Disneyland for learners

By Greg Whitby, 16 May 2018
Greg Whitby AM is Executive Director of Schools, Diocese of Parramatta.

 

Weekly Column from the Executive Director of Schools, Diocese of Parramatta

Psychologist and author, Steve Biddulph was on radio recently talking about raising 21st century boys in today’s world. He mentioned research that found boys were on average 20 months behind girls in terms of development. This has implications on their socialisation and learning. Biddulph recounted a conversation earlier that day about a little boy who was getting into trouble for annoying his classmates on the mat. I suspect this happens in many kindy classrooms.

This is not an example of a naughty child but one who is bored by a model of learning that allows him limited time for play (compared to pre-school) and physical movement. Biddulph admitted that stories like these (he believes that the situation can apply equally to girls) make him feel sad because children are not physically wired to sit for long periods of time. Forcing children to stay inactive for long periods of time can set them up for failure.

Biddulph’s comments add to what is already known and proven about the way children learn. The traditional model of schooling was not necessarily based on what was best for children but was needed in growing economies. Schools prepared students for manual and industrial work. The world is a now a different place.

We owe it to young people to design schools for them, not for adults. This mean moving to a more personalised learning environment. It means preparing the school for the child, rather than the child for the school. Yes, it is hard work and it needs everyone to think differently. But to continue to disadvantage young children for being young children is cruel.

We have many examples of schools here and overseas that have adopted flexible timetables and start/finish times, providing children with choice and catering for diversity and personal interest. In the school of the 21st century, children are not confined to the one space all day but can move around regularly. In these schools, teachers spend time with each child, getting to know them and their interests and finding new ways of creating challenging and stimulating learning opportunities that aren’t mass-delivered.

Why can’t schools today be the equivalent of Disneyland for learners – magical, stimulating, engaging, fun – the stuff dreams are made of!

Greg Whitby

Executive Director of Schools – Diocese of Parramatta

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