the purpose of education

Our son has made us question every aspect of our lives and our place in society.

Like most families we encounter informal learning opportunities every day. However we decided not to participate in the formal education offered by the state. We learn at home, in our community, in the wider world.

My son has Aspergers syndrome – with complex learning needs – our curriculum is broad, diverse and multidisciplinary. It has to be flexible and responsive. He learns during face to face activities and connects and collaborates through online games. His learning opportunities reflect the world he lives in, and the one he will need to be able to survive in as an adult.

The state education system failed dramatically to respond to our son’s needs because it offers a standardised one-dimensional approach that assumes a commonality of potential. It only measures one form of intelligence and the structure of both the curricula and the physical environment is inappropriate for the demands of the 21st Century. This is more expertly described by Ken Robinson below.

Our, sometimes painful, experience has revolutionised our thinking as parents and as people who have always worked in education. We have now transformed our lives, the way we work and the way we live to enable us to ensure that he has enough self esteem and a safe environment to reach his own potential.

Like many others I tweeted for #purpos/ed – ‘The purpose of education is to help every person reach their potential’  I believe that until formal education can actually do this then it is failing the society it claims to support. Flexible curricula can support a ‘inclusion agenda’ – but the drive to create equality of opportunity does not result an equitable experience.

Capitalist societies want educated populations to operate the means of production, but don’t really want people who are able to question the very structure they are living in (which links to what Stephen Downes said in his ‘purposed’ post yesterday). We didn’t question the UK approach to education – we chose a ‘well performing school’ and got drawn into the daily rituals that surround it and support it – we all tried to conform. We got sucked into the capitalist way of being – greater access to material goods reducing our desire to question -sucked-in to working to continue purchasing materials – into making our cage look prettier. In rejecting these values we are finding a new way of educating that is based on mutually enriching learning experiences – a symbiotic relationship that erodes the notion of teacher.

Questions that we would like to explore further in future blog posts and in dialogue during this debate…

  • How can a ‘mass’ education system allow for and support difference so that everyone can reach their full potential?
  • Is there a place for standardised testing in any model of education?
  • How do we develop student centred learning where students contribute to design, creation and delivery of curricula?
  • What kinds of structures and models will shape future educational institutions?

My son and my partner Tim both contributed to this post…

Written in response to the 500 word challenge on Purpos/ed

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