In the post-modern world in which we live in today, one is used to customizing his or her day from start to finish. We pick (or order online) our means of transportation, food of choice, daily activities, what to watch, and everything in between. But when it comes to schooling, most of us generally don’t question the conventional education system. Rather, we accept it for what it is, for the good and the bad. But when the world is made up of so many different types of people, does it make sense that most get educated in the same way? Is conventional education the best schooling solution or the just the most common one? These questions are especially relevant today, amid the coronavirus pandemic, when governments around the world are debating whether to re-open schools in the fall for conventional learning or continue with the alternative of online/remote learning, which may just become the new norm.
Here we’ll discuss three reasons why, in a world free of COVID-19, conventional schooling is the way to go, and three more reasons why alternative schooling is preferable.
Arguments for Conventional Schooling (pre-COVID-19)
Provides a real-world environment
Conventional schools provide structure, diversity and settings that mimic a real-world environment. A set schedule of about nine periods a day provides opportunity for students to get exposure to new subjects but also have enough time to digest the material before moving on to the next topic. Students are also exposed to a large, diverse group of peers throughout the school day, and expected to learn how to socialize with them, which is practice for the real world and work force. As populations grow more diverse and multicultural, conventional schooling and its exposure to a wide variety of subjects and people will better prepare students for how to interact in the real world.
Traditional schooling’s emphasis on academic achievement through scoring and grade point averages has the potential to motivate a student to perform his or her best by setting high academic standards for them. Furthermore, a competitive atmosphere can also drive students to achieve (or at least try to achieve) better results, academically as well as in extracurricular activities. Excellent academic achievements at an early school age may lead to continued excellence in higher education, setting the stage for increased confidence and success later in life. For instance, a recent study showed that high school grade point averages can predict college graduation rates 5 times more than SAT scores – and that each incremental increase in GPA improved the odds of a student’s college graduation. Whether by test scores or GPA, a conventional schooling’s structured focus on academic success is a long-term motivating factor for students.
Wide range of support services
Conventional public schools in the US receive state funding and have the responsibility of providing equal educational opportunities for all of its students. This means that eligible students can receive extra special education, counseling, speech therapy and a variety of other services, including meals. In fact, in 2018, the National School Lunch Program served free or low-cost lunches to almost 30 million students. Such academic, social and nutritional services can lift a very heavy economic weight off of families who would need to provide their children with additional help. Out-of-school professional support can add up to hundreds of dollars monthly, where at conventional schools they are free of charge or heavily supplemented.
Arguments for Alternative Schooling
Alternative schooling systems, whether in person or online, provide an individualized learning approach for students and teachers. Teachers can shape a student’s (or a group of students’) curriculum based on his, her or their specific needs. This gives students the time and tools they need to learn in a way that specifically suits their talents, interests, skills or lack thereof, and/or restrictions while allowing them to reach their full potential – and in a nurturing environment (or one that is potentially safe from germs during a pandemic), if it is remote learning from home. Sources suggest that online remote learning during the pandemic has resulted in improved student confidence because they can learn at their own pace.
Low student-to-teacher ratios
Low student-to-teacher ratios provide the structure needed to accommodate the individualized learning approach. In small or individual learning settings (especially online), students have more one-on-one time with their teachers or small groups and are given greater attention than those in conventional school classroom settings, where the average class size is 18-25 students. Therefore, more intimate learning settings can play an important role for students who don’t speak up in large classes and may give them a more nurturing surrounding. Overcrowded classrooms affect not only the students but also the teachers. If teachers spread themselves too thin, they will not reach their full teaching potential which reflects poorly on the students and on them.
Experimental learning is applicable to the modern world
Traditional schooling systems were created in the 18th century and designed for that specific time period. In his TED talk, Sir Ken Robinson describes the differences between the 18th century and the modern world in order to outline the discrepancies of both periods’ schooling systems. He criticizes the fact that we are trying to educate our kids from an early age in how to fill job positions 20 years from now. How can we possibly do that if we can’t anticipate tomorrow’s economy? This is where experimental learning comes in. It is defined as a process where knowledge is created through the transformation of experience. As the global pandemic and its long-term economic fallout show, because society is rapidly changing all the time, we constantly need to reassess our world – and the skills our children will need to contribute to it as adults. One answer to a question is no longer enough. The world needs creative minds and collaboration, and only through experimental learning will students be able to keep up.
The Bottom Line: Education will continue to be the backbone of every modern society and the foundation taught to young generations. But, should society approach this topic differently than it has until now? Should we give a stage to alternative solutions that can advance students in individualized ways? Or should we stick to conventional methods that provide a solid entrance into the “real world”? Is there a way society can integrate both methods?