Source: OECD Better Life Initiative – Education index in Finland
Of course there have been many attempts to reinvent the existing system with many alternative models such as Waldorf or Montessori education which put a greater emphasis on social skills, creativity and personalised learning. But as Leadbeater and Wong point out, these models remain the exception rather than the norm. Learning outside school, at home with the family or within the community provides also an opportunity to supplement what schools do, but Leadbeater argues that radical and transformational innovation is more likely to come from outside the system:
“Transformational education does not create alternative kinds of school but alternatives to school – entirely new ways of learning.” (p.19)
The report reviews over 100 case studies around the world where social entrepreneurs have implemented alternative ways of learning depending on the resources available and context. (See Ashoka under “learning/education” for concrete examples.) In a nutshell,
“Social entrepreneurs find innovative ways to address social needs that are underserved by the market, because there is no obvious profit to be made, and by the state because there is not enough political will to tackle the issue. Social entrepreneurs mobilize resources that are beyond their immediate control and use resources, including people, building, land, equipment that have been written off or overlooked by the mainstream.” (p.20)
- Pull not push. Learning doesn’t take place around a pre-determined curriculum. Motivation becomes key to a more interesting learning process.
- Learning through. What are generally considered as “extra-curricular” activities such as sport or creative arts form the basis through which the learning takes place.
- Learning activities focus on solving problems that are relevant to the community.
- Learning doesn’t necessarily take place in school buildings.
- Activities can be carried out by “para-teachers”, ie people who might not be formally qualified as teachers but who have sufficient and relevant hands-on experience to pass on.
- Younger students can learn from peers, ie older students who become mentors.
- Learning and work are no longer separated. Some learning communities manage to fund themselves by setting up income-earning activities.
- Social entrepreneurs will make use of any relevant technology that supports the learning process.
Charles Leadbeater speaking at TED – London – April 2010