Wednesday, 6 June 2007

Is school reform impossible?

My head starts to spin with all of the information you can come across in the blogosphere. I keep telling myself that slow learning is savouring learning not rushing from blog to blog. Recently I came across mention of the pedagogy of slowness in a blog titled Artichoke.

I am loving listening to The Knowledge Tree E Journal issue featuring Geetha Narayanan’s take on just this idea and its real time and space result - Project Vision

So what is the dangerous idea I have been exploring and why do many people across the world consider it powerful? The dangerous idea is that school reform, in India in particular, but across the world too, is impossible.

Changing education, at the systemic level or at the institutional or school level, or educating teachers and school leaders in change can be classified as largely first order change - that of school improvement, which involves doing more of the same but doing it better (where the focus is on efficiency) and that of school re-structuring, which involves re-organising components and responsibilities (where the focus is on effectiveness).

The power behind the dangerous idea is the realisation that if one cannot reform education by improving the system or by re-structuring the schools, then the way forward must be through design. The need seemed to be to re-envision and to design a new system - one that supports both personal and social transformation creating 21st century learning.

Geetha’s thought experiment in challenging hidden assumptions about how we do school resulted in something very practical and grounded - Project Vision – a slow pedagogy created from shop front type learning experiences for marginalised children in the “rapidly growing slums” of Bangladore, India.

Project vision is not about creating small sized schools – it is about fragmenting theone place one space school into “four distinct, distributed, interactive and inter-related components that work in coordination with one another.”

I'm still grappling with the ideas Geetha Narayanan articulated in her blog, including this paragraph on slowness:
The concept of Slow emerged from the Slow Food and Slow Design movement in Europe and the United States and builds and develops on ideas of sustainable living as a desirable future. Slowness as a pedagogy allows students to learn not at the metronome of the school day or the school bell, but at the metronome of nature, giving them time to absorb, to introspect and contemplate, to argue and rebut and to enjoy.


Artichoke said...

Hi Sam, Seems we have much in common in being captured by the numbers of ideas available across the blogosphere - and I've also been teaching "for a long time".

I was really taken by the difference in Geetha's idea of a pedagogy of slowness. I'd like to think that a teacher or school in New Zealand might take it up as an approach under our new curriculum framework in New Zealand.

Sam Grumont said...

Hi Artichoke,

I mentioned to teachers the piece I read in the blogophere about ceiling heights and couldn't find it. Eventually I returned to Robert Genn's blog but this afternoon trawling through your writing I realised that I originally came across mention in your May 8 post.

Just goes to show the value of re-reading.

In fact my blog wanderings and head spins are the opposite of slowness. It gets too much information to take in and absorb.