Schools: they are a changin’

 

Back to school! A full school year is ahead of us and many countries experienced “innovative” school reforms. Does it make sense to change again and again our school programs, school standards…?

Educative systems are accustomed to change. Some would say that they are in a state of constant change. Over the past 30 years, all European countries for instance have been continuously engaged in a deep reflection regarding the future of their educative systems. The rhythm of these organizational and curricular reforms during this period more than doubles that experienced since the turn of the 20th century. Are we simply facing yet another cycle of change that will yield to a set of new reforms? Will it constitute a “controlled” change to adapt schools to new technological, social and economic conditions? Or are we on the edge of a true revolution?

Over 20 years ago, Seymour Papert argued that: “children will (no longer) sit quietly in school and listen to a teacher give them predigested knowledge. They will revolt.” The revolt didn’t take place at the time and our schools didn’t change (much).

 

times changin

There are several good reasons to think that times are now riper for a “revolt” of great magnitude. In countries like Spain or Portugal, more than 30% of early school leavers and more than 40% of unemployed youth aged over 18 throw the very meaning of school education into question. In the USA, we have just witnessed the first cases of higher education students filing a lawsuit against their law school for creating false expectations with regards to their future employability.

In this context, does it make sense to make school reforms as if we were trying to make up for some problems without changing the whole picture? Have we still time to adapt our school education systems in order to prevent resounding failure? Or should we totally rethink school education in a much deeper way?

The failure of our societies to provide work to youth and to fully integrate them into society may mark the end of school education as we know it until now: a continued process that should lead children and youth to progressively gear up for their futures as successful professionals and responsible citizens.

Policymakers that keep changing the schools without changing the life perspectives for young people may listen again to Bob Dylan:

“There’s a battle outside
And it is ragin’
It’ll soon shake your windows”

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