Right at the end of the meeting in Bromsgrove, Mr Badman mentioned something about the problem of shaping education for the 21st century. Sharp as a tack, an autonomous home educator snapped back "Of course Home Education is the future of 21st century education." Mr Badman swerved deftly away from the implications of this with a laugh and a "Well, that's a whole other report".
Anyhow, it set me thinking: it really needn't be a whole other report, but if you insist!
Now that the government is obsessed with the question of the shape of 21st education, wouldn't it be a good time to suggest, deferential cough from the back row, "Hey sirs, we think we know the answer! We've been working on something for the last few decades. It works and we believe there are useful lessons to be drawn from home education, particularly the autonomous home education model."
So how could we apply that model to cater for all those children whose parents can't make a commitment to educate them personally?
Howse about this then:
You take your local school, gut it and start over.
You get the community involved in how to design a community learning centre.
You find out what people of all ages want to learn.
You provide the resources for them to do this which will probably include a wireless learning centre with video-conferencing, PCs and laptops, an art centre, a science lab, a photography room, a multiplex cinema showing anything from historical documentaries to Japanese film noir to Futurama, a theatre, a restaurant and a kitchen, a wall for murals, a field for organic and a field for GM, a garden, a zoo, a waterworks plant, a space to build sculptures, a space lab, a gym, a swimming pool, a trampoline and a football pitch.
You respond to project-based needs, sorting out apprenticeships and other forms of job training.
Then you let your learners loose with enough sensible people thrown in to offer tentative theories about how to proceed. Learners can come and go as they please. The distinction between those who learn in school and those who learn otherwise disappears. Education is no longer compulsory. You offer people genuinely attractive opportunities, and my bet is they will take them up.
You explain how a learner's skills can be applied to real world problems and again, my bet is you will find they take up the challenge.
You forget about broad and balanced education, though of course the learner may manage this if they so choose. Study after study is showing that we only get really good at something if we put in the hours of *focused* study. According to Gladwell in Outliers, you have to put in 10, 000 hours.
You stop fretting about exam results and instead let learners progress to doing something useful when it became patently clear that they had achieved a functional competence in a certain field. You don't shoe-horn learning into standards or set targets for achievements, as you accept that this is poor epistemology: you can never reliably assess learning, and you can't reliably predict where it will end up, and obviously, you don't want to constrain your learners to predictable ends since we need new creative solutions.
As someone familiar with thinking out the box once said: "We can't solve problems using the same kind of thinking we used to create them."
These community centres can hook up with one another to work on collaborative projects anywhere in the world. They stop competing with each other and instead can set out to solve big global problems.
Yep that's about right and that's my suggestion.