery. (And to make these life-long pursuits.)
- There should be no limits/boundaries – we should not put obstacles in students’ way; or turn down arguments, no matter how improbable/unlikely they may seem to be.
- This means a cross-pollination and inter-connectedness on a range of scales.
- We should produce citizens of the world. (Our students do not live in “Lonehill village”!)
- Our benchmarking is international, not regional.
- We should encourage cultural understanding, acceptance and tolerance.
- We must take students out of their comfort zone and expose them to something new, otherwise we will create insular thinkers with tunnel vision.
- ‘General knowledge’ and world affairs must be integrated in meaningful and relevant ways.
- Our students should be conscientised to social injustices and environmental issues.
- Our students must be leaders, not followers.
- This implies collaboration between students and between teacher and students.
- We have to facilitate independent, critical thinking.
- We need to constantly challenge preconceived ideas.
- We want ‘out of the box’ thinkers who are creative and think differently.
- Listening to the student voice is essential, so that education is relevant to their own lives.
- Intellectual stimulation must go beyond the requirements of the syllabus.
- Enquiry and project-based education must be used wisely and appropriately to aid independent thinking and discovery.
- We must teach students how to access, interpret, assess and use knowledge sources properly and responsibly.
- We need to teach students how to think! (And to think about how they think.)
- Now’s the time to try the different methods we often just talk about.
- Experiment! (And don’t be afraid to fail.)
- Teachers will need to commit to ongoing training and development.
- We must allow students to make decisions affecting their own learning.
- We need to redesign our assessments in line with this vision statement.
- We must prioritise problem-solving… And stop spoon-feeding!
- We will empower students to be the best they can be.
- We will promote “whole being” development – mental, spiritual, physical, moral and psychological.
- Ours must become a flexible and adaptable education.
- We will endeavor to foster emotional intelligence as well as intellectual growth.
- Our lessons should be skills-based, not content driven.
- Most importantly, our classes and our school must become more fully student-centred.
- We will continue to strive for excellence!
These are not just words. We have spent the last few days planning ways to make this happen in a sustainable, meaningful way. Our aim is to send out into the world young people who are leaders and innovators… critical thinkers who embrace their individuality and who can work towards making a better world. The only way we can create these confident, global thinkers is by changing how we do things. It is our combined hope that they will see how a system can be changed from within if the desire to do so is strong enough, and take that as their biggest lesson.
We are not the first school ever to make such a quantum-leap into twenty-first century education. (And we are already a decade or so late.) We might not even succeed as well as we want to. But we are now officially part of the revolution. And I am so glad we are.
Will you join us?
(Pictures: The Anonymous ART of the Revolution Facebook page.)