The Not-so-normal Way of Education

How many people have tried going to school, but were unable to catch up, or even put up with it? Maybe they thought the system was too formal for them. Maybe they just wanted something different, a not-so-normal way of education, which no one seemed to understand. Lucky for them, someone seems to have heard their cries, and they now have five alternative ways of being taught to pick from. Here goes:

Reggio Emilia- This method of teaching was developed by Loris Malaguzzi when World War II ended in North Italy. It is based on three C’s (Confidence, Competence, Curiosity) inborn in children, which can help them make decisions on their own as far as leaning is concerned. It is a form of education that admits children from 3 to 6 years of age. And to make it even more interesting, the classrooms have a home-feel, which allows parents an opportunity to interact with their children as they learn. They neither have any scheduled lesson times, nor any timetables. The students therefore get to learn at their own pace. This form of teaching also stresses on Arts, which are meant to make children more creative.

Sudbury Sudbury School was started in 1968 in Massachusetts. It is a unique mode of teaching, which allows students to make decisions on what they want to learn, and how they want to be taught. Not only that, but students have the freedom to make decisions on everything, be it the school rules, the teachers who should be hired among others.

It believes that students already have an inborn desire to learn, and so they don’t put their effort in trying to motivate the students. Instead, they let the students motivate themselves. In allowing them to make decision, the students are also taught to take responsibility in case they make the wrong decisions.

And to cap it all, Sudbury combines older and younger children. They don’t believe in dividing students according to their ages. This is definitely a different approach to teaching.

Harkness Now- This is definitely a way of education that is not-so-normal at all. This is because its focal point is a large oval table, the brainchild of Edward Harkness, a philanthropist and oil magnate. 

With this method of teaching, students and teachers sit around the oval table, and discuss everything, albeit in detail. The good side about this teaching is that each student is given a chance to speak, and no one in particular can take over the discussion. It allows teachers to have close interactions with each student, thereby ensuring that even the self-conscious students are given adequate attention. In addition, the fact that everyone is seated at an oval table, means that no one gets to hide behind the rest. Everyone therefore gets a chance to air their views.

It teaches children oratory skills, as well as respect for others and their opinions. However, it has not been widely accepted in public schools, due to the limit in the number of students it can accommodate at one sitting, as well as the fact that it takes longer to complete individual subjects.

Montessori Developed by Dr. Maria Montessori in 1907, this is a system of education which rather than think of children as people with blank minds which need filling up, it thinks of children as people with developed minds who can think for themselves. Montessori believes that the normal way of teaching, with lectures, timetables, homework are just a hindrance to children’s full development. Students learning through Montessori are usually given the freedom to do whatever they chose during the day, but of course under the watch of a teacher.

Contrary to normal education, where children are taught how to read and write the letters of the alphabet, under Montessori, they get to hold the block of letters and feel them first, before starting to learn how to write them down. In addition, Montessori doesn’t believe in assessing students through grades and exams. This is because the only thing this creates is competition among the students, who are always under pressure to have good grades, and take first position in class. Anyone who learnt through Montessori will exhibit more advanced academic skills, in addition to being better equipped at socializing with others. Still in doubt? How about asking some of its alumni, such as Sergey Brin and Lawrence Page, who invented Google. Steiner/Waldorf

Waldorf School, developed by Steiner in 1919, is based on the whole development of a child, in body, soul and spirit. It believes that a child needs 7 years to fully develop, and has specific topics that are taught with each year. It also believes that the first 7 years of a child’s life are the most important, and need to be molded in the right ways of life. It’s the best stage to help a child develop its non-cognitive skills.

Therefore, children who join Waldorf in kindergarten are not taken to class straight away so as to learn how to read and write. On the contrary, they are given plenty of time to play and socialize with each other.

According to Steiner, writing supersedes reading when teaching children. It believes children should be taught how to write until the age of 7years, after which their creative skills can start being developed until the age of 14 years. And to ensure that this form of teaching never dies, Rudolf Steiner College was opened in 1974 in California. Its major purpose was to train those who would want to be teach through Steiner’s approach, in addition to giving anthroposophical studies. All these five approaches definitely fall in the class of not-so-normal ways of education. It is quite interesting to learn that it is possible for students not to have classes, timetables, schedules, exams, be able to participate in decision making, and still be able to learn through it all. This is definitely good news for those who have been craving for a change in the education system.

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