Learning Without Frontiers 2012 had many inspirational speakers including Ellen MacArthur, Ray Kurzweiller and Mitch Resnick (founder of Scratch). The key themes for the two day event in London were the challenges facing the planet we inhabit and how new thinking about education coupled with technological transformation can help us to get through the 21st Century Gap (or Canyon as Keri Facer put it).
Charles Leadbeater captured this World view while launching his new book; Innovation in Education: Lessons from Pioneers around the World. The book is undeniably beautiful with images from Leadbeater’s collaborator, Romain Staros Staropoli, but it also a very clear vision explaining how movements in education are made sustainable by creating systems to support them.
Leadbeater described most current education systems as high system, low empathy. This drives students to be tested more, done to more and listened to less. The resultant move towards high empathy education leads to amazing learning that is unfortunately unsustainable beyond the teacher or mentor/leader who began the ‘movement’.
His worldwide search has led him to all continents in search of examples of ‘movements’ that have become systemic and therefore sustainable.
In particular the Escuela Nueva movement in Latin America which, since 1975 has educated millions of children in extreme poverty using a combination of technology, teacher training and classroom organization that work across all their schools. This approach means that the model becomes scaleable and replicable to high standards, guaranteeing many children an education that just wouldn’t have been possible before.
The African Institute of Mathematical Sciences searches hard for and takes very few students but is fast becoming a centre for excellence in Mathematics. Beyond a foundation course covering core computation, the studies are developed from student interest with teachers acting as mentors and guides to push students to follow their passions in Mathematics. Leadbeater described a chaotic classroom with teachers and students indistinguishable but, critically the recruitment process is clearly aimed at finding mathematical excellence and the teaching style to push at the open door of student’s passions.
Leadbeater concluded with a football analogy. English football runs on rails from back to front (the creatives at the front and the workhorses at the back). Barcelona football trains everyone to be creative and therefore the system they play can deal with any and every eventuality. A system with no empathy will stifle talent but no system with high empathy is not sustainable. We must search for ‘systempathy’.