Ryan Zhu

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Ken Robinson Primary School

Another fantastic talk on education from Ken Robinson.

Let's start his education revolution TODAY.

If we were to open the Ken Robinson Primary School, a school that champions the principles Ken is proposing, how would the school look? What features would it have? Let's work together to make this school a reality starting today here on TED.

  • May 12 2013: Rather than creating a new primary school, the focus should be on implementing these ideas to existing schools. There is a desperate need for Revolution in Education. Why don't we start an NGO of that name, and bring revolution to teaching and schools, not just in America, but all over the world? I currently study in India, and the only subjects that I study in school are Math, Physics and Chemistry. Every day, I see my fellow students moaning that they hate their school. This is because they have no interest in the subjects they are studying but have no choice, because if they do not study math and science, they are deemed to be wastrels who won't succeed in life. This is seriously alarming, because India now has too many engineers and scientists. There is no focus on opening the minds of students. Instead,a future of zombie engineers is being created. This problem is definitely not specific to India, so we need a solution that is international in proportion. Founding schools all over the world based on the principles of good education is hardly viable, but bringing change to existing education systems and empowerment of students and teachers IS something that could be done. We need to change the mentality of whole populations of people and convince them that it is vital to develop curiosity, broad minded thinking and give students the opportunity to follow whatever path they choose. It is probably even more important to get rid of the horrific testing mechanisms in these countries and replace them with better systems for evaluating students. To do all this, we need an organization with power and resources. The question is, how are we going to make that happen?
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    May 11 2013: The school is the wrong place to look. As Robinson states look at the teachers. Look from the bottom up on second thought just look.

    Think about how many terrific teachers you had in school. I don't think I'm unique when I say just a few maybe 4 out of 40.

    I think the touchstone on this subject is application.
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    May 11 2013: Another possible idea is to showcase schools and classrooms that already look like this. I hope people share examples here of that. The ideas in his very well-presented talk are quite well accepted among teachers, I believe, and not novel ideas.

    I suspect there are more private than public schools that function along these lines, because they are not subject to the same layers of administrative policy, regulation, and command-and-control regimes that public schools often are.
    • May 11 2013: Fritzie, having worked in both public and private/independent schools, private schools are just under a different set of said requirements. However, they do allow for more flexibility and better opportunities because they are not chained to a testing scenario that the public schools are.

      I had actually proposed a topic of conversation along these lines to identify good schools and talk about them, but sadly, it did not make the cut...
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        May 11 2013: I understand, as it might start looking like ads for particular schools. I only wanted to say that I know such schools, and particularly such classrooms, exist. Even where there are standardized tests, many teachers do not let it dominate instruction. I can tell you it never made me do anything different, except that about a week of instruction was lost. One might further examine how classrooms that are not subject to standardized tests fare, including academic summer programs.

        I think many schools aim for such a culture and pursue it. What can happen in any organization that involves lots of administrative layers is that changes of leadership, or who is in the position to give orders, can make it impossible to deliver well down below.

        There are great public schools and great private schools. A school can serve its students very well if the building leadership defend the different ways teachers there may do things against over-rigid dictates from above. Some principals, for example, have the courage to allow or even encourage their teachers who do well for their kids to "fly under the radar."

        In my experience, the attitude of building leadership determines whether teachers are allowed to continue to exercise professional judgment or whether they are de-professionalized through teaching scripts and mandated drab pedagogies and so forth
  • May 12 2013: Instead of building more schools, it is my hope that Orsch's discoveries will help spread strategy and insight to other schools. Our school exists as a lab - constantly seeking answers we can share with the educational community as a whole. We have many answers to share - the book will be out this summer. I am working hard to finish as the school year comes to a close.
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      May 12 2013: Jackie I've taken a look at the Orsch website and indeed it is 100% the Ken Robinson Primary School! Amazing. All the ideas of recognising student individuality, creativity, and constant teaching improvement are there.

      Have you gotten in touch with Ken Robinson so he knows that at least one school out there is showing the world his principles in application?

      How about getting in touch with other schools that share similar principles like Harlem Village Academies? Maybe get together to share ideas and raise a powerful collective voice to lead this education revolution.
      • May 12 2013: Getting together to share ideas and raise a voice is a wonderful idea. We do our best to learn from each and every innovative idea that comes our way - that is how the world of education should operate - evolution of ideas will bring more progress.

        The difference between other wonderful programs and Orsch is that Orsch exists to spread the knowledge we gain. We have built our philosophy around input and feedback from students themselves and we adjust based on our observations of their engagement. We have so much to share with the world about how best to connect with and serve students - how individualization becomes a reality - how community must come first - how creativity can infiltrate every single day/lesson/assignment - how freedom and independence lead to essential life skills. The Blue School, HVA and many other schools are amazing learning environments that meet the needs of their students and offer a creative approach, however, they are insulated programs. They serve their students wonderfully, but millions of children still do not have access to good programming. This is why I am so passionate about spreading the very real possibility of change that we have tested. We have "lab" results to share that will benefit millions of kids. Very small changes can make a big difference.

        I have tried repeatedly to contact Sir Ken. Every time I see him speak or read his words I know that he would be overjoyed to know of the discoveries we have made. He would support the outreach I so desperately want to offer.
  • May 12 2013: Check out the documentary High School by Frederick Wiseman. The teaching techniques used there might be reduced in effectiveness in a primary school because prepubescents are limited in their capacity for abstract reasoning, but I'm not certain. Teaching the habit of rational argument as the way that people fundamentally convey knowledge and thought to one another (perhaps through having 2 teachers for each class, who collaborate through constructive argumentation with each other in front of the class) would surely be vastly beneficial. Every single class needs to be framed as critical thinking applied to the subject at hand. Persuasion and answering of questions rather than trying to teach by fiat. This requires good teachers with good personalities, of course. It would never work with a teacher who gets offended by a student challenging them, or one unwilling to cede that they don't know the answer to a question. Re-form the classes to concentrate on critical thinking and eliminate all of the prison-like controls that are not directly conducive to education (supported by evidence-based research, of course, and evolving as research evolves). Destroy the artificial arbitrary rules of schools and expect students to conduct themselves as people would in real life - no dictating what they wear and obsessing over who was kissing in the halls before class. There are reasons these things are not laws in general society, and schools are part of general society, and students react like actual PEOPLE. Treat them like prisoners who must be controlled compulsively, and they will act like prisoners.
  • May 11 2013: There is a school doing this...www.orsch.net
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    May 11 2013: Good question, I'm not going to pretend I know how it would work, but I'd imagine it would require a private system which was entirely in the control of the teachers. The teachers would produce the curriculum and get their educational material by working with third party institutions and authors. Also, instead of relying predominantly on standardized testing to demonstrate the ability of student's it would focus more on a portfolio-resume building. A key factor I'd envision would be teaching the students the basic mechanics of teaching itself in order to provide communication skills, a more thorough understanding of the material, and insight on how to better their own learning skills as well as eventually producing better teachers once those students feed back into the system.
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    May 11 2013: Melissa Twisdale points us in a promising direction. Her comment:

    If you get the chance, read the new book by Deborah Kenny, Born to Rise. She is the CEO and founder of the Harlem Village Academies. If was founded and flourishes based on this model. It is a charter school system. She says that her business plan was that, "I have no business plan." She stated that her teachers would create the model on which her schools would be built.
    • May 11 2013: Ryan, her statement is both incredibly powerful and the recipe for disaster at the same time.

      With the right group of teachers, you have an incredible program that would be built. With the wrong group of teachers, you have a train wreck of epic proportions ready to happen.

      Now, by the "right group" of teachers, I mean more than highly motivated, highly educated, and passionate about their profession. I am also talking about, works well together, clicks, agrees on a common purpose, bases their plans in solid research, clearly defines their outcomes, set clear and attainable targets, and truly believes in what they are doing then gets behind it 100%. If those things don't exist, the program begins to break down, especially when you say "figure it out". I have observed teachers, that are incredibly good at what they do, not agree on what it is they are trying to do and not be as successful as they could be.

      If you are going to undertake a project of this magnitude, at any level, you have to have a clear vision yourself first, then hire the right people to do the job. And quite frankly, it may be less about resume and more about character at that point.

      Just an observation from the trenches.
      • May 14 2013: Pride stands in the way, because the system demands it. Two teachers would soon enough resent one another, if they are both in the same class. "Familiarity breeds contempt." Teachers should be moderators. Children should learn by teaching, with moderators guiding them. That way teachers would not be challenged to defend their pride and students would not be resentful towards the moderators.
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      May 11 2013: What Everett writes here is important. There are highly effective teachers who teach with love, flair, high energy, and great competency. BUT there are also teachers who do not know their subject well and enjoy teaching in large part because they can talk to a captive audience, tell kids what to do, and then judge them.

      To be fair, part of the reason some states and Districts have gotten into their dysfunctional strict top-down patterns is that they are exasperated with the tremendous variation in the quality of what different teachers deliver and what students get. They are quite willing to sacrifice the outstanding if only they can reduce or eliminate the absolute disasters. It is not deliberate rejection of the idea of excellence but more a willingness to sacrifice it if there is prospect of eradicating the absolute disasters. In my opinion the fallacy in this part of the calculation is that the sacrifice of excellence does little or nothing to help with the disasters!

      The typical strategy is a very blunt instrument, the opposite of those medical or surgical operations that zoom in precisely to the problem spot and deal with it. Purely by way of metaphor, the stranglehold approach is like recognizing there are some delinquents or trouble makers in the city and responding by putting the whole population of the city in jail.
  • May 11 2013: Richard Bandler and Keirsey and so many others have pointed this out before. The education establishment and American local school boards are impervious to common sense and change for the best.