Education

When will schools imitate work life again?

The classroom model of teaching borrows, heavily, from the Industrial Revolution. The whole process of co-location, of everyone performing identical tasks before leaving for home at the same time each day was modelled on the factory model of the 19th century. The Dark Satanic Mills of industry were mimicked in education.

But we’re entering a post-industrial age, especially in Western economies and that model of working is less and less the norm. Fewer of us spend our days at work in factories and, while the office is hardly a radical departure in terms of co-location, it is much more rare, nowadays, for people to share the same identical tasks in the workplace.

Whatever frippery of the modern age that we’re producing in our new-era jobs, the working model is becoming more and more varied – more people are working in smaller companies and start-ups of fewer than a dozen people. Even in larger companies the old-style production line has been automated, and the workforce are more likely to be in a role where their work is unique, and where they don’t have daily tasks set from above, their role includes decision making about what they do and the self-organising to do it. They have roles, not jobs. Even the co-location norm is fading with technology allowing people to work remotely, while still being connected.

Disparate locations. Probably different time-keeping too. Different tasks. Devolved decision-making. Working solo and making their own decisions on priorities.

None of this sounds like the modern classroom. While communications technology has changed the work model that the education system is based on, it has yet to change education itself to the new, more fluid ways. Which is to be expected – this new approach is yet to settle, for one thing, and it’s a difficult one for schools to pull off. It’s nothing short of a revolution – but we know the ingredients are there – personalised learning delivered through data and technology; the flipped classroom model of solo working and fewer shared interactions and digitally-led independent working. It can all be done – and if schools are truly to prepare pupils for work, then, while we might have to be patient, it’s the only way to go …

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