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Education, school, learning – what is what and why does it matter?

I’ve heard this particular quote many times: “I have never let my schooling interfere with my education.”

I’m not sure who said it first, but when talking to parents about learning, this quote is very often mentioned and it can kickstart a powerful conversation.

A decade ago, when I started my journey as a parent, the questions I was preoccupied with were: What is learning? What is education for?” and, following on from those questions, “What are schools for?” . Because of the work I was doing at the time, it was very easy to figure out the answer to the first question. Learning is the process of acquiring new knowledge and skills. Humans are hard-wired for learning and it’s up to each of us to maximise this potential. It is “the art of changing the brain” as Prof. James Zull would say.

Education, therefore, means organised programmes designed for learning. Many of the educators I meet talk about formal and informal education. They say formal education is what children and young people need to know, understand, and be able to do, which they wouldn’t learn if left to do whatever they want. In contrast, informal education is a general term used to describe the type of learning that can occur outside of a structured curriculum. These are both very useful definitions, but bear in mind that the human brain does not make such distinctions when it comes to learning new things. For the human brain, there is only one kind of learning: natural learning.

This insight inevitably leads to the question: “What are schools then?”. Many will say schools are the conventional facilities for children and teenagers where formal education takes place. If this is the universal definition, then in raising my son, I have never let his schooling interfere with his education. For us, school, is any community of people that comes together to learn with each other. It is anywhere that learners can connect with experts and learn from each other, whether through technology or with a learning facilitator. It’s a place where they learn about themselves and about how other people learn. Where they test and experiment safely to see how theoretical concepts form a part of our everyday lives. It could be a home school, an online school, or even a school organised via social networks.

Going back to the WHY it matters, allow me to share what I’ve come to realise through my work with educators and parents: the ideal school is one where there is no threshold, or where the threshold between the classroom and life itself is blurred. It is where the education system encourages learning to happen anytime and everywhere.

What do you think?

What kind of education do you dream of for your child?

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