Tuesday, July 08, 2008

Every child has a different learning style and a different learning pace from every other child. We know this and we firmly believe in it, but regardless the traditional Asian method of education still tailors its teaching approach more or less towards a one size fits all strategy.

Multiple Intelligences: a nice idea, but there'll be time for the kids to develop it on their own once they get past the 'A' Levels. It can't be helped, we say, our production cycle runs less than two years, we've already designed the blueprint for what we consider to be a QC tested and approved product, so we'll do our best to squeeze all our raw materials into the molds we've already cast and hope they'll turn out the right shape at the end of the process.

We've used this manufacturing model for education since the industrial revolution, but while our civilization has already moved on to the digital age our education factories have yet to really catch the wave. This is because we plan for the economy rather than for the people themselves, the emphasis being on the word "for". We know the needs of the job market so we plan for our kids' "employability". We know the needs of our individual students (which generally boils down to the rough guideline of "get as many straight As as possible") so we plan their curriculum and otherwise their lives for them.

And the kids themselves, though they hate being told what to do all the time, after living like this long enough, they get quite lost when suddenly they have to decide things for themselves. For example, they are most likely to prioritize their homework schedule according to which tutor is most likely to give them grief for NOT doing their homework, and so on down a sliding scale. And they wonder why they have no 'free' time. Technically, they are little more than remote controlled automatons responding to signals emanating from the source of the loudest voice. I thought education was supposed to liberate and empower people?

Actually, it does, but it's a delayed gratification thing. The kids will only appreciate what they've been through when they receive their results, when they become adults with good grades to back up their aspirations. That's why the Koreans suffer cram school and write motivational notes to themselves to see the ordeal through.

But trust the Americans to pioneer new ways of student-centric learning using the tools available to us in this digital age. It goes beyond our kids' mundane "research for project work on the Internet is more convenient than having to trek down to the library to flip through the pages of dusty old books and teachers can post our homework online [such slaves!]" response to essay questions of such subject matter. We're looking at ways students can choose what they want to learn, whatever style they want to learn in, at whatever pace they feel comfortable with, and ways for tutors to personalize lessons tailor-made to individual student specifications.

Now there's a field worth exploring with my current batch of kids. But logistically speaking, I'll need to work with smaller groups than what I currently have. Hmm...

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