What would make you like education?
One evening, I got a newsletter from UnCollege, an alternative education company based in San Francisco. UnCollege offers a Gap Year Program that has three phases:
Voyage — I traveled to Mexico and volunteered there for ten weeks.
Launch — A series of workshops with work sprints, coaching sessions, and presentations.
Internship — A paid/unpaid internship anywhere around the world.
When I found the program, I thought it looked exciting and challenging, and after a brief moment of hesitation I obeyed the subject of the newsletter — Apply Now! — and sent in my application from my the comfy armchair in my tiny village in the of Czech Republic. I thought I wouldn’t hear back from them. A week later, I did hear back, and after an interview, I was accepted and received the opportunity to be a part of UnCollege. That one decision led me to have extraordinary experiences, travel across half the world, and learn more about myself and others than I had ever imagined. There is no doubt that the program had a huge impact on my life.
When something unexpected and exciting like that happens, it gets you thinking. Why did I have this opportunity, while the other 14 people in my village didn’t? I thought back to my schooling and to what enabled me to get this chance, and how I could help others experience the same joy and excitement. Two things clicked together at that moment: my frustrations with my own school experience and my desire to help others. I decided to do something about education.
That led me to scheme and think hard about what education meant, how education could be different, and how it could be better. What is good education? What should be taught? How should it be taught and by whom? What is school for? These questions are too broad, but fortunately I also had a concrete set of experiences that helped me ground my thoughts — the gap year program.
During the Launch phase, I saw what a more personalized approach to learning could look like. I had weekly coaching sessions where I set my goals with the help of my coach. I attended workshops, which were about subjects such as project-based learning, interviewing, basics of finance, or personal branding. The workshops had one thing in common and that was the usefulness of the information and activities in the real world. The work that I did was not a slew of assignments that I would turn in, and get a grade, only to never see or use them again. No, the goals that I completed were directly relevant to the outside world. The program was connected to reality in a way that traditional school wasn’t.
I experienced a better version of learning, and my role now is to take the knowledge that I’ve gained, and spread it to others. But to keep education up to date, I need to be aware of what is useful today and constantly question what is taught. What should be in a real life curriculum? What should come first? What kind of experience should everyone have to form a better society? Those are some of the questions that I’m asking myself. I’m far from reaching definitive answers, but here are a couple topics that I personally find useful and believe should be taught.
Effective Learning (learning faster with better retention of a material) Productivity (using one’s time to add the most value to the world) Effective Communication (speaking clearly and achieving goals without unnecessary conflict) Sales (selling our abilities or opinions if nothing else) Writing (articulating clearly one’s opinion) Story telling (conveying the right message with songs, movies, brands, or books) Public Speaking (being able to present work in front of people) Career Strategy (making good career choices) Healthy Habits (keeping the body at an optimal state)
This is just the tip of the iceberg. My own view is limited by the number and variety of my experiences, and I realize others have to take part in the quest of redefining education. There are many people working on it even now. There are AltSchool, AltMBA, MakeSchool, Perestroika, and many others who are currently redefining education. However, I believe that educating society should be a global effort and everyone should be able to pitch in. I invite you to question the way people learn. Take a moment to think about education because the quality of it will have huge influence on the future we will see. Take my questions, change them, build on them, or come up with new ones, and share them.
What do you thing good education should entail? What should be taught to help people become great human beings? What is school for?