Tuesday, 26 June 2007

What students should learn today for tomorrow?

Before revealing what students must do, here is the list of what students must NOT do:

No holidays
Learning is human nature. We breathe continuously, so is learning. There should not be any term-break, weekends or holidays. Learning should occur 24/7 everyday every year continuous both online and offline. Day time is continuous. Stock market in HongKong closes and then open in London and then in New York. Things are happening continuously.

School is not THE school
Learning occurs anywhere, anytime. School is a meeting place. One of many other meeting places. School helps organise learning and support learning. Some learning may occur at school, most learning at places (including virtual spaces) other than school. School may be a virtual space too.

Learning, playing and working have NO distinction
Take preparing lunch as an example. Preparing the daily lunch is work, but is also learning because we should continuously look for improvement, collect data about the food, the preparation process. As noted before, school is NOT a specific place. Lunch can be prepared in kitchen, in park or in a commerical kitchen. Obviously, it should be and is fun too!

Here is the list of what I believe should be the curriculum in no particular order:

Minimum four languages: English, Chinese, one other human language (including sign language) and a scripting or programming language.
English is now the default for online communication, business transactions, major publications...
Chinese is the language of one quarter of the world's population. (Still need more convincing?) China will be the economic power house in this century.
One other language is for appreciation of world diversity.
These three languages should achieve fluent speaking level BEFORE age 5. Children learn languages easily when young. These languages must continue throughout the formal education years for further development and consolidation. May be they can drop them at University level.
The scripting/programming language is for discipline training and procedural thinking development. Should start at beginning of secondary school if not earlier.

Communication skill
Knowing a language is not the same as having the ability to communicate effectively. Students should be able to communicate effectively in different genres of expression for appropriate audience under different situation using different technologies including face to face, telephone, teleconference (audio only and audio+video), web-based technologies including discussion forum, blogs, wiki, chat, ....
Examples speak louder.

Self Entertaining Development
One musical instrument (including human vocal), one non-digital art (painting, pottery, photograph, sculpture, ..), one sport and one mental game (such as chess, bridge, or other form of quiz/puzzle).
All work no play make Albert a dull man!

Evidence-based data-based learning
Scientific method (or the subject matter themselves although different subject matter are used as examples of practising Scientific method). Data collection, analysis and presentation (numeracy and mathematics are learnt under data processing). Note: "Religious Studies" is ABSOLUTELY not allowed to be "taught" in any school at any time.
Today's world is filled by miracles created by the relentless application of scientific methods. All technological achievements human has made, with no exception, are based on principled understanding of the world. This will not change in the future. A sound basis to tackle problem with evidence, data and disciplined methodology is critical for future citizen to solve unforeseen problems and challenges.

Authentic learning
Learning does not occur in vacuum. When we want to achieve a goal, a game goal or a life goal, we need skill and knowledge. That's the best time to learn. Learning is organised as tasks which lead to an overall goal aligned with learner's interest. Like many times in life, we sometime practice and rehearse. These can be done with simulators or role playing games.

Final Remarks

You may notice that I do not include any traditional subjects in the above list. Not that I don't believe they are important. I just don't believe compartmentisation of subject areas are effective strategies. By organising learning goals which require understanding of culture issues will cover traditional subjects such as history or literature. By organising investigative activities will cover subjects such as chemistry, physics, mathematics and so on. A collection of mathematical games (covered in the self entertaining section) will cover interesting subject areas such as cosmology in Physics, Fractals etc in Mathematics and other interests.

Please let me know what you think? Am I too radical? or too conservative?

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