Learning Beyond Schooling responds to Sir Ken Robinson’s talk on “Do Schools Kill Creativity?”

Sir Ken Robinson: If you want to stop the problems in education, stop causing them. Nobody has a clue, what the world will look like in five years’ time……And yet, we’re meant to be educating students for it. So the unpredictability, I think, is extraordinary.

LBS: He is right! Our public education is lagging farther and farther behind from the massive transformations occurring in the real world in real time. Students are being fed old knowledge for a world that has long gone past. It’s taking far too long to graduate students from high schools and from colleges. The current curricula need to be revamped, restructured, reconfigured! We are not tapping into the talents of our young. In fact, we kill them slowly and systematically throughout the long and arduous schooling years.

Sir Ken Robinson: And my contention is, all kids have tremendous talents, and we squander them, pretty ruthlessly…..creativity now is as important in education as literacy, and we should treat it with the same status.”

LBS: So true! So many kids with so much talent but they are never discovered nor recognised because we are measuring them with totally different measurements. They have to suppress their real creative selves to conform to a uniformed mentality that values compliance to the system rather than originality of thinking.

Sir Ken Robinson: I heard a great story recently — I love telling it — of a little girl who was in a drawing lesson. She was six, and she was at the back, drawing, and the teacher said this girl hardly ever paid attention, and in this drawing lesson, she did. The teacher was fascinated. She went over to her, and she said, “What are you drawing?” And the girl said, “I’m drawing a picture of God.” And the teacher said, “But nobody knows what God looks like.” And the girl said, “They will in a minute.”

What these things have in common is that kids will take a chance. If they don’t know, they’ll have a go. Am I right? They’re not frightened of being wrong. I don’t mean to say that being wrong is the same thing as being creative. What we do know is, if you’re not prepared to be wrong, you’ll never come up with anything original — if you’re not prepared to be wrong. And by the time they get to be adults, most kids have lost that capacity. They have become frightened of being wrong. And we run our companies like this. We stigmatize mistakes. And we’re now running national education systems where mistakes are the worst thing you can make. And the result is that we are educating people out of their creative capacities.

LBS: There will be no creativity or innovation by being safe. The world would not have Apple if Steve Jobs had stuck to being safe. And Elon Musk would not have created Tesla or SpaceX if he was afraid of failure. Without innovation and creativity, there would be nothing new to look forward to in the future.

Sir Ken Robinson: Every education system on earth has the same hierarchy of subjects. Every one. Doesn’t matter where you go. You’d think it would be otherwise, but it isn’t. At the top are mathematics and languages, then the humanities. At the bottom are the arts. Everywhere on earth. And in pretty much every system, too, there’s a hierarchy within the arts. Art and music are normally given a higher status in schools than drama and dance. There isn’t an education system on the planet that teaches dance every day to children the way we teach them mathematics. Why? Why not? I think this is rather important. I think math is very important, but so is dance. Children dance all the time if they’re allowed to, we all do.

Truthfully, what happens is, as children grow up, we start to educate them progressively from the waist up. And then we focus on their heads. And slightly to one side. 

LBS: Very true! Somehow, bright students who want to opt for the arts subjects are subjected to a great deal of pressure to stick to the science stream instead of making the switch. Reason? Because of the purportedly “better” career opportunities.

Sir Ken Robinson: If you were to visit education as an alien and say “What’s it for, public education?” I think you’d have to conclude, if you look at the output, who really succeeds by this, who does everything they should, who gets all the brownie points, who are the winners — I think you’d have to conclude the whole purpose of public education throughout the world is to produce university professors. Isn’t it? They’re the people who come out the top. And I used to be one, so there.

Our education system is predicated on the idea of academic ability. And there’s a reason. Around the world, there were no public systems of education, really, before the 19th century. They all came into being to meet the needs of industrialism. So the hierarchy is rooted on two ideas. 

Number one, that the most useful subjects for work are at the top. So you were probably steered benignly away from things at school when you were a kid, things you liked, on the grounds you would never get a job doing that. Is that right? “Don’t do music, you’re not going to be a musician; don’t do art, you won’t be an artist.” Benign advice — now, profoundly mistaken. The whole world is engulfed in a revolution. 

And the second is academic ability, which has really come to dominate our view of intelligence, because the universities design the system in their image. If you think of it, the whole system of public education around the world is a protracted process of university entrance. And the consequence is that many highly talented, brilliant, creative people think they’re not, because the thing they were good at at school wasn’t valued, or was actually stigmatized. And I think we can’t afford to go on that way. 

LBS: Parents and educators need to see this revolution taking place in order to change the way they educate their young, and to ALWAYS preserve their CREATIVE and CURIOUS MINDS. How? By giving them adequate space for imagining, for creating, for expressing their inner thoughts, feelings and stories. By giving them the tools to create their stories and imaginations. By being their supportive partners in creative learning. By questioning everything and recreating a future that sits well with their hearts.

Sir Ken Robinson: In the next 30 years, according to UNESCO, more people worldwide will be graduating through education than since the beginning of history. More people. And it’s the combination of all the things we’ve talked about: technology and its transformational effect on work, and demography and the huge explosion in population.

Suddenly, degrees aren’t worth anything. Isn’t that true? When I was a student, if you had a degree, you had a job. If you didn’t have a job, it’s because you didn’t want one. And I didn’t want one, frankly. 

But now kids with degrees are often heading home to carry on playing video games, because you need an MA where the previous job required a BA, and now you need a PhD for the other. It’s a process of academic inflation. And it indicates the whole structure of education is shifting beneath our feet. We need to radically rethink our view of intelligence. 

LBS: Yes, exactly! Do check out Professor Howard Gardner’s Multiple Intelligences Theory that reinforces the view that each of us is made up of various intelligences put together. Not just one. Or none! https://www.simplypsychology.org/multiple-intelligences.html

Sir Ken Robinson: We know three things about intelligence. One, it’s diverse. We think about the world in all the ways that we experience it. We think visually, we think in sound, we think kinesthetically. We think in abstract terms, we think in movement. Secondly, intelligence is dynamic. If you look at the interactions of a human brain, as we heard yesterday from a number of presentations, intelligence is wonderfully interactive. The brain isn’t divided into compartments. In fact, creativity — which I define as the process of having original ideas that have value — more often than not comes about through the interaction of different disciplinary ways of seeing things.

And the third thing about intelligence is, it’s distinct. I’m doing a new book at the moment called “Epiphany,” which is based on a series of interviews with people about how they discovered their talent. I’m fascinated by how people got to be there. It’s really prompted by a conversation I had with a wonderful woman who maybe most people have never heard of, Gillian Lynne. She’s a choreographer, and everybody knows her work. She did “Cats” and “Phantom of the Opera.” She’s wonderful. 

Gillian and I had lunch one day. I said, “How did you get to be a dancer?” It was interesting. When she was at school, she was really hopeless. And the school, in the ’30s, wrote to her parents and said, “We think Gillian has a learning disorder.” She couldn’t concentrate; she was fidgeting. I think now they’d say she had ADHD. Wouldn’t you? But this was the 1930s, and ADHD hadn’t been invented at this point. It wasn’t an available condition. 

Anyway, she went to see this specialist. So, this oak-paneled room, and she was there with her mother, and she was led and sat on this chair at the end, and she sat on her hands for 20 minutes, while this man talked to her mother about all the problems Gillian was having at school, because she was disturbing people, her homework was always late, and so on. Little kid of eight. In the end, the doctor went and sat next to Gillian and said, “I’ve listened to all these things your mother’s told me. I need to speak to her privately. Wait here. We’ll be back. We won’t be very long,” and they went and left her. 

But as they went out of the room, he turned on the radio that was sitting on his desk. And when they got out of the room, he said to her mother, “Just stand and watch her.” And the minute they left the room, she was on her feet, moving to the music. And they watched for a few minutes, and he turned to her mother and said, “Mrs. Lynne, Gillian isn’t sick. She’s a dancer. Take her to a dance school.” 

I said, “What happened?” She said, “She did!”

And the rest is history!

Watch the video here: https://youtu.be/iG9CE55wbtY

LBS: Thank you Sir Ken Robinson for your wisdom and insights into the importance of creativity in our lives. Your legacy will live on in every parent, child and educator who are committed to an education that nurtures the heart and soul, by creating happier and better individuals together!

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The future of education is in Creative education

When we talk about creative education – which can be defined as “using imagination and critical thinking to create new and meaningful forms of ideas where they can take risks, be independent and flexible”. Instead of being taught to reiterate what had been learned, students learn to develop their ability to find various solutions to a problem – It does not mean that we have got to wait 10, 20 or 30 years for it to possibly happen (for that is how unchanging education is when there is a lack of vision and follow-through action by the Ministry).

But when parents themselves were to reclaim their children’s education, that can be instantaneous! Because it doesn’t need to go through the layers upon layers of bureaucratic maze to decide whether to teach your child math and science in English, and then change that decision again, and again – depending on each new minister on the job. It just needs to be understood clearly without all the prejudices and misconceptions. All one needs to do is some quick research on the Internet and hundreds of info will surface for the taking. The late Sir Ken Robinson has been talking about it throughout his career and it is fast becoming a thing for creative artists to adopt for their children – they are choosing creative learning over conventional schooling for good reasons, namely the freedom to customise creative learning for the family’ needs and lifestyles. It is not a fad. Because it allows for the unfettered growth of creativity to happen freely and naturally, and taking that creativity to generate new ideas for the various creative and educative industries, and to solve pressing future problems. For those who do not know what I’m talking about, here’s a quick scan of it.

Creative unschooling

1. Unschooling is an informal learning that advocates learner-chosen activities as a primary means for learning. Why informal? Because learning is a life-long endeavour that begins from the mothers’ womb, and continues unabated throughout life. It encompasses our daily living routines that form habits that either enhance our learning process or inhibit it. Much of learning occurs before the child even steps into a formal classroom: from observing adults interact and communicate with one another, by asking the “Why” questions, by throwing an egg into the air and seeing what might happen next……the minds of children aren’t blank canvases to be filled with data. They are already colourful canvases oto be displayed to all and sundry to be seen, to be understood, to be acknowledged.

2. Unschooling students learn through their natural life experiences including play, household responsibilities, personal interests and curiosity, internships and work experience, travel, books, elective classes, family, mentors, and social interaction. Their days are not packed to the brim with organised activities or formal classes. Instead of those, they have lots of space and room for creative contemplation and play.

3. Creative play – There has been a great deal of research on the importance of play for the neurological development of the brain, as well as the emotional development for healthy socialisation. But this is mainly brushed off by results-driven principals and parents of children. The “I-didn’t-pay-you-expensive-school-fees-just-to-let-my-child-play” is an oft-repeated complain that teachers get from parents.

4. Unschooling encourages exploration of activities initiated by the children themselves, believing that the more personal learning is, the more meaningful, well-understood and therefore useful it is to the child. While courses may occasionally be taken, unschooling questions the usefulness of standard curricula, conventional grading methods, and other features of traditional schooling in the education of each unique child.

With the current pandemic disrupting schooling throughout the world, it is imperative that we adopt creativity in schools and adapt schooling for creative learning. Because the world will never be the same post-pandemic and this uncertainty has already impacted the way businesses are run, managed and led.

“We don’t teach uncertainty in schools. It should be the absolute bedrock of what we teach children – how we come to know and how we describe reality. In fact, we teach the exact opposite”. (Adam Rutherford, science writer). Learning is broad, interconnected and dynamic. Learning is sometimes thought of in the strictly cognitive or academic sense, yet research in child development has shown us that learning is much broader and interconnected.

In THE UNSCHOOLED MIND: HOW CHILDREN THINK AND HOW SCHOOLS SHOULD TEACH, Howard Gardner, an expert on intelligence and creativity, offers an in-depth discussion of different ways of understanding the world. Young children develop intuitive ways of understanding, but schools teach subject matter in rote, ritualized manner. As a result, students fail to use new material when presented with problems outside a scholastic context. Instead, they fall back on their intuitive understandings. Only when students become disciplinary experts do they use new knowledge in other than school settings. Gardner believes that schools could teach students to be disciplinary experts but that they fail to do so.

“Schools should teach concepts in ways that show applicability to the real world and in ways that challenge students’ intuitive understandings of the world and show where they are deficient. The creativity and resourcefulness of young children should be preserved while their false understandings are corrected. Gardner discusses modified apprenticeships, meaningful projects, and process portfolios as means of achieving this goal.” https://www.enotes.com/topics/unschooled-mind

So, ultimately, to change education is to change our mindset towards learning, and that is, to adopt the unschooled mind that fosters the creative mind that has the power to solve the education woes for your family. Not the other way around.

Here are the research papers on play:

https://academy.schooleducationgateway.eu/documents/1508261/0/power+of+play/ec599a0c-c9e5-405d-9c0c-c65872fe1e21

Invaluable Resources from the National Association for the Education of Young Children https://www.naeyc.org/resources/topics/play

Book Summary of Howard Gardner’s The Unschooled Mind

https://www.rightattitudes.com/2017/06/27/the-unschooled-mind/

Do Schools Kill Creativity by Sir Ken Robinson https://youtu.be/iG9CE55wbtY

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Q&A on Teaching Your Own

Question from Sugitha,

“This is great initiative, Wai Leng. I think it helps us all to learn from each other. I’m keen to ask 3 questions which are also relevant to the research I am undertaking on Homeschooling in Malaysia”:

1) How do parents lead children’s education in their homeschools?

Parents need to lead by example. We need to adopt a learner’s mind, to be curious, to be asking questions, to be very concerned about issues that affect our world – like the climate emergency that we care facing – and to be an active adherent and advocate for responsible living. This is applicable to every responsible parent no matter what your education choice for your children is.

2) What do parents do to ensure effective learning happens?

Effective learning happens when one is actively interested in something – it can be in architecture, nature, animals, culinary arts, anime, film-making, traveling, sports, dancing, music, writing, art, skating, baking, etc Interest do not happen in a vacuum. One needs to be put in an environment where the interest could grow. Just like a plant, it needs good soil, the right amount of sunlight and water to grow, so is growing a healthy child – one needs the right environment, the right support, and learning will happen as if by magic!

3) How do parent know if learning has been accomplished?

When we grow a plant, we will know if our effort has been successful by observing the plant periodically- is it sprouting well? Is it growing at a good rate? Does it need to be transplanted into a bigger pot of plot? Has it matured as a full grown plant? Similarly, we can make such observations in children. Are they continually showing interest in a subject/subjects? Are they spending more and more time engaged in their interest? Are they happily immersed in their projects? Are they continuously feeling excited and positively challenged by it? Have they managed to showcase their skills or knowledge through a book/photo/video project? Or a music recital? Or an art exhibition? Or a science/math/public speaking presentation?

My 16-year-old son has been unschooled since he was born – he was FREE to PLAY ALL DAY EVERYDAY at home as well as with his unschooling buddies who came to play together several times a week for several years until they grew up. They would play all kinds of games from playing with “weapons” made from cardboard themselves, to play-acting stories that they made up together. Now, they have grown up and their play has been transferred to playing musical instruments (namely the piano), making music together, writing, composing and performing their works privately as well as in public. Their favourite pastimes together is to group-watch classical recitals online, to play to one another via zoom, and to talk classical music and composers. Arian is still pursuing his writing in his room everyday – he plans to publish his work one day. He also collaborates with his buddies in film-making and script-writing. Oh and they do programming together, lovingly guided by a fellow homeschooling Mom! So yeah, they definitely share the same creative pond and make great companions due to their same interests all these years! Watching them being constantly excited about the things they love is just so gratifying because, come on, can you find any teenagers as “crazy” as these? I would think you would be hard pressed in finding them!

Arian showing his friend how to play the piano!

Question from Cynthia:

I’m planning to homeschool my kids (9years old and 7 years old). I am quite new to this homeschooling. But I would like to teach my own kids.

I appreciate if you can give me some advise as in what subjects should I start, and references. I’m looking at English, Maths and Science for a starter now, follow by geography and history after a year or 2. But not sure if I’m at the right direction.

Is it even possible to guide them all the way from home till they reach the final IGCSE exam or do they need some homeschooling centers to guide them in future? I’m not looking into international school.

Thank you very much. 🙂 your reply will be very helpful to me.

Hi Cynthia,

I’m happy to know that you are keen to embark on home-educating your kids 🙂 Before u jump into curriculum and stuff, it’s very helpful to list down the Why’s of homeschooling for you and your family. This will steer you towards the direction you might like to take, and the WHAT, HOW, WHEN will follow.

Remember that this is your opportunity to really make a change for your children, and to help them discover their interests and passion. It is an opportunity for them to be who they truly are, and to work towards realising their dreams (whatever they may be).

Do not fall into the schooling trap of trying to do school at home. Do not put yourselves back into the box when there is no box in the first place. Explore, experiment, experience learning for what it is – a joyful discovery, a meaningful connection with nature, a gratifying relationship with family and friends….

Do check out my education blog www.learningbeyondschooling.org

All the best and do check in here again whenever you need to :))

Regards,

Wai Leng

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COMMENT | Covid-19 – catalyst for driving transformation of schools

Published 14 May 2020, 4:12 pm on Malaysiakini

https://www.malaysiakini.com/columns/525656

COMMENT | Our response to the Covid-19 pandemic in pushing the adoption of e-learning online at home is both innovative and exciting. This is particularly so especially from the perspective of digital transformation. To see the Ministry of Education jump in and push e-learning to the fore is long-awaited. While Covid-19 is not the most ideal motivation, It has spurred the opening of an opportunity towards a digital transformation of schools in a big way.

However, the adoption of e-learning has its challenges. For countries like Malaysia and other developing economies, there have already been long-existing problems within the education system that are in dire need of fixing. Then all of a sudden, with this pandemic going on, schools have had to be shut and the entire learning process was forced into homes.

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My Response to: “Unschooling Isn’t the Answer to Education Woes – It’s the Problem.”

This is in response to the piece published in Forbes. Read the Forbes piece here:

https://www.forbes.com/sites/nataliewexler/2020/05/25/unschooling-isnt-the-answer-to-education-woes-its-the-problem/

I have no qualms with the first part of the title: “Unschooling Isn’t the Answer to Education Woes”, because it is true – it isn’t. And unschoolers do not make that claim either. But to claim that “it is the problem?” Now that, is taking the argument a little too far!

When I embarked on the unschooling journey with my kids almost 20 years ago, I thought (and still do!) that it was the best thing ever for children and families. Reason? Because kids get to have a proper childhood and families get to be like how normal families ought to be: being together, and doing things as a family: like playing, working, cooking, cleaning, learning. And I thought (albeit naively) that everyone could unschool their kids like we did, because it felt so easy and natural! With the recent emergency pandemic schooling which had “forced” children to be kept at home and parents having to take on a new role as their kids’ teachers, the world experienced home-based learning or home-schooling en masse – a first in recent history! The outcome? Some loved it so much they don’t want to go back to school! While others can’t wait for schools to reopen for the kids to be handed back to the professional teachers.

Tree-climbing was one of our favourite activities: it is challenging, utilises creative problem-solving and overcomes fear!

This is understandable, because how parents approach teaching and learning will determine how the kids take to it. For those who, over the years, have instilled in their kids the qualities of self-motivation and independent learning, by viewing learning as interesting, contextual and meaningful, they would have no problems learning at home, or anywhere for that matter. In fact, they love it! But parents who have little time or energy to look into learning as a form of personal growth and development, but instead look to it as a means to a better life in getting a good job for the future, will inevitably struggle with the idea of too much freedom in their children’s education. And hence, we see the cyclical suffering going round and round with no solution in sight. Or a solution that will quickly be thrown out the window because it doesn’t fit into what they can see for their children’s future.

The task of educators in educating for the future will be less of equipping students with the needed fundamental skills in order to get a job after they graduate, but more of amplifying innate talents and allowing them to flourish with preparedness for an uncertain and ever-changing future. And learning experts are predicting this change as we see it unfold before our very eyes in our current pandemic emergency.

So, the main reason why unschooling will not be the answer to education woes is not because it cannot work in schools, but because parents, teachers and educational bodies are slow and resistant towards changing the way they do education. This is evident from the way schooling is resumed after the lockdown – Nothing much has changed other than the enforcement of social-distancing and hygiene practices. Instead of looking into growing and expanding creativity through outdoor and nature studies and play activities, music and drama, or project-based collaborative learning, most schools are cutting them out. Which is a big mistake because creativity is the single-most important skill in the world for all business professionals today to master.

And what does it mean to be creative? LinkedIn Learning Instructor Stefan Mumaw, who has authored six books on creativity, has this definition: “Creativity is problem-solving with relevance and novelty.” Relevance means actually solving the problem, and novelty is being original in solving the problem. Creativity is solving problems in original ways. Education woes is not due to unschooling. On the contrary, it has everything to do with the rigidity of the schooling mentality that is adverse to creativity. When we stop settling for old solutions that worked previously and push ourselves to think of newer, better ideas, we will begin to move forward to a new future minus the baggage of the old. And to do that, we will need to unschool our minds to foster creativity that works to solve problems in novel ways.

We cannot begin to solve the education woes if we are not prepared to change our mindset towards what we want from education and how we want to do it. Ultimately, HOW we imagine life and work will determine what and how we want to learn. And be prepared for the rapid disappearance of jobs that we have always known, and the appearance of new ones that are beyond our imagination! The best people to understand this phenomenon will be those who have not been in the system of indoctrination – the young unschooled minds. We have much to learn from them if we desire to change the education landscape. But no one is asking them for their opinions. That needs to change. Speedily!

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Learning from Home

(This was an article published in Oriental Daily a few years ago, on homeschooling, loosely translated into English here).

When 15-year old Samanta was asked by her friends at dance, what would her future be if she didn’t go to school, she answered thus: “But I am living the future now by doing what I love best – dancing!” She is the younger daughter of Chong Wai Leng and Soon Koi Voon, one of the pioneering parents who homeschooled their children in Malaysia. They also wrote a book titled “Learning Beyond Schooling – Bringing Out Children’s True Potentials”. They were the first people to start a parenting website in Malaysia called FamilyPlace.

Go with passion!

They chose to homeschool their three children because they wanted their children to grow up with their curiosity and love for learning intact, to have dreams and the time and courage to pursue their dreams. Their oldest daughter attended school for two years ( from year 4 to year 5) during which she made many friends. She also managed to figure out how school works. But to their astonishment, she announced that she wanted to stop schooling and go back to homeschooling. Her reason: there is no meaning in learning when all extra curricular activities were stopped and were replaced by extra tuition to prepare for an important exam in year 6.

So with her ample time at home, she picked up the guitar and started to sing and write her own songs. Eventually it became clear to her that she wanted to be a singer songwriter. She started doing gigs to raise funds to go to Nashville in June this year to attend the Country Music Festival. She managed to raise enough funds for the airfare there and back! Learning according to one’s interest provide the needed self-motivation and drive to accomplish one’s dream. There are many choices out there for those who want to try out other options other than schooling.

Community learning

But they did not stop there with their children. They started a community learning initiative to have other homeschooling families come in to learn together. The idea is to share resources and to provide help and support to one another. To date, five families have committed to the initiative, coming together four times a week to do science projects, creative play, , drawing and many other fun activities together. The idea is to learn from the regular interactions the children have with one another. This is far better than the occasional “hi” and “bye” situations during an organized field trip with other homeschoolers
perhaps. The interactions and relationship with one another is very beautiful indeed!

Learning at home should not be an isolated activity. Parents need to build community that support one another. They believe they have found the solution to the question of socialization. It is not their purpose to convince everyone to homeschool. But it is their hope that more parents can be empowered in their educational choices by knowing that there ARE options out there. Parents need to reclaim their children. They need to reclaim their families – something that parents lose out when they surrender their children to th institution called “The school”

An involved parent, Hoo Chee Keong, gave his views on the concept of community learning. “Homeschooling is not just learning at home. We meet up regularly to do activities together so that our children learn people skills in the process. This is very important. There are bound to be issues that crop up when children play together. When this happens, they are opportunities for learning communication skill, anger management skills and many other important people skills.” Chee Keong, who runs a kindergarten and daycare center in Klang with his wife, also feels that doing it together with other families lessen the burden of having to plan and do everything yourself. “Some parents offer to teach science, another teaches cooking, another teaches creative writing, etc…this combined effort makes learning more fun and less stress!”

Trusting children to learn

It is important that parents discuss with their children, ant decision that would affect them, like the decision to school or homeschool. Children do have the ability to make decisions. It is a matter of whether parents can accept what they really want. It is a journey that parents and their children take together. “We need to grow together with our children. We need to give them more freedom to choose what they learn and how they learn. This way, they will have more interest in learning. Even in learning how to make friends.” he added.

Trusting children to learn in their own time and in their own ways is an important start. This will encourage them to be self-directed learners and not having to constantly rely on more “knowledgeable” adults for help. Children can teach themselves a lot of things if we let them, like learning the guitar or learning to swim or learning to draw! For this reason, it is not imperative that they go to school or college to learn. The world is their classroom!

A music presentation by the kids – always the highlight of their homeschooling!
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Hari Raya MCO Concert 2020

Here’s the link to last night’s premier of our concert https://youtu.be/gX8gkmwEIZE

And here’s the link to our classical music segment happening tonight! https://youtu.be/T4v_6h4rQro

Enjoy! If you would like to participant in our future concerts, please write in to beyond.schooling@gmail.com

Music is the expression of love, life and passion! It should be encouraged and supported with all our hearts and resources. They should NEVER be put aside to fit more “important” subjects. In fact, arts education should be the forefront of all education!

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The Time For Change is NOW

The global pandemic has caused drastic changes in the way we live, learn and work. The world was ground to a halt – schools and factories were closed, businesses shut down, and everyone was ordered to stay at home during an extensive lockdown, for months. This was certainly unprecedented and governments around the world have had to learn on the go, what they are dealing with, how to deal with this emergency, and when to open the countries up, and how? In this unsettling environment that is still playing out right now, with countries still fighting tooth-and-nail with the effects of the virus, and its impact on the people – what is to happen to the future of work, livelihood, schooling and socialisation?

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Has our education moved on to the 21st Century or is it still stuck in the 20th Century?

Before we answer that question (yes, I know you already have the answer already but do bear with me, will you please? Thank you!), let’s have a quick look at what the 21st Century learning entails. Here is a good list of them with a video each to further illustrate or animate each point given. Do go through each and every one of them before you continue with this article: https://www.realinfluencers.es/en/2019/05/09/8-21st-century-methodologies/

Thank you for spending time reading and viewing that! You have done a pre-reading and previewing of the given materials – the flipped classroom – and that is one of the 8 methodologies that 21st Century teachers are expected to know and to teach. Here is the full list:

1. Flipped classroom – learning is “reversed” with pre-preparations by students to free up time for more meaningful discussions or projects.

2. Project-based learning – instead of memoization, pbl opens up opportunities for critical thinking, communication and collaboration.

3. Co-operative learning – switching from self-centered learning to others-centered learning resulting in greater dynamism, co-ordination and co-operation.

4. Gamification – it makes sense to learn from game-designers who have succeeded where schools have failed, in motivating players to keep playing and upping their skills to reach their targets. Because it is FUN.

5. Problem-based learning – getting students to think about real-life problems confronting the world and coming up with real solutions to them. The world needs more Boyan Slats to solve real world problems with problem-based learning!

6. Design-Thinking – A look at more specific problems to solve for specific clients offering innovative solutions for think about.

7. Thinking-based Learning – thinking that is done to convert information into knowledge. Memorisation of facts s not the primary method of learning.

8. Competency-based Learning – gives students a choice and freedom to master a skill and to present it in various ways that they choose.

So looking at these, we can come to a calculated conclusion that we have hardly made the crossover from the ancient method of teaching, to the present 21st Century world. And what does it take for us to get there? With the current pandemic exerting massive disruptions to schooling around the world, we have to relook at how we can REVAMP and REDESIGN schooling that meets the needs for new knowledge workers, innovative problem-solvers and creative and compassionate leaders of tomorrow. What are some of the problems we are currently facing?

1. Over-crowded schools and classrooms – There are just too many students and the numbers will continue to grow in urban schools. Do we keep building bigger buildings to accommodate the growing number of students? Or do we look deeper into schooling at home, distance-learning, and online classrooms?

2. School as a big day-care center- Countries affected by the pandemic have had to reopen schools for the sole purpose of enabling parents to go back to work. But if working from home becomes a norm everywhere in the world, then having children learn at home becomes a norm too. And schools can become a center for community, collaboration and socialisation instead.

3. Schools as testing centers – If the purpose of schooling changes from a place to acquire uniformed knowledge and to obtain a uniformed assessment of the acquisition of knowledge via standardised testing, to a higher purpose of moulding educated citizens with good character and compassionate leadership qualities, this whole testing method can be considered obsolete and redundant in the 21st Century scenario. The only tests to be carried out will be the products and problem-solving solutions that the students have come up with collaboratively.

4. Schools as competitive beds to fill a capitalistic market – When we stop using schools as a factory to produce products to feed the capitalistic market, and instead truly investing in human capital (or potentials) to contribute positively to the general goodness and happiness of the world, everything changes – from what we teach and how we teach and from where we teach. We got to start from the WHY we teach and the what, how and when will follow.

5. Higher education as an expensive and exclusive learning institution – this has to go because it is not sustainable and reachable for everyone. Education has to inclusive and for that to happen, we have to break down its walls of privilege and exclusivity. It should not be a for- profit enterprise. It has got to be a for-the-people life-long open learning community.

6. Schools as political and religious indoctrination centres- This has to stop. Period.

Some may say that this is wishful thinking but I beg to differ. I believe that when people are confronted by a common global problem, and the only way to solve it is to change everything we knew about how we school our kids, the time for change will come sooner than we think. The window for change has just opened up for the world right now. The question is, are we going back to the old normal or are we going to create a new normal for our children?

HAPPY TEACHERS’ DAY to all educators!

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Moving education onto a higher plane

By April 13, 2020, a total of 192 countries had ordered their schools to close as part of the global effort to control the spread of COVID-19. This is the disease caused by SARS-CoV-2.

According to figures from UNESCO, these school closures have affected more than 1.5 billionchildren and young people. (https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/closing-schools-has-only-a-minor-role-in-suppressing-covid-19)

Around the world, schools are using existing platforms from the likes of Microsoft and Google as well as conferencing apps like Zoom to deliver lessons for their pupils. In Malaysia, those who were prepared for the switch did it quite seamlessly (namely the private and international schools) as compared to those who were caught totally unprepared (the public and independent schools).

“As systems massively move to e-learning, the digital divide in connectivity, access to devices and skill levels takes on more weight.”

What the pandemic has revealed about the way we school our young, is that most of our schools are still using the traditional chalkboard approach in teaching, which is not very different from the way it has been done for the past 100 years or so, despite the availability of new technologies! These are the schools that are most impacted by the disruption. Learning has come to a standstill for these students. This just reveals the great digital divide between those who can afford it and those who can’t. This shouldn’t be the case, especially when our country has been allocating large sums of money into education. But sadly it seems to be.

The reality and challenges of schooling at home:

1. The home is not normally set up for schooling – most students do not have proper desks to work on, or the proper environment. Most families do not give priority to learning at home because it is something that is entirely outsourced to schools and other learning institutions. So with the lockdown, students are forced to attend online classes in the dining area, or the living area, or even in their bedrooms. So, getting students to focus on what the teacher is teaching can be extremely challenging for some, with all the household distractions. And for those who do not have access to computers or even smartphones, this option is completely out for them. Talk about bridging the digital divide. 😬

2. Learning in a classroom setting – looking and listening to a teacher who is physically there is not the same as looking at a computer screen for hours on end, with unstable internet speed and pixelated or frozen images. These can be a tremendous strain on the eyes and the brain!

3. Learning has gone online but the teaching approach has not changed. Teachers who continue to use monotonous monologues to teach will not be able to hold the students’ attention as compared to those who utilise more audio visuals to carry the points across. collaborative learning by breaking them into groups works better to engage the students with one another. Teachers who are skilful in utilising technology for this purpose has the upper hand in making their lessons interesting and engaging for the students.

4. The duration of the online classes should be cut down by half with the teacher giving precise and condensed instructions for individual as well as group work and submissions. This way, more time can be spent on more fruitful discussions amongst the students and for completion of the assignments. Unfortunately, many traditional schools still treat online classes exactly the same as brick-and-mortar classes.

5. Emphasis should be on research, reflection and realisation – NOT regurgitation. Students should not be expected to give the same uniformed answers but to present their own interpretative understanding of a given topic.

Check these tips out:

Tips for Successful Online Learning

https://online.illinois.edu/articles/online-learning/item/2015/09/16/7-tips-for-online-success

Parents need to learn to relax and go with the flow, rather than get all uptight and upset with their kids at home. As this is an unprecedented occurrence where schools and offices are closed for such a long period of time, family dynamics can get very stressful with working and schooling under the same roof!

In The Star today, there is an article published to help parents cope with the stress of helping their kids with schooling at home.

Parents are in an especially tough situation as schools stay closed due to the coronavirus. One expert suggests that parents implement a daily schedule – as well as considerably lower their expectations.

“Children with learning difficulties or disabilities, on the other hand, are often unable to focus on their work and study effectively alone. They require support and motivation from their parents, who can quickly feel overwhelmed by the task. Kaye’s advice to them is to stay calm and composed. The greatest help, she says, is to “provide emotional support, love and security, and to display confidence.” https://www.thestar.com.my/tech/tech-news/2020/05/03/do-what-you-can-accept-what-you-can039t-homeschooling-in-a-pandemic

Education revolution?

The world has been waiting for a revolution in education ever since the industrial mode of educating our future generation has been getting more and more obsolete and irrelevant. It hadn’t happen in the last decade of the 20th century. It hadn’t happened in the first decade of the 21st century. And now at the start of the second decade in 2020, we are witnessing a sudden massive thrust onto the web of learning, hopefully and finally seeing the much-awaited take-off of our rocket ship – the rocket of 21st century learning!

The OECD is tracking how technology is replacing face-to-face teaching. “It is particularly inspiring to see entirely new ways of working emerging, ones that go beyond simply replacing physical schools with digital analogues,” says Tracey Burns, of the OECD Directorate for Education and Skills.

She says it’s too early to say that bricks-and-mortar schools will be replaced by e-learning anytime soon. But Andreas Schleicher, Director of Education and Skills at the OECD, sees the crisis as an opportunity to rethink how we organize education.

“We can rapidly enhance digital learning opportunities for teachers and encourage teacher collaboration beyond borders. And we can use the momentum to reshape curricula and learning environments to the needs of the 21st century. Much of this is already happening. “

China was hit first by COVID-19, but reacted fast. Schools were given the highest priority even when financial resources nationwide were tightening, with a “green channel” ensuring quality and efficiency in rapid procurement during the emergency. On 17 February, a national cloud platform was launched, offering digital learning resources to students in schools free of charge across the country. With 7,000 servers and a 90 terabyte bandwidth, the platform already accommodates 50 million learners simultaneously. And it was not just the government which mobilised resources: a wide range of contributors were stepping forward to provide everything from free Wi-Fi and devices for students through innovative instructional systems to social support for teachers and schools. Importantly, teachers were ready and able to connect with their students remotely, both synchronously for lectures and individual support, as well as asynchronously, with teachers offering online resources for self-directed learning. And those without access to digital resources were not forgotten. In many places, parents could collect free textbooks from schools or ask schools to deliver them to their home.

How can teachers and school systems respond to the COVID-19 pandemic? Some lessons from TALIS

But we would be wrong to think that 21st Century learning is all about learning on the digital platform, because it entails more than just that. For 21st Century Learning requires 21st Century Mindset, and we need to explore what kind of mind is needed to face this century that is the turning point for humanity’s continual co-existence with Mother Nature and her myriads of creatures on Earth.

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