Apologies, do you mind waiting 20 years?

Why do we force students to wait until they are almost 20 years old before the education system permits them to start making real choices that resonate with their passion and talent?

Does it seem somewhat unfair that as the creators of the current education system, we cattle march children through thousands of hours of predefined curriculum, irrespective of their preferences, and then we expect them to start making great decisions about their future when they are ejected from compulsory schooling? So many students reach third level education only to spend several years finding out what they do not want to do.

This short-sighted, institutionalised and disrespectful approach does not make sense, but as a practicing teacher, how can a classroom provide for every interest? Many would say it’s a management issue. It’s impossible to manage such a variation in preferences. The classroom would be chaotic. I’d agree. And that’s why I would suggest it’s a systemic issue. It’s the system, a temporary structure, that’s at fault. Schools designed for particular interests, moving with the times are and will be necessary.

As a 9 year old child, I was interested in chemistry, electronics, aviation and comedy. I spent my free time making oscillators, diode radios, alarm systems, hot air balloons, balsa wood aircraft, gun powder and unfortunately for my parents, far too many bad jokes. School was what it was: irrelevant. It was just something that everyone had to do. I often wondered what those years, not days or months, years could have produced if my natural interests were acknowledged and nurtured during my 16,000 hours of compulsory education.

This is the primary reason why this initiative exists. The essence of its proposition is a shift on such a grand scale that it is to some quite overwhelming, because it means turning the entire education system the right way up, as it’s been upside down all along. We’ve been taking classes on the ceiling so to speak.

When children are given more control over what they learn, their innate curiosity is lit and a powerful fire burns for more information. I believe every teacher wants their students to be hungry for more learning, however, our system for education does not permit the level of individualism required for ignition.

An education system that makes it primary to group our children by their interests, not by age, only exists in my imagination. Nevertheless, however insurmountable the challenge appears, it does not at all diminish the significance nor nobility of such an endeavour as its success would produce an entirely different future generation, one that is motivated and structured to indentify each child’s essence, using their motivation to motivate themselves through the most important early years of their life. In such a system, parents would become sensitive to the new categories of education. My child is fanatical about sport. My child can’t sit still, she’s always dancing. My child loves drawing. My child can’t put Lego down. Age classification would become redundant.

I feel that it is our responsibility as the designers of today’s and tomorrow’s classroom that we must start paying more attention to what it is that genuinely interests the students. Future classrooms should and can be designed to cater for natural interests of future presidents, engineers, doctors, scientists, mathematicians, designers…and so on. In doing so, we give the earliest opportunity to our most important resource: our children.

Robert Maher

www.twofish.bg

Founder & teacher

Moving forward

The product of this initiative is a training course for a vastly different education landscape, one where technology, the arts, breakthrough learning processes and innovative international education platforms are an integral part of the so called classroom, one where essential curriculum is built into the existing interest driven structures.

The course will be structured on three critical pillars:

1. Resources: Easy access to the latest classroom resources: hardware, software, techniques, processes and specialist syllabus.
2. Personal development: A practical course in personal development for teachers: tools for dealing with change and limiting beliefs.
3. Child psychology: a stimulating insight into how a young mind can operate: techniques for identifying opportunity for children.