Our education system is outdated. We are comparing children of the same age and we are trying to teach them things across the age group without acknowledging their interests, abilities, ways of learning and additional aspects. We are doing it wrong and I am sure that we could do better than this.
Recently I was reading Humankind: A Hopeful History written by Rutger Bregman where he is touching different subjects on our lives, history, acts of humankind and psychology of our reactions based on many pieces of research and published theories from the past. In one of the chapters, the author writes about education and he’s mentioning democratic schools, new ways of learning and he tells us about Agora School in the Netherlands.
I started to look for any information about this school and after two days of reading about it, watching some videos I fell in love.
School is a mix of Harvard University where you can get all the knowledge of the world, it should be also a bit as Buddhist monastery, a place where everybody can feel at ease and can be himself and feel welcome. It also should be the biggest creative laboratory you can imagine so you should be able to build a go-cart, robot, nice sweater or piece of pants. It should feel like a marketplace too, where you can debate, where you can interact, where you can see new things, get inspired by others or even better, inspire others. That’s whats is all about.
I was blown away when Rob mentioned a situation when some students asked him about the Great Barrier Reef in Australia and access to biology teacher.
He said: Well, I can get you a biology teacher, but he is Dutch, he never been in Australia and done zero research on the subject. Why not contact someone who is an expert in this field, lives in Australia and got much more knowledge. A couple of days later I had few 12 years old trying to write official letter in English to contact a guy in Australia who’s done research on the subject because kids can find those people on the internet, but if they can’t that’s the first thing I should teach them
Another amazing and simple idea of accessing information today in Agora’s school is….Google search engine. Simple as that. Why not to use it our learning advantage.
Best learning always happens out side of the the school and the class room.
Teacher in Agora School
To teach in Agora, a teacher carries 3 suitcases with him.
A diamond suitcase, representing a big heart for the students.
Give students confidence and tell them they can reach for the stars and achieve anything they want on their own. It is proven that when a teacher creates the best learning environment for 10 years in a row, students’ IQ grow with 40 points. So yes, teachers can really create an impact.
A golden suitcase, representing everything on neurology, psychology, science, and how students learn the best.
A lead suitcase, representing a highly radioactive substance that can only be given to students in small measures: knowledge.
After applying the two first suitcases, the student’s learning process starts accelerating. Only then, teachers reach out into the third suitcase, causing a nuclear reaction of knowledge. Read here more
“In the new world that’s ahead of us, not knowing is more important than knowing” – Sjef Drummen “All Nobel prize winners discovered something that wasn’t discovered yet. They used their imagination and “not knowing” to know something.“
A day in Agora
Teachers arrive at school at 8am, and have a team meeting. Students arrive at 9am, which is neurological much better than to start earlier. Then, students start with a “dialogue” in their own “schoolfamily”, where they debate and talk about certain topics (for example, Trump and Kim Jong-Un’s meeting).
At 9:30 am, students start working at their own personal challenges, or they choose to attend masterclasses (often given by parents). Last year, the school offered 283 masterclasses to students with diverse subjects, from astrology to martial arts.
Students have sports two hours a week, and after the lunch break they have 30 minutes of “silence”. During these 30 minutes, everyone has to be quiet. No mobile devices, no talking. Students can take a power nap (for maximum 12 minutes), read a book, listen to their breathing and meditate. 99 Percent of the students choose to read.
After the silent break, students go on with masterclasses or challenges. At 2:30 pm, students may go home without any homework. You often see that students find the motivation to go on with their challenges at home, without being forced to do this.
From 2:30pm until 4:30pm, the schoolparents or teachers consult with each other about the students and their progress, learning paths, and so on. – from article.
Now let that sink in?
In special school teachers much more focusing on life skills more than any algebra or other not really thrilling subject. Mainstream schools – how many of us used fractions and knowledge of roots?
Much more useful would be to teach how to communicate your feelings, resolve issues, debate and build safer relationships other than solving equations if you’re not into math at all. A child should be guided on how to succeed in life, not how to exceed academically if this is not in the child’s interest. On top of it all we go through situation with Covid19 and education.
Can you imagine early years education based on outdoor play and free access to loose parts, with amazing contact with nature, primal skills and gatherings instead of classrooms, later going into primary school based on Agora’s experience? I bet that mental health challenges, anxiety, bullying and educational gaps would be reduced to a minimum. Shall we focus on achieving academically or happy and skilled children, ready for the adventure called life?