The African proverb “… it takes a village to raise a child,” establishes the long standing fact that no one person or institution can be a complete foundation for the future of our youth. But unfortunately, our modern schools are designed to be the one and only vector to success.
Never having been completely integrated into the greater community, today’s schools are little more than isolated and outmoded institutions. Without any significant change in over a century the western school system suffers from a dreadful case of stagnation and mediocrity. The fact that many students continue to excel is a greater testament to their ability than to our modern curriculum or pedagogy.
The whole point of the “village” proverb lies in its vision that a community is constructed from the social and economic network of its inhabitants via their skills, trades and expertise. A child could wander through its laneways observing everyone in his or her chosen profession (and every career was called a profession). From these musings the child could find their niche, attract an apprentice (the true idea of a teacher), hone their skills then take their productively skillful place within the community. Do our schools play this role today? Do our communities operate this way? No.
Schools today treat students as a client to be taught the same material, at the same pace, at the same age, in the same manner, performing identical tasks sitting neatly and quietly in a row year after year - a process more akin to producing widgets. Forget the school-based propaganda of catering to the individual (just watch any school’s television or media advertising); individuality in our schools, along with choice, is a farce.
A totally (old but) new approach is needed. It is time to allow our youth the opportunity to utilise the in-house training regimen of businesses and the trades - training that is more pertinent than any school could hope to meet. Using a community-based option of full-time youth employment or apprenticeship training the traditional schooling system should be enhanced with flexibility and integration.
Elements of this new approach already exist within Australia (and other western nations), but in highly disjointed arrangements. Over decades of social engineering from both sides of the political spectrum we have exacerbated this piecemeal assembly into something that resembles our typical bricks-and-mortar schools of today: a main building falling apart under disrepair, portables unfit for occupation, and a work-force of individuals tired of swinging on the pendulum of change.
Although aspects of school, employment, and apprenticeship integration have always existed at some level, moving into employment or apprenticing is anything but seamless, let alone encouraged by our school system.
So how would this new model be different? It would start at the end of year 9 when students would be provided valuable, regulated and thorough choice for their career and educational direction. It would be based on an increased number of options geared to students’ interests and strengths.
Starting at the end of year 9 students should be permitted to seek full-time employment during the school day, instead of attending a traditional school. This would not be regular employment though; it would be regulated under very restrictive legislation covering wages, working conditions, occupational health and safety, superannuation, etc … In other words “youth labour” would not be acceptable.
Employers would be required to offer employment specific training and skills development while the student earns experience and income. Employers would have to verify what was learned, along with granting some type of nationally recognised certificate transferable to subsequent employment or back to school. Students would earn the equivalent of school-based credits that could be used for a recognised diploma if they return to school.
To ensure the employer provides valuable training (the whole point of the placement), students and employers would be intensely surveyed and monitored with the results tabulated by the local community. Discretion, in all regards, would be critical.
The second option at the end of grade 9 should be a full-time apprenticeship program; similar in many respects to the employment option with strict regulation on hours of work, health and safety and so on.
Discuss in our Forums
See what other readers are saying about this article!
Click here to read & post comments.
17 posts so far.