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Revolution In Education System

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Book Review: "Ana, die Schule und der liebe Gott", Author: Richard David Precht, Goldmann, 2013

Is this the way students see us? Is this the way we should see our education system? We need a revolution in the German education system; modern technology should be integrated once and for all. Germany must look into the future and prepare for it. The book is hard core that makes you think about life.

Precht’s plead for a modern school system with no school splitting into three categories after the fourth grade (according to school performance, and more important: according to parent’s occupation and background) serving the purpose of social selection of children in order to secure good future jobs for the rich, keep the working class where “they belong” and stop some immigrants from integrating, came out in time for the German elections.

The education debate has been going on for years without results, but now we can’t pretend there are no solutions to the problem. We must open our minds. The author writes about how Internet has changed society and jobs and, as a logical consequence, how school has to change too if we do not want to lose our high living standard. Only skilled and qualified people will be able to find a job in future. Only people who pay taxes can guarantee the survival of a country. As a matter of fact, being such an important industrial country, we need every qualified people we can get. If school does not teach what children need to know, we will not have a future. Precht suggests we work together to teach all children the same things. He criticizes that schools are boring because they teach things that we do not need anymore, our methods are old, and pupils lose interest failing to get a qualification. Those children will increase the expenditure on social welfare as young adults. Instead of becoming a support to the aging majority of working people; the “not qualified” will become a long term burden. University has another problem, as a result of the Bologna Process and Germany agreeing to introduce Bachelor and Master Degrees instead of “Diplom”, we have created a kind of bulimia learning in which the contents learned just last until students pass the endless tests and exams to be forgotten later on without having any application in future jobs. Things that should have been learned and practiced during study time are not, so people are not prepared for what they are supposed to do at work. Precht certainly started an education debate in German schools with his hard critic to the system; what have to be discussed are his various innovative and sensible solutions to the problems. Apart from giving ideas on how to finance the new system, which I do not mention in this article, he suggests a new system based on scientific research on brain and learning. A few ideas are listed below:

  1. Schools should cut down on content, be more realistic and concentrate more on personality and social skills of children as they will have to be team players at work.
  2. Schools should reinforce the innate curiosity and creativity of children letting them learn happily. For instance, small children need movement, they should not learn while sitting in the classroom for so many hours. There should be intrinsic as well as extrinsic motivation.
  3. Classes should be smaller and everyone should learn at his pace. The author talks about how “Flipped classrooms” (see introduction to digital games) can help reach the target.
  4. Government should spend much more money on education as the long term investment is the best deal a country can ever get. No Bank could possibly offer such a gain.

In further chapters Precht gives examples of successful modern teaching like the Salman Khan academy. Readers learn the meaning of Minimal Invasive Education MIE by Sugata Mitra. Precht talksabout Vikas Swarupprojects (e.g. his book “Slam Dog Millionaire”), and explains what Mastery Learning is. According to the author, projects are the key to prepare children for future jobs. Projects should be interdisciplinary and involve children from different ages because that is what they will encounter in future jobs. Using projects helps children not only to learn to apply their knowledge directly, but also to deal with people who are different to them, they will develop their Emotional Intelligence or soft skills faster that way. Precht suggests doing projects at a certain age, when children are biologically not able to concentrate at school. Apart from projects the author suggests we don’t  treat all subjects the same; he says some subjects should be learnt with children from all ages (Art), some alone via computers (Math) and some in a group with more than only one teacher at the same time. The author points out that many teachers in Germany have never worked in another field, he thinks it would enrich everyone if people with different jobs had the chance to teach for one or two years. If schools invited pensioners to join projects as wisdom teachers in different fields, children would learn from their job experience. Schools in poor regions with difficult students could also invite personalities to join projects too like the Teach First movement does. At the end of the book Precht explains what he means when he says that our education system needs a revolution: Children have to learn about the world in context by doing projects together in small teams, reinforcing the relationship to teachers and other pupils. He also suggests changing a few more things at school:

  1. Introduction of school uniforms to stop social differences.
  2. Build friendlier buildings where children can feel at home.
  3. Introduce longer hours at school, so that all children can do their “homework” there with the help of teachers. That way, children of immigrants and workers will not be left behind and all children would really have free time at home.
  4. Introduce obligatory Kindergarten at the age of three, so immigrant’s children learn the language soon enough before starting school and all children can be supported the same way.
  5. Ongoing teachers should be prepared for their future pupils in quite a different way. They will need to be creative, good speakers and able to use technology.

Precht’s ideas, if put into practice in the whole country now, would enable Germany to have a new system in only ten years time according to the author. Now it is the turn of the government to let us change the future. Surely these ideas would also help modernize the school system in other countries as well.

“Anna, die Schule und der liebe Gott” Author: Richard David Precht

 
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