9.3 A passionate vision


    During one of the round-table sessions I organized in preparation for this book around the theme of education, I met Bert van der Neut, a genuine educational innovator. I believe he has an excellent view on the future of education. I quote from his story:

    “The key question of this book, Society 3.0, is if old solution strategies and old systems can also help us in the future. With regard to education, it leads to the essential question what children and youths of today need to be successful in the future. The counter-question is if we can say anything sensible at all about this, when the jobs these young people will take, the systems they will work with and the organizational forms they will operate in, might not even exist yet… After all, nothing is certain and the predictability of developments is only decreasing. In a world where there will be almost no fixed structures, there is no reason to adapt yourself to them. The next decades will expressly be about ‘what mark you want to make in the world’ and how you want to do that. Economically, but perhaps also socially, more and more it will be about your added value. It will be about the speed at which you can adapt to changing circumstances, while maintaining your strengths. It will be about self-management, discipline, social qualities, the insight that you can learn anywhere, and the knowledge that you will have to keep learning. […] As a consequence of the expected shortage of teachers, there needs to be a pointed difference between the positions of coach or course plan guide on the one hand and teacher on the other. The studiehuis (Dutch secondary school form in which students are expected to learn independently, work in groups, and perform independent research) and other important educational innovations were partly bogged down because the right people were not found to do the job. On the whole, the passion of teachers does not lie in the area of coaching and guidance. If we assume it is necessary to expressly emphasize personal development, an important role is granted to coaches and trainers in education. There will be a new master-mate relationship where – thanks to technology – a continuous physical presence is not necessary. In our nation, we can draw from a large reservoir of trainers and coaches, and nothing is stopping us from bringing them into action in regular education. Preferably this should be done on a part-time basis and with the expectation that they will earn part of their income outside the educational system. This is how a natural bridge is built between worlds inside and outside of our schools.”

    It is a beautiful vision. Bert pointedly explains the understanding that change affects the larger whole; it affects all people involved, the physical learning environment, the educational tools, and the new leaders who have to carry the load. Education should be the link between our youth and our society, both locally and – thanks to the new social media – internationally. It’s evident that new skills are needed for this. Society is becoming more complex. What Bert is actually saying is that, at this juncture, when we have to learn fast and where the old and the new clash, our students need to gain the confidence to make the right connections in this area of tension. This means that the student needs to occupy center stage.

    A new computer school in Paris has been overwhelmed by some 60,000 applicants. The school, called 42, was founded by a telecom magnate who says the French education system is failing young people. His aim is to reduce France’s shortage in computer programmers while giving those who’ve fallen by the wayside a new chance. In the hallways of 42, suitcases and sleeping bags are piled, and people are stretched out on mattresses in some of the corners. There are showers and dozens of colorful bath towels. Living here for the next month are some of the 4,000 potential students who already made the first cut by passing cognitive skill tests online. Now, they have to clear another hurdle: they’re thrown together and challenged with computer problems for 15 hours per day. Only 800 students will earn a place, says 42’s director, Nicolas Sadirac. Youth unemployment in France is at a 14-year high. At the same time, French companies cannot find enough IT specialists, and thousands of young computer enthusiasts cannot get training. That prompted 42’s founder Xavier Niel to invest $90 million of his own money in the school.

    In 1968, the Sudbury Valley School was founded in the United States. It is a school where children enjoy complete freedom. There are no school timetables, no tests, no report cards, no classes, and no diplomas. By now, we can find schools all around the world that work this way. At a Sudbury school, they assume that all people are naturally curious, and that learning is easier if people take initiative and are left free to creatively develop their own talents. This freedom is essential for personal responsibility. The school is governed together by members of staff and children. They find it important to work together and devise creative solutions together for concrete situations. The children chose what, how, with whom, and when they want to learn, from their own interests. Everyone follows their own personal development path. De Koers (www.dekoers.org) in Beverwijk is such a school. Students from ages four to eighteen are welcome there. Recently, the Sudbury school De Kampagne was opened in Amersfoort… and forced to close down by a Dutch judge, because the school did not fit into the Dutch schooling system. And, as long as the law didn’t allow these new schooling approaches, he had, “no other choice than to close the school down.” Or so the judge said.

    So, we see people are trying to renew the system because of their displeasure with the current one: not from within, but by trying to bypass it, and I think that is a great development.

    I realize that a chapter like Education 3.0 could be much longer than this one. I believe that every analysis of the current educational system is an addition that limits space. Our learning environment has to be so completely overhauled, that nowhere is, in fact, the best starting point. Who will take the ball and run with it?

    I know John Moravec of Education Futures does good things, as well as Claire Boonstra of Operation Education, but there are already many, many others!