In 1991 as a gymnastics coach for children, I set out on a path to improve how physical education was served to children in primary schools in Dublin. Through studying the curriculum in Ireland, the UK and Australia, we developed new structures, activities and systems that reinvigorated gym time.
The program’s success was that within several years I was jointly running one of the largest children’s gymnastic clubs in Ireland and the UK, reaching 10,000 children over 11 years.
In October of 2013, I set out on a similar path, this time looking at how English as a second language was taught to children.
19th October 2013. 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 values and preferences? Does it seem somewhat unfair that they are ejected from compulsory schooling and are expected to start making significant decisions about their future? So many students reach third-level education only to spend several years finding out what they do not want to do.
As a 9-year-old, 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, far too many bad jokes for my parents. School was what it was: irrelevant. It was just something that everyone had to do. I often wondered what those years could have produced if my natural interests had been acknowledged and nurtured during my 14,000 hours of compulsory education.
This system does not provide the scope or experience necessary for many to make better career choices, but as a practising 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. Groups designed for particular interests, moving with the times are and will be necessary.
This necessity 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.
When children are given more control over their learning, their innate curiosity activates, and a powerful fire burns for more valuable experiences. I believe every teacher wants their students to be hungry for more knowledge. However, our education system does not permit the level of individualism required for ignition.
An education system that prioritises exploration and group formation based on interests, not age, only exists in my imagination. Nevertheless, and however insurmountable such a challenge may appear, it does not diminish the significance or nobility of its pursuit, as its successful realisation would produce an entirely different future generation, one that is motivated and structured to identify each child’s essence and to utilise their innate motivation at the most critical developmental period in their early life. In such a system, parents would become sensitive to the new education categories. My child is passionate about sports. 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 is genuinely interesting to students. Future classrooms should and can be designed to cater for the genuine 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.
The product of this initiative is a training course for a vastly different educational 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 the essential curriculum is built into the 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.
Come visit us at www.twofish.bg.