Wednesday, 15 May 2013

Improving learning at schools

Nowadays, everybody is talking about the information society and the importance of lifelong learning. But how can people keep learning throughout their entire lives when we are lacking the basis, when they have never had a proper school education? In many countries in the world, dropout rates at school are alarmingly high. What goes wrong here and what can we learn from it, even if we are not at school anymore?

In a very entertaining TED Talk, Ken Robinson, a professor of education, explains what education is supposed to focus on when setting up programmes: (1) children are diverse and different and should therefore be taught a broad curriculum. (2) Educators should try to spark the light of their natural curiosity, which will make them really want to learn. Good teachers are essential for this, and they should be teaching in a culture of learning and not so much of testing. (3) Awaken and develop the powers of creativity because humans are a creative species and create their whole lives.


Most of our readers are likely to be out of school already. Some might have kids. They might want to take Ken Robinson’s advice to heart: treat your kids individually, find out what their strengths and interests are and help them pursue them. Address their curiosity and let them be creative. And what can you take from this for yourself? Pretty much the same. Find out where your strengths and interests are and set your learning goals in these areas.

And what else does it take to successfully keep learning and to achieve your learning goals? Grit. Angela Lee Duckworth, a psychologist from the University ofPennsylvania, looked at what predicts high school dropout vs. success, and she found that it was not IQ, family income or other factors, but that it was what she calls grit: the passion and perseverance to pursue a goal over a long time. We have reported on this before. Recently, she gave another TED Talk on her research.


She ends her talk with the words: we need to be gritty to get our kids grittier. We’ve come full circle: why not treat our children as individuals, address their creativity and let them be creative so that they develop a love of learning and the passion and perseverance to pursue their learning goals?

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