School Factory in the 21st Century

School factory is a complicated concept, the sustainable world despises it, capitalism consuming society is dependant on it. A great example can be a large operating mine. The operating company have designed a routine and wants employees to learn the routine, perform it in a safe, productive manner like a robot. They train employees over and over (like quarterly mandatory training) for the same routines to make sure they go through it step by step; because an incident will cause more loss than a profit based on a new way of completing a task. Shortcuts are forbidden, and instructions are the golden rules, especially if you are a worker in the field. It can make sense in terms of ensuring that employees are careful enough in completing the job in the safest way without skipping a step to finishing the job earlier. This emphasis on codes and rulebooks can increase safety, preventing the potential hazards of working with heavy-high energy machinery. However, the employees are turning to robots! They are expected to work like robots! But why they do not replace them with robots which can be easily done for simple tasks such as remotely controlled equipment, automatic data logger and so many other simple examples. One reason is that they can create jobs for the local community and get social acceptance. And those employees are happy earning money by following a simple routine in some cases. The interesting part is when they have the same instructions for engineering tasks as well, and if an engineer as the design wants to change a routine in one task there is a long justification process which makes it almost impossible to have a creative idea. If they need a creative idea they hire consulting companies. All of this is to secure the process as much as possible to have a minimum loss in case of any failure or challenging crisis. In this system, the risk of trying a new beneficial path is more than repeating the traditional time-consuming ways. And they apply technology just in case of urgent need and guaranteed result.

You might think that; it is the rule of the business so what? My point is that to train engineers for such a system, there is no need to change the school factory method. The traditional schooling is exactly what industrialized and developing societies require. They hire you to serve a certain task you want to make a home run out of it which is not required, they switch you with an easier-to-deal-with employee. Large companies and organizations and also governments are supporting this education system as it is in their favor. Therefore, although there are research-based organizations which support novelty for their purposes and are supporting higher education, the majority of the jobs in the society required trained obeying employees graduated from a school factory as explained by Seth Godin.

My point is that an aware knowledgeable teacher, who values the novelty and ingenuity, is one side of the story. The other side is the system, which measures students based on their performance on tests. Teachers cannot ignore the acceptance rate of their students on those national or required tests and just rely on training future entrepreneurs. The assessment system is the one which the large companies require to pick the employees who will obey instead of making a mess by initiating a new method.

My question is that, how much is the role of the teacher in this system? I remember my college years in Iran. The entire curriculum was designed to teach students technics in theory with no room to think out of the box. Even in such a framed education system, the courses which were taught by more knowledgeable instructors who encourage students to get deep in concepts were more interesting to me, I spend more time on having extracurricular study on their topics and I am better at them even now. So, the bright side is that although the system might be rigid, the teachers have the power to create microcracks in it.

Inclusive Pedagogy

I have listened to podcasts and read the articles about inclusive education, while I thinking about what I am going to post on this topic I realized how it is difficult to write about any topic related to racism. I found out a great tendency to avoid writing about this topic. Isn’t it interesting? I am making up my mind about what to write about why the education system needs to be inclusive; and at the same time, I have the fear of not to offending some people and the uncertainty of whether I am exclusive as well!!! Maybe some part of my fear is due to what  Shankar Vendantam explains in “The hidden brain” and I afraid that deep down I have some racial preference. Also, it might be due to the cultural difference between my country of origin and the U.S. as a multi-cultural country. Or maybe I have to study more about the boundaries and depth of inclusiveness to reduce my uncertainty.

Here is what I wanted to write briefly: I believe having a truly inclusive system requires time and consistent effort to be able to gradually change the unconscious biases of people. This cannot be achieved in a single day but a long investment is required to educate fair instructors to teach children how to deal with their unconscious preferences, which can be based on gender, race, abilities or even attractiveness. Meanwhile, the system has to protect individuals against others who take advantage of the privileges for both minorities and majorities. And this is what I do not know how can be actually feasible.


Assessment to develop potentials, not to screen the gifted

Learning and academic performance of students are largely influenced by their ability to concentrate on subjects. The attention level of individuals is based on the neurobiological structure of their brain, which is unique for each individual. For example, students diagnosed with Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) cannot stay focused on their tasks; against their will. Their performance on tests is not usually the true representative of their knowledge and learning capacity. They might perform poorly on exams due to several distractions and lack of ability to follow the questions thoroughly. On the other hand, if they are interested in the topic or they can overcome the distractions, their performance will be boosted drastically. The traditional teaching and testing routine in schools are not effective for these students. An interactive teaching and assessment policy, however, can be more helpful to motivate these students and encourage them to improve their capabilities. The explanation of Dan Pink on the ineffectiveness of the reward on creativity and the role of passion in an individual’s performance reminded ADHD daily life. Their work quality differs vastly if they are interested in the topic. According to the National Survey of Children’s Health (NSCH) data, the number of students diagnosed with ADHD has increased since 1997 (based on different testing criteria). Therefore, more students require a more effective education system annually.

Furthermore,  I thought about the outcome of the improved education system in Finland as exampled by Ken Robinson. I found some documents about Finland’s education system (such as the attached video). According to this video, there is no program for gifted students and students have to help others who are slower in their improvement. There is no private school. Also, there is no national exam or stressful entrance exam for their acceptance to college. The other noticeable change in their system is almost no homework.

According to worldtop20 ranking, Finland is got the highest education ranking in 2017, where Japan and South Korea are second and third. however, the education system in Japan and South Korea are highly competitive with compact testing schedules. In Japan, students attend supplementary classes after school to get ready for the national exam and their acceptance in college depends on their grade on an annual exam. Also, according to the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA), Finland’s students’ performance on reading, mathematics, and science in 2015 is below Japan.

According to this data, though ranking results not necessarily reflect the effectiveness of education systems with less emphasis on assessment.  Nevertheless, I thought it might be worthful to compare the quality of life of people in Japan and Finland for any further influence of the education system.

In Human Development Index (HDI), which evaluates life expectancy, knowledge and education and standards of living, Finland and Japan are ranked 15th and 19th globally. Their improvement in this index is shown in the graph below.



An innovated education system

An innovated education system has been always my matter of concern as I believe the current common teaching system, including tests and grades, cannot help students to foster their potentials to serve the society as their best; but to categorize them in order to identify the most capable ones in specific tasks. The current education system, metaphorically, is like the old story of having rabbits, fishes and pigeons to in a same school and ranking their grades in jumping, swimming and flying altogether. there is no need to teach rabbits to jump but how to jump better. They can try swimming but no need to get ranked upon their fun experience and for sure they need help for that.

Moreover, the competitive filtering system creates one-dimensional mindsets, for example, smart engineers whose world are just numbers, equations, and codes. For sure there are exceptions but statistically, in a competitive environment, individuals get less time to explore and try other aspects of life like art in the engineering example. On the other hand, a grading system in which the variety in abilities, personality and background of students is not considered, cannot be a good evaluation whether students have learned what was taught or not. It can be a tool to identify stronger ones based on the test which adversely causes the students to label themselves under titles of good or bad.  This grading is logical in old school times when individuals had to seek the masters in each skill or science, learn their technics and find a job based on their new mastered skills. Maybe, the employers needed a scale to hire the best ones.

The goal of modern education is to help individuals to achieve their best in their own path.

Networked Learning

Blogging, twitting and sharing your ideas, notes, writings, and experiences publically can have several advantages, not only in social awareness about science, politics and etc. but also in education and research. The learning is a special journey for every individual and sharing it with others can be helpful for others in their way. However, it can be easier for some than others. For instance, extroverts are more comfortable with thinking out loud or writing is not as easy for every individual and posting videos takes extra time and energy.

Moreover, blogs, twits, youtube channels and other forms of sharing information are not scientifically valid to refer in science and formal publications. It can be handy to explain steps of your research for fellow researchers in your field but you cannot rely on it in your journal paper. Therefore, if you want to be really helpful, it needed to be referenced. this type of blogging about your research takes times and for sure not anyone would be happy to share these details. On the other hand, it can be used to your own benefit in asking others comments and suggestions. Also, in some special cases in at can make you famous if your posts go viral.

I personally do not feel very comfortable sharing post even on linkedIn. So, blogging can be a good practice. But for sure it takes time and effort and also some courage to say your ideas and thoughts loud although you know you might change your mind later.