The One World School House

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It’s about time I post something education-related. I thoroughly enjoyed Salman Khan’s book. In it, he lays out his reasoning and vision for education in the future. He discusses how the current system fails to meet the educational needs today and what we can do make education free, world-class, accessible and useful for everyone.

Kahn illustrates how our Prussian-born education model, a system based on regimentation and that’s soul purpose was to supply a labor force, ignores our modern need for creativity, entrepreneurship, optimism, and initiative. He believes that currently we are teaching topics in a disconnected way, making it difficult for students to fully master them. He asserts that we place too much weight on standardized tests and don’t pay enough attention to different thinkers. He also points out our society’s failure to see math, science, and engineering as creative subjects, which limit their approachability and appeal.

His vision is exciting. He suggests that students learn subjects to mastery level, thus nullifying the need for letter grades. He believes students should learn, test, and retest until a topic is fully understood. Kids should advance at their own pace. This provides solid building blocks for learning more advanced subjects. In his research, he also discovered that there is much more value in less homework. Instead, self-esteem and values flourish when families spend time simply discussing and exchanging ideas. There would be no class lectures but rather teachers and students learning alongside each other, seldom all doing the same thing. His ideal classroom looks more like a beehive than a library. Kids would spend 20% of their class time doing Kahn Academy lessons and the rest of class in peer-discussion and problem solving. He suggests that instead of a traditional 1 to 30 teacher/student ratio, that classrooms be large and open with up to 75 students and 3 to 4 teachers. There will be nooks for quiet study but the classroom would otherwise be bustling. And grade levels wouldn’t be segregated by age either, but by skill level. By the time a student leaves his program, they would build a multi-year narrative of how they learned and a portfolio of creative work (including science and engineering work). This provides a much more well-rounded view of a student/future employee.

I love all of this.

He also proposes these same ideas for college-age students. While keeping colleges on campuses away from home, he suggests a few key changes. Instead of staffing colleges with professors who would rather be researching or publishing, he suggests hiring retired or practicing scientists, engineers, investors and executives – people excited about teaching and learning. He also proposes that students work not one but up to six internships in order to graduate. This gives the student skills and development as well as a potential job after college and maybe income in the meantime. Internships also provide employers with more information about their potential employee than just a GPA and list of extracurriculars.

In his pilot programs, he has seen huge success, especially in low-income kids who were phased out by track systems early and never retested. Using Kahn Academy and his model of testing to mastery at one’s own pace, these same kids operated at the same and sometimes higher comprehension levels than their tracked peers. He also discussed briefly just how simply the required technology could be to distribute and install in countries lacking means and hardware.

His ideas are simple and straight-forward. I don’t know how it would impact countries other than the United States, but I think it’s a great alternative to what we are using today. If schools adopted at least some of these ideas, I am almost certain kids who don’t currently have opportunities would be allowed to thrive. Nowadays we need as many innovators as we can get and a person’s potential shouldn’t be limited by an outdated system.

Thanks so much for reading! Hope I didn’t spoil the book.

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