Micro-schooling: the disruption of traditional education

Posted by Flux on 

13 September 2018

What’s trending now?
The emergence of micro-schools. These are schools that are intentionally small and have created curriculums to move away from the textbook method of learning and teaching. Micro-schools offer personalised education by using educational technology (EdTech) and reworking the concept of the classroom. Kids are not separated according to age and teachers act as guides helping students learn through projects, with a big emphasis on digital technology. Authors Nick Gillespie and Keyser Ian summarise the concept of micro-schools as Silicon Valley meets Montessori.

Many of these schools are created and funded by leading technology companies. Industry leaders such as Apple, Facebook and Google have tapped into the education sector through EdTech and created products that teach kids robotics or develop students’ coding skills.

Industry leaders are creating educational spaces that target Generation Zs and Alphas . The aim is to develop the skills of young children to prepare them for the future of work.

Why is it important?
Venture capitalist Marc Anderson predicts that in the future there will be two types of jobs, ones where people tell computers what to do and jobs where computers tell people what to do. Founders of micro-schools such as the Portfolio in New York believe that through personalised learning they’re able to groom the younger generation for the jobs of the 21st century which will be immersed in automation, robotics and AI.

The school’s method of personalised education allows students to work and study with tools that adapt to their individual capabilities, making it possible for them to design a curriculum according to their interests. In this respect, the role of the teacher in micro-schools is one of a facilitator and technology is the tool that assist the educator in monitoring the student’s progress.

Locally, Spark Schools use a combination of traditional and personalised methods of teaching. Students are taught in a classroom in the traditional way, then proceed to a learning lab and work with adaptive software that tracks and monitors the students’ level of understanding and progress. The data collected is used to create a tailor-made learning path for each student, to enable them to participate in the economy of the future.

What’s the butterfly effect?
The emergence of micro schools has created an additional layer of elitism in the type of education children receive at a young age. The schools are a new competitor to the traditional private schooling sector. Currently, micro-schools’ competitive advantage is the development of EdTech that provides adaptive personalised learning and higher fees.

Leaders in the co-working industry, WeWork have expanded into the schooling sector in New York with the opening of WeGrow which caters to Generation Alpha. The grade school is housed in its offices with a mission to help ‘unleash every child’s superpower’. Entrepreneur programmes and hands-on farming are included in the school’s curriculum, as well as ‘mindfulness’ subjects like yoga, meditation and spiritual studies.

In reaction to the use of tech, the Waldorf School of the Peninsula prohibits the use of personal tech devices in the classrooms as it exclusively educates children of Silicon Valley executives. It allows children to explore the world through physical experiences and activities which are designed to develop their imagination, problem solving ability and collaborative skills.

Tech companies are desperately in need of talent. The US Bureau of Labour Statistics estimates that employment in computer occupations in the US will increase by 12.5% from 2014 – 2024. AltSchool in the US has developed a digital platform to assist the current generation in developing skills for the future of work. The platform is designed to meet the needs of a broad range of progressive school types, sizes, and pedagogies.

In China, traditional education is criticised by many as restrictive and oppressive. Mao Mao Guo Er Primary is disrupting traditional teaching methods by promoting individualised, project-based learning. Many other micro schools have sprung up, crowd-funded by their parents, according to the Beijing-based 21st Century Education Research Institute.

Similarly, South Africa’s Chartwell Leadership Primary School, moves away from the typical approach to education and aims to encourage the spirit of entrepreneurship in students from a young age. Students are exposed to aspects of entrepreneurship and business studies on a daily basis. In its manifesto, the school says that the global market and the world of work has radically changed and the education system must prepare South African students to compete successfully in the global economy.

Global hotspot
The US is one of the leaders in updating education for today’s world. Organisations like the Emerson Collective , Basis Independent in Silicon Valley and the Tahoe Expedition Academy have all started pilot schools directed at redefining the American educational system. The country is also one of the leaders in the EdTech industry .

Above: An introduction to Basis Independent in Manhattan.

In China we see, wealthy Chinese parents turning to micro schools for individualised, westernised forms of education. In 2017, the Beijing-based 21st Century Education Research Institute found that many students are opting for alternative, customised education in the form of home schooling or micro schools. China is right behind the US in terms of reimagining education. The government is investing in EdTech with the aim of modernising the educational system.

By Khumo Theko

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Image credit: Alt School
Video credit: BASIS Independent Schools

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