Elementary education as we know it has only been around for a couple hundred years. In fact, its rise can be charted alongside the Industrial Revolution and the subsequent enactment of child labor laws, making it a relatively new concept in contrast to how long humans have been roaming the earth.
But maybe it’s time to retire the assumptions underpinning the majority of modern elementary schooling. Do young children really best learn every subject in the same classroom from a single person with children the same age as them? Does it make sense to bundle education in this way?
For the most part, we’ve departed from this strategy when it comes to high school and college. However, for the bulk of our elementary education, this is what our learning environments look like.
And thanks to those labor laws, children survive at a greater rate than at any other time in history. We are now able to progress from ensuring that children survive to making it a priority that they thrive.
When we bundle education together in a package, we are expecting kids to learn the same things at the same time, despite knowing that learning is a non-linear process and that age is not necessarily indicative of ability.
We expect teachers to do all things well, by teaching each subject with the same level of comprehension and zeal. This is highly unusual! I can’t think of another profession that asks that of its workers. Can you?
Increasingly, we seem to expect schools to be all things to all people. Most children and families are dynamic and defy stereotype and standardization. With an emerging understanding about how children learn differently from one another and at different paces, the problem of how to serve children becomes complicated to say the least.
Children and families are slipping through the cracks.
We’re realizing more and more that individualization and personalization are the key to an effective education. So why don’t we set our schools, children, and teachers up for success by breaking up that package into smaller, more sustainable and personal pieces?