Innovation expert, Charles Leadbeater was in Australian recently sharing his ideas on why we need better models of schooling to improve social cohesion.
In moving towards greater efficiency, Leadbeater believes that our societies have focussed not on people but on processes, systems, structures and yes, technology.
The work of public institutions like schools is not simply to provide a service but to build and nourish relationships in which people feel valued; are motivated to do well, have opportunities to work collaboratively and in doing so feel they are making a positive contribution to their community.
History shows that throwing more money at education doesn’t solve the problem of student disengagement. We know that at risk children and their families need greater support before starting school and during the early years of schooling.
Leadbeater suggests two new approaches: finding ways of schooling that is motivational and bridging the gap between school, family and community.
Both Leadbeater and Stephen Heppell see the dismantling of large secondary schools as the first step in creating smaller, personalised learning environments in which students are recognised and feel comfortable within their space.
This is what the Victorian Department of Education and Early Childhood Development has aspired to with their massive redevelopment of the Broadmeadows site.
Under the old model, Broadmeadows was facing a dim future: high youth unemployment, schools seen as 9-3pm institutions, parents not involved in the learning.
After a significant period of planning and redevelopment, the Broadmeadows site has become a contemporary educational village. Students learn in smaller hubs connected by communal resource areas. Parents are invited to use the facilities.
Sometimes those of us in education are at risk of forgetting that improved learning outcomes are a result of our investment in people not our systems.
The great American pedagogue, John Dewey is as relevant today as he was one hundred years ago:
When the school introduces and trains each child of society into membership within such a little community, saturating him with the spirit of service, and providing him with the instruments of effective self-direction, we shall have the deepest and best guaranty of a larger society which is worthy, lovely and harmonious.