Rethinking Schools

Updated: Nov 6, 2021

My vision of a future school is probably one that already exists so it might not entirely be a school of the future. I used to be a public school teacher and my idea of the ideal teacher is far from the kind of teacher I was myself, but before delving into the role of a teacher in the future, let’s first understand what the purpose of school is. Many people would say it is to get an education. However, you could get an education at the library if you knew how to read (or not actually, since there are audio books available for free download at libraries). So, then you must ask, what does it mean to get an education and what is the point of getting an education?

Ask a kid why they have to go to school and their reply would probably be something their parents tell them often: “To get an education and then get a job.” So it is a common belief that an education = job opportunities, and it is not an incorrect one. However, the problem is that the current model of education does not help all graduates leaving high school get a decent job that can help them live independently. This is something that bothers me very much because several years are spent in the K-12 education system and if those 12 years are not teaching young people skills that they can immediately apply to become financially independent, then the system has robbed them of their time and effort. Some high schoolers go to college not knowing what they want to major in and spend even more time and effort trying to figure that out, and this time they have to pay hugely for this exploration.

What if instead, students are not treated “equally,” and every child’s individual needs, strengths and weaknesses are identified and their education was personalized to them? What if the teachers were also coaches who helped students discover themselves? What if the bulk of the actual teaching were outsourced to AI driven programs? Then these teacher-coaches could help students tap into their strengths and work with their weaknesses. In these schools, teachers also help students identify their interests and facilitate turning those interests into skills that the students can then use to create some product, either a good or service, that is of value to others. In doing so the students learn to take risks, socialize ideas, work collaboratively, develop a receptive ear for feedback, and iterate and improve. A graduate from a school like this does not have to worry about a bad economy or poor job market because the school gave them the necessary skills to create their own opportunities.

This leads to another important aspect of these schools. All students are taught how to start and run a business just as they are taught math and reading. Schools would have their own cryptocurrencies and students would apply their knowledge of entrepreneurship. Students would apply different economic systems (capitalistic, socialist etc.) or blends of several systems to find the best fit for their virtual economy. If their business fails, or the whole economy crumbles, then it would still be great learning opportunities and the students could go back to the drawing board to learn from their mistakes (or borrow from other schools to keep their economy afloat!). It would be a waste of technology if it was not used to create a virtual world for students to apply real world principles in.

How all this would be achieved is beyond me. This is just my vision of a future school (which may already exist out there). If the purpose of a school is to learn to read, do math and learn facts (with no requirement for retaining those facts years later) then I think the current model of schools is just fine and does not need any change. However, if the purpose of a school is to give someone an education they can use to live independently then we should recreate our schools. With computers being available to so many and technology advancing so rapidly, it is not hard to imagine such a school. I am hopeful that such a school is already in the making.