Matt Dale

Teacher and Coach, The Open School

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At what age could students abandon a general education and enter an immersion-type education in a field of their interest?

An idea I had for educational model where all students did a compulsory education (much different than what we have now) consisting of fundamental skills (academic, social, cultural, interpersonal, artistic, creative and many more life-relevant skills) and then, upon completion, spent the rest of their education immersed in fields where they engage in real life learning in an endless array of fields. Currently, our "compulsory" component lasts 13 years, and is filled with numerous required elements that are unnecessary and irrelevant, while neglecting opportunities for students to learn things that tap into their human potential. At that point, their "free" education is up and their pursuit of their own interests now come at their own financial cost. I imagine that the transition into this more individualized education could come at an earlier time and could be similarly funded by the government until around age 18 (as is the case with the current model).

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    Mar 22 2011: I think there isn't a specific age. Every child is different and evolves at a different pace. What I think it would be great is that from a very young age, as soon as they start to demonstrate interest in different areas they have a personal project, with time and material resources put into them, that they can later share with the class. For example, if one kid loves lizards, he could investigate them in books, film them, learn more about them, start a youtube channel on them, ... kids like the most incredible things. They want to be artists, firemen, hairdressers, movie directors, ...

    Maybe there could be a specific class time allocated for these projects, where teachers could guide them and monitor them. Putting them in touch with other classmates that have already investigated on a similar topics, or have developed certain skills. I do think they need a structure. 6, 3 months working in depth on something and acquiring different skills. The great thing about this is that soon they will start to learn from each other! And the teacher will learn tons too! Some projects could be individual, others in teams, ... I think there are many possibilities!
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      Mar 28 2011: What about leaving the school setting and entering the actual field on a student level?
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        Jul 13 2011: How would that work? Would professionals be willing to have 'student level' participants hanging around? And how would this differ from an apprenticeship-style relationship???
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          Jul 13 2011: This scenario would have many similarities to an apprenticeship. Different professional settings would accommodate different types or numbers of student. Some could establish academies that blended classroom type learning of the profession with real application of skills learned. I think the point of it would be that the businesses/companies/professionals would try to set up anything that they think would work to benefit the students and the profession. What that looks like for profession A could be very different from profession B.
  • Jul 20 2011: I believe we need to stop calling education ... 'education'. Very few schools educate, i.e. are vehicles for young people to learn. My experience of education was eleven years of the memorisation and regurgitation of bland facts or data and irrelevant information; like an academic bulemia. And I say bulemia with the ut-most sensitivity to the severity of the condition and use it only because I believe it accurately if slightly crudely illustrates how 'public education' masquerades as something anybody can learn from.

    If we are agreed that a massive change in the way we facilitate the development of young people is needed, then should we be sending our kids to public school in the first place? Or should they be immersed in suroundings where they are allowed to develop into the people they should be from the begining? If a child shows natural flair for dance or any form of expressive movement, why would they want to develop their language skills by reading and analysing boring stories? Why can kids not read about what they are interested in?

    Put a dancer in a science lab in front of a diagram of a human body and they might not know the latin names of all the muscles. Put a scientist on stage and they might not know how to move all those muscles with any co-ordination; what if human anatomy was taught through dance, at the same time? Is there not an obvious connection between the two?

    Yet the scientists are taught in labs for maybe ten hours a week while the dancers get in trouble untill they can dance in an after-school club in a corner of an assembly hall for an hour a week.

    I dont think children should be imprisoned in public education untill they can be set free into an immersion type education. I think children should be immersed from the begining!
  • Apr 2 2011: There is no need to wait till literacy develops. My 2 yr old loves classical music and airplanes. So I help him find information about both subjects and we discuss them at length. He loves listening to various composers and learning about instruments, particularly the saxophone. While he can't read the material yet, he loves to listen and recognize the composers, as well as look and listen at different instruments. We attend concerts and symphonies, and I play classical music frequently. For Christmas he asked Santa for a saxophone and plays it daily. As far as planes go, we get picture books on the many varieties of planes and take him to museums and air shows to see them in person. At the age of 2 he knows the difference between Mozart and Beethoven, as well as, a jet plane from a propeller plane. Children will tell you what they want to learn, you just have to listen.
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    Jul 20 2011: I see age has nothing to do with this, I think, as long as the person is qualified, wonderful,
    check first, do you know what XXXX and XXXX mean,........ yeah, sure........ it's **********&&&&&^^^^^^$%
    incredible, join us, how old are you,?
    just for the ID
  • Jul 11 2011: You should research the education system in The Netherlands. The students do specialize at various levels and are graduated out of secondary education into specific areas of higher education. If they want to do a different type of higher education they often have to either take an exam or do a catch up course first.
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    Mar 22 2011: After they become literate.
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    Mar 16 2011: For me, I think all should be introduce to an early childhood or preschool education at age two, and thought elementary lessons earlier, in that way they would complete high by age 14. I've been observing toddlers for some time now, and it is realised that today's children are extremely intelligent, and if thought early they would become a more productive next generation fulfilling all they potientals
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    Mar 16 2011: Hello,

    I did this with my 3 daughters as soon as they were solid readers. Yes, we learned time tables and algebra along the way, but only as a necessary academic subject attached to a goal/real-life skill, the pursuit of their unique talents and abilities.

    So, age 4, 5?
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      Mar 28 2011: So what did they each choose and how were they able to pursue these at a higher level as they got older?
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    Mar 15 2011: I think that although we should get educated in all subjects, we are also thinking about which collages we want to apply to so we can do the job or jobs we want to do. Maybe around 12th grade, students should get the normal subjects (reading, math, science, social studies, ect) taught at school for half of the normal school day, BUT for the other half of the day, (this is NOT extra curriculum) students would go to special classes that specialize in teaching students how to do certain jobs. This could help because that way students can get a better idea of which job they want to do before collage in case they may change they're mind about what job they can do. This can also help a student because he or she would be more motivated at school if they have a specific job they've always wanted to do and they can get more experience at school. BTW I'm only in 5th grade!! :3
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      Mar 15 2011: One thing I really want people to know is that while these immersed educational experiences can be related to a potential career, I am more interested in that they are related to something that the person loves or is excited to learn about.
  • Mar 13 2011: Well, alright. I think that it should be entirely in the students control to pick their specific education path, other wise they would be forced into one based on the skills they are shown to be proficient in. However the specific schools would still need to know if the student they are enrolling is talented or educated enough in what they wish to go into. So in that case the primary schooling before the specific schooling should track the students progress and the specific schools would except them based on that much like college.

    Or is that too narrow minded?
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      Mar 13 2011: I think that each specific school would have some sort of criteria for the students it allowed in, but that opportunities to grow within the field would exist for a diverse array of abilities.
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    Mar 13 2011: The idea is definitely in its infancy and I am hoping that this will be a good place to gather ideas and troubleshoot some issues I have yet to consider.
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      Jul 13 2011: Well Matt:

      It is certainly a worthwhile idea and I think that anything that could make the teaching and learning of our children more effective and efficient is a good idea. Luckily, I find this place to be very supportive of anything that helps education and I am sure you can count on this community to give you advise and tips.
  • Mar 12 2011: Hmm. I like this idea but of course the reason it is not already happening is because too much indecision at an early age.

    Perhaps some government funded facilities cloud spring up but how could they be sure of the students they are accepting and would they even get enough students in the first place.

    I love your idea and would love to see it happen but it needs much more planning. I actually know of a art high school in my own town if your interested. I do not know its its private or government however.
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      Mar 13 2011: I have found that many young children are quite definate in their preferences. I would allow small kids to run with their interest in anything until they get to the end or tire of it. They will then, naturally choose something quite different. Children seldom have opportunities to explore their own interests to any great degree. I found with my own children that they often did a binge reading sort of thing where they would read everything that they could on one topic and then stop reading for awhile to delve into say video games. School, however, kept them hopping from one topic to another that often was disjointed or not appealing to the child so at home I augmented with things that kept their minds curious.
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        Jul 13 2011: However, wouldn't all this binging be ultimately unproductive? You'd have programs constantly having their numbers rise and fall as children gain and lose interest in the topics being taught. As well, there's something to be said for teaching consistancy and commitment to a course of action; even the topics we love have areas within them that are essential to that subject, but are not interesting in and of themselves. We need to teach kids to endure the 'deserts' within every subject that connect the various oases of interest.
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          Jul 13 2011: Hi Michael,
          I love the verbal imagery of 'deserts' and 'oases' in learning. It really drives your point home with clarity. We need to find ways to creatively transmit that knowledge or to find a way to help kids 'hang in' until they 'get it'.

          Yes, you are right. There is something important to be learned in perseverance in the hard times of learning. My comment was considering natural inclinations and I was not really referring to the system but rather the role of the parent in partnership with the system. I always felt that I wanted to accept and augment what the traditional system was doing rather than just criticize. It is so easy to criticize but how do we empower in the here and now? I just encouraged my own kids to cooperate and work within the system and then I just supported their own interests with all of my own abilities and research.

          The whole idea is though, that we need to start seeing kids as individuals with individual interests and strengths. Giving them a 19th century industrial education is obviously not working well.