The Fruits of Alternative Education

The traditional class-lesson education system, once rid the world of mass illiteracy, ceases to cope with the challenges of the time. Nowadays, many children simply sit out their lessons, getting a vaccination from curiosity and very little useful knowledge. Realizing this, enthusiastic pedagogues have long been searching for alternative models of school education.

The current classroom system of study organization has been established in Europe since the 16th century, after relatively cheap printed books appeared. It replaced the monastic and guild training, in which knowledge was transmitted mainly orally and on a personal example. The former system did not allow working with large groups of students, and meanwhile, in order to keep up with the times, it was necessary to make primary education the property of the masses, and in a short time. From the new system it was required to quickly instill in the student the skills of general literacy and to gain knowledge of certain texts. Reflection and self-learning were not part of the scope of her tasks. And one more important difference: if the philosopher or master came to study, as a rule, voluntarily, then the new school gave the children regardless of their desire.

Since there was never a lot of money allocated for a mass education, for every teacher there was a whole crowd of children who needed to be strictly organized. Thus was born a class-lesson system, the theoretical justification of which was given in the XVII century by the preacher of the reform church Jan Amos Komensky. Educated at the University of Heidelberg, one of the best in Europe, he devoted his life to mass education. Because of persecution by the Catholic Church, he had to move often, and everywhere he created public schools.

The advantage of a class-lesson system lies in the clear ordering of instruction and, not least, the guidance of it. Separation into objects allowed the teacher to specialize, it became enough for him to know only one subject, and not to be a universal specialist. But, like any production line, the educational conveyor works well, only while the standard material is in progress. As soon as there is a “piece” or an outstanding “product”, it either breaks down, or the system stops.

Problems in the class-lesson system arise not only among weak pupils who do not keep pace at a common pace, but also for the strong, whose natural curiosity is dying from too slow and boring teaching. However, it is more difficult for schoolchildren who think “differently”, who, for example, are dominated not by a verbal but by a figurative (emotional) or kinesthetic (through action) perception of reality. As a result, the system achieves mediocre education for the majority and culls the rest.

Meanwhile, more and more often one can hear that the modern (post-industrial, information) society requires the development of individuality, rather than standard skills, and puts creative thinking above the pattern that is common to all. Even Janusz Korczak said: “Only stupid people want everyone to be the same.” And even if this thesis has not yet acquired the status of a universally valid maxim, the demand for new approaches to education is already evident. Information and skills necessary for life are updated much more often than textbooks are rewritten and teachers are retrained. Therefore, it is very important for schoolchildren to learn how to independently find and learn them.

If before the school was practically the only place for obtaining the knowledge necessary for social success, now there are many examples of how the serfs and the troika become successful people. Many children feel the inefficiency of the school and do not want to waste time senselessly. Moreover, if earlier you could be forced to study, even with the same rods, then with the dissemination of the idea of human rights, the teacher lost this tool without receiving anything in return. So, the general education school and the needs of society come into conflict, which eventually becomes more acute.

For the sake of justice, it should be noted that resistance to the class-based system did not begin now or even in the twentieth century. Three centuries ago, the Bell-Lancaster system of mutual learning was popular, in which the implementation of the learning process was largely entrusted to the students themselves. The principle was used in it, which, according to an anecdote, was expressed by one teacher: “Three times she told the theorem to these bluffers, and finally even figured it out herself, but they do not understand everything.”

For many years of attempts to organize education in a different way, many models and approaches have been born. When comparing them, we must understand, of course, that any distinctions between them are relatively arbitrary, and all the most interesting and vital is usually born precisely at the interface of systems, in dialogue. Among the various approaches, one should first of all highlight those who reconsider the very essence of the educational process, offering for it new meanings and values in place of massively recognized ones.

The experience of many teachers shows that if primary school and adolescent classes are given high priority to the formation of the collective, then the quality of education, even the most traditional one, significantly increases. Teachers who are able to cultivate such relationships, in which diversity is valued in the team, and children are interested in living together and taking good care of each other, achieve high results even in certain classes of schools that are not at all oriented towards the values indicated.

The “secret” of these teachers is that in their work with children they try to make everyone feel successful and understand that the known external “teenage manifestations” are not the children’s fault, but only an indicator of the various problems that they have to solve. Simply put, they are engaged in “normal” pedagogy. This is very different from the mass situation, when all the problems of a teenager are shifted to him or his parents, and the school’s task is only to observe the established educational process, where competition, emotional pressure and the race for external evaluation, which are set according to formal criteria, are recognized as the norm.

Most often in the arsenal of “normal” teachers are about the same methods that are considered important in schools, usually referred to as alternative. But, of course, it is very difficult to provide such an approach alone within the framework of mass educational institutions, and therefore “normal” teachers against the background of the general educational conveyor seem to be almost selfless.

Alternative schools are remarkable first of all by creating an effective motivation for learning. But often it is possible to solve this task, as well as to find a community for the extra-curricular life of the child, besides the school. In this case, the excessive time spent in the school team, in fact, is lost and, worse, can completely kill interest in learning. The key task for parents is to find ways to master the school curriculum, taking into account the individual characteristics of the child and painlessly for his psyche, in particular with an individual choice of pace and order of education, as well as taking into account the lifestyle and mode of activity of the child himself and the family as a whole.

In recent years, the number of parents who are taking their children from school and teaching them on their own is constantly growing. This is one of the most striking indicators of disadvantage in the system of mass school education. In the United States, several million families have refused to teach their children in schools and took responsibility for their education. It is clear that such a step can be afforded by parents who are well-off enough to spend the necessary time with the child and are sufficiently educated to help him in mastering school subjects.