Education

SWiTCHing Up Education

KAS-03

Today we have our first interview on EduCoup with 24-year-old Jaime Lee, founder of ‘Kids at SWiTCH’ , a weekend program in Chatswood, Australia that looks to foster entrepreneurial traits, financial literacy and initiative in kids from age five to ten by employing fun and engaging methods. Jamie told me how ‘Kids at SWiTCH’ differs from mainstream education, about the philosophy behind the program and her thoughts on  education in general.

Some of the main criticisms EduCoup has directed at mainstream education are of the practices of standardized testing , excessive rote learning, and a lack of humanity in the way kids are taught – not to mention the absence of action based learning, and peer-to-peer learning. ‘Kids at SWiTCH’ tackles all these issues head on. Jaime explained the format of the classes, and gave some of her take on what’s wrong with the kind of education many of us consider the norm.

The concept:

“Within a mini-economy, the children apply for jobs according to their interests and passion. When these kids are enjoying their jobs, work becomes a learning experience rather than just a means of making money. My mission was (and is) to not only foster financial literacy in each of my “kids”, but do so in a way which translates their instinctual passion and sense of play into a sense of unshakeable purpose.”

Learning by doing:

“Do you still remember when we were kids and we imagined ourselves as photographers, fire fighters, teachers and police officers? Well, I simply wanted to emulate that feeling and to bring that imaginative world into reality for kids. Instead of teaching them “about” the world, my goal is to teach them “within” a world that is filled with possibilities. Hence, I’ve created the concept of a mini economy.

In this mini economy, the children apply for jobs according to their interests and passions. I believe it is through intrinsic motivation that real learning can occur. When children enjoy their jobs, work becomes a learning experience rather than just a means of making money.

The children have ownership over their money. They set financial goals for themselves and can choose whether they want to spend their money at the shops or save it at the bank. However, every week the children are charged with rental fees for things such as their chairs as part of their daily expenses. If don’t pay, they sit on the floor. Currently, I have two six-year-old kids who have already bought two chairs, and they are now renting them out to their friends at a higher price!

Through tangible and vivid experiences, the children quickly learn that buying assets such as chairs, beanbags and shops can help them generate passive income. During the course, the children are also faced with a variety of economic circumstances, such as inflation, deflation, paying taxes and losing their jobs. This process allows the children to understand the importance of making investments and to create a second source of income.

My goal is to empower them. I want them to feel like they’ve taken command of a body of material and can actually do things with it in the real world. I’m not interested in teaching them the skills to ‘survive’, but the skills to ‘thrive’.

Different creative thinking styles are fostered here. The creation of classroom businesses/shops give children an abundance of opportunities to learn from their own experiences and apply their knowledge in new ways. I also love involving children at an early age with the joy and benefit of giving. One of the kids’ favourite activities is to exchange letters with our Sponsor Child, Alvin. Mr 9 once said this to me, “Jamie when I have more money, I want to help a lot of people.”

Mentally I am empowering these kids to look for opportunities to be the architects of their own learning. Emotionally I am helping them to see that they are capable of making enormous contributions to society. And socially I am mentoring them to work together and to take their play seriously.

Here’s a website that Mr. 8 has created by himself(We here at EduCoup recommend checking this site out. Mr. 8, or Divyesh Malhotra, should be very proud of the work he put in to get it online.)

He is now in the process of adding a shopping cart onto it. From my observation, when these kids are given the opportunities to discover their passion, they become audacious in trying new things, and they move, learn with a much stronger purpose.”

Get Up One More Time Then You Fall:

“At 23, straight after I graduated from university I took a steep learning curve and got straight into the unknown. The first information day for Kids at SWiTCH wasn’t quite working. Whilst, the room was packed with supportive friends and family, none of the potential clients actually attended. Everything that could possibly go wrong went wrong. The weather was terrible, the location was inappropriate and my speech was too long. But with every mistake and failure came an opportunity for me to learn. My mentor comforted me with this quote, she said “you’re going to fall down, but the world doesn’t care how many times you fall down, as long as it’s one fewer than the number of times you get back up.” And through this experience, I recognized the importance of being able to drill down to identify issues and problems, and solve them before anyone knew of their existence.”

“My first two clients were from referrals. These two mums wanted me to personally teach their children – not because I had the most experience as a teacher, but because they knew I would do whatever it took to defend their unbounded imagination, curiosity and creativity.”

Jamie had eight students for the first term and has had emails of gratitude, invitations to lunch, and requests to host birthday parties from the parents of those children. Sometimes the kids are enjoying themselves too much, and don’t want to come home.

“It’s been 10 months since the start of Kids at SWiTCH, and currently we run four ninety-minute weekend classes. It brings so much joy to me knowing that it has become a place which kids don’t think of it as a school; it’s now has place of innovation, creation and contribution, one which they yearn to visit every day.”

Putting Art And Heart Back Into Education:

“I see education as an art, not a science and it must come from the heart. It’s so important for teachers to realize that in years to come, their students may not remember much about what they’ve taught them, but they’ll always remember how they’ve made them feel.

If there’s one thing that I could do to change our education system I’d add more quality “listening time” into a teachers’ day. A time where teachers can listen to the students’ stories, finding out about their hopes and dreams, and becoming acquainted with their aspirations. Often, it is through listening that I was able to lead based upon what I’ve learned. Learning is reciprocal, and with this kind of experience, our kids do not need to care about trying to fit in. They are free agents in letting their creative and imagination run wild.

I believe the most important thing a teacher can do for a student, is not to teach them, but to inspire them.”

Swimming Against The Tide:

“One of my close friends once said this to me:

It’s not easy when you’re swimming against the tide. But it doesn’t mean that it cannot be done. Don’t let the world tell you what to do. Ask yourself what makes you come alive and go do it. Once you’ve successfully fought against the tide, you’ll have a larger capacity to add value to people, lifting them up and helping them to become a part of something bigger than themselves.”

I’d like to thank Jaime for taking part in this interview and sharing the wonderful work she’s doing with ‘Kids at SWiTCH’.

Contact: info@kidsatswitch.com.au

Education Reform – GOOD

Education Reform – GOOD.

This is a fantastic website, never mind for education, but for anyone with an idealistic bent. But for our purposes I’m sharing the education reform section. It has nearly 150 articles of creative, solutiony goodness. While the ideas might be somewhat disparate, its still a goldmine for anyone who is passionate about this stuff.

Marketing itself as a social network for people who give a damn, I’d recommend rowing in and giving ‘good.is’ a go.

Education Reform Continues To Go Round In Circles – But Is It Narrowing On A Point?

Should parents set up their own state schools? Discuss | Geraldine Bedell | Education | Education | The Observer.

In a long and winding story about the laborious battle for parents to take more control over their children’s education, one parent asserts that:

“Human beings were not meant just to get five GCSEs.”

While the author of the article interjects at one point with a relieving sentiment:

“Everyone wants local schools with a diverse mix of pupils who are able to explore and fulfill their potential.”

I should hope so.

Meanwhile in Ireland, this article shows there is some awareness of the need for educational reform, however, sound bytes such as “the need for a world-class education system” still plague this piece. At least in the sphere of education, world class, at the present time, does not entail a particularly high standard. There appears to be little public debate on the matter, a lot of Irish people who have little experience of their countries education system will still say things like “Sure don’t we have one of the best education systems in the world” based off placement on the PISA rankings from a few years ago. PISA is notorious for ranking nations based on standardized tests results where the standards vary from country to country,also leading to countries like India and China who slave drive their children into good grades and out of innovation, to top the rankings.

The article also notes that more reviews and reports from official bodies are in the pipeline, but at this rate an education that provides each individual with the means to grow, be happy, and fulfill their potential, is a pipe dream. The article calls for an honest discussion, perhaps we need a platform for this. Something to get teachers, educators, legislators, parents and students all in the same room and on equal footing.

One of the more encouraging resources I’ve found is this co-operative blog on education reform called ‘Cooperative Catalyst’. Its a hive of ideas and discussion, and the realization of what the article in the Irish Examiner was calling for – an open and honest conversation.

How do you guys think actual change can be implemented, or awareness of the issues effectively raised? What resources have you encountered? Please share!

Why I homeschool | Penelope Trunk Homeschooling

Why I homeschool | Penelope Trunk Homeschooling.

A simple, down to earth case for homeschooling. There is much in this that education, whether private or public, should be trying to mimic. While it’s not always practical (the point is made here that school is the worlds best babysitting service) for parents to home school, I know that raising kids is something I’m looking forward to in life, and something I want to do as well as possible. Point being, if I had kids who were old enough to go to school right now, I would see no local option that I’d consider good enough for them, and would absolutely be homeschooling them in the current climate, devoid as it is of more humane alternatives.

Also, a couple who are friends with my parents home-schooled their three kids and have raised three of the happiest, well-rounded and socially astute children I’ve ever had the pleasure of running around playing tag with! Yes that’s anecdotal, but this isn’t a court case, I’m merely recounting my personal experience.

The Education Strikes Back

Just posting to say that original content might be at a premium over the next few days as the education system has found a temporary way of stopping EduCoup in its tracks: A glut of assignments. I’ll still be posting something of value every day but it’ll be short and sweet. You see, I have three essays and a feature article due in for college over the next two weeks so I’m going to focus on getting those essays done as they’re hanging over me at the moment.

I won’t deny allegations of hypocrisy in my availing of a system I’m criticizing so much. However I will say that I did drop out of secondary school for six months to try to control my own learning, but I had absolutely no support and the usual teenage problems, and just found I couldn’t do it without the support of anyone around me, and having just begun using the internet, that wasn’t much of a help either.

College has had its pros though – meeting an amazing girlfriend and making great friends too, but its all been on the social side of things. Somehow I don’t think me meeting my girlfriend in college is a great argument for other people to pursue a degree, there are plenty of other groups and organizations one can use to socialize.

In analysing the value of college I would focus more on the fact that I have assignments now which are distracting me and preventing me from actual journalistic work that could help me make an impact and a wage – the two main ‘official’ reasons people go to college. If I could have found a way of living in a city and directing my own learning there without agreeing to go to college, I certainly would have. The essays I’ve been assigned are on arbitrary topics like ‘food in society’, which would be more interesting except that anything you say has to be backed up by a source and consequently you are not allowed say anything original. These essays are simply glorified and excessively large exercises in learning not to plagiarise/to reference. Which is indeed a useful skill when it doesn’t interfere with you doing your most bountiful work. Luckily I can write the feature article on whatever I want so that doesn’t get in the way.

Anyway, the point I would like to make is that doing a college course has only served to strengthen my belief that while college is not without merit, self directed learning has far more potential to tap the learner’s full potential. Unfortunately at the moment personally directed education does not have the independent framework, accreditation or cultural familiarity to be a seriously considered option for many. Including, for the moment, myself.

Thanks for all the comments, likes and support. I’m absolutely chuffed and love hearing from people and discussing ideas together.

The Flaws In Our Education System

Here’s a quick list of what I see as some of the main flaws in our education system. By ‘Our Education System’ I mean Ireland, China, the US, India and many others – there may be some differences but most education systems today and throughout the short history of public education, suffer from these shortcomings to some degree or another. Pardon the pun.

Some of our Education Systems most glaring flaws:

  • Standardized Testing: Life isn’t standardized. Does anyone care what Einsteins results were? No, because he dropped out when he was fifteen to go change the world. Do all the A grade college grads working in retail and bars care that their scores were so good when they’re not in the career they wanted? This is taking the joy out of learning and placing undue pressure on students at a time in their lives where they need to be given room to explore and experiment.
  • Excessive Rote Learning: The whole of human knowledge is a couple of clicks away, we need to be learning how to process and analyse all that info, not memorize so much of it when computers are so much more efficient at that. Even in Ireland where education has been as sleepy and out of touch as anywhere else, there is a growing awareness for the need to change, even in the political and educational establishments themselves.
  • Factory based education. Universal public education came about when adult factory workers became disgruntled with all the cheap labour children and teens taking their jobs. A compromise was made: An education system that would produce well-drilled, obedient factory workers was put in place. The workers got their jobs back, and the factory owners got a steady production line of unquestioning, reliable drones.
  • Teacher Training: While we all know wonderfully passionate and hardworking teachers, too often I or my friends were treated as obstacles to an end of week pay-cheque. Teacher training needs to change to shift the emphasis from one right answer, being obedient and memorizing, to asking questions, coming up with different ideas and viewpoints, and creating. Aswell as teachers loving the kids and wanting with all their hearts to help them succeed. For an example in the kinds of teachers we need, check out this post by Jamie Lee from Kids at SWiTCH

I experienced this alot in school myself. Though not with that specific question.

The following article on Forbes touches on the majority of the above points and I’d recommend reading it.

I’ll be following this post up with a similar list of possible solutions over the next couple of days, so stay tuned!

What, in your opinion, are the education systems’ flaws?

Ken Robinson Ignites The Spark Of The Learning Revolution

http://www.ted.com/talks/ken_robinson_says_schools_kill_creativity.html

The first of Ken Robinsons spoken word anthems on the movement to defend the qualities that make children so wonderful, that are under attack by our education systems. Its funny, moving, eye opening and inspirational – watch it.