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Sam Watling – what does an education system for the 21st century look like?

Warning: one of 14 liveblogged talk notes transcribed in real time during TEDxBrighton 2013, hence prone to error, omission and howling grammatical typos. Posts will be corrected and updated as time allows and this note updated.

Sam Watling

The major improvements in human society have been driven by changes in lifestyle. Farming held us in one place. Industrialisation move us from bleak live sin field – to bleak lives in cities. Technology is creating a complete re-evaluation of our social structures, because it’s getting harder to control the information they’re based on. We can avlautae what we do and empower the individual.

But this is not happening in one place: education.

Systems must be reformed to incorporate the new technology. You do not practice medieval siege warfare with apache helicopters. Our education is derived from the industrial age from the act in 1870. Our system is not the Dickensian nightmare of those days – but enough elements of it remain to be a problem.

Just ramming trendy tech into the existing education systems doesn’t help. He likes smart boards – but is there any point in them? They break more than chalk board. Our children are worse educated then our parents. Slightly under half of people leave our education system without the basic skills our government deems necessary.

Bullying, skiving and violence are considered part of the norm in our schools. Why is this? Is there a psychological problem with our schools. We have a system which reduces our students to statistics. Students view of their self and self-esteem are intrinsically linked to their part in the system – they are anonymised. Students are going through massive psychological and hormonal changes – and we put them through this?

Teachers are not immune to the toxic psychology of our schools. They are the sole person responsible for the education. Your education experience is solely based on the skill of the teachers. Even the best teacher could not perfect the lives of all 30 people in their class. If the teacher does not get on well with the student and provide them with a function in calls, they’ll chose their own: bully, or cool under-achieving slacker.

When aspergers meets education

He has Aspergers – academically gifted but socially incompetent. That’s led to him to switch schools regularly, ending up in a Buddhist school where he enters a social wreck, and emerged a full, confident 11 year old ready to take on the world. He got a scholarship to a private school which is where he was diagnosed. They did little to adapt to that, though,. Indeed, he thinks that many private schools are rooted in the education of 30 years ago. They are not the answer Michael Gove suggests.

The SMLC in Brighton try to get the best out of the students. The students book time with their tutors. He was an autistic stereotype – he sat in the corner, worked hard and got eight A*. The chool is small because of the way it works, and because the council don’t like it. It got the highest exam result in the area – partially due to his own number of exams taken.

Could we have a system where students feedback on subjects they’re struggling with, and schools adjust their timetables to match. How can we deploy MOOCs to improve education,a nd free teachers up to work with individual students. Can students elect teachers that suit them? Could schools specialise in certain subjects, and work as part of a network?

He’s not advocating an anarchic system of education – but one where students are treated as individuals, not as a chart to be churned out into a societal set. They need more attention, and more help. They need an education.