Schooling the Schoolless: Migrants Rich and Poor

What do a poor brick-making child in India and a global-elite child in Singapore have in common? No school, since they’re both nomadic migrants. In this article, I present a personal and professional account of schoollessness, deeper understanding of learners’ needs, two innovative approaches to education outside government-run schools, and some suggestions for integrating them (along with technology) with Design Thinking, in order to approach the schoollessness problem. I outline key needs to design for and offer a challenge to us — the world’s educators and leaders — to create a school for the world’s schoolless.

Going Home

“Mom, why can’t I go to school? I was in Singapore school already, and when we moved to France, I went to school. Why do I have to stay home? It’s so lonely. I hate it. I wish I was dead.”

It’s been a while since she made that statement — a time of massive improvement, once we finally found a school. Reading her words today, I itch to correct her grammar, but at the time, I was really worried. She was miserable. How could middle-class people wind up with nowhere to send their children to school, especially with both parents having doctorates from Harvard and one in the education business?

Our business careers added something beyond the traditional home-school drivers of bullying (which she had also encountered), danger, special abilities, athletic/artistic pursuits, rigour, faith, and family bonding. Our driver was global mobility. It’s not uncommon for American parents to pack up their covered wagons and head west for a job — or any other direction — but it’s usually within a single nation, and the kids (at least on paper) have a school at the other end. Internationally, that’s not the case.

I, an American, moved home to Singapore (yes, home) to take a new job as an educator and innovation-center head at a global business school. I first moved here 20 years ago, built a family with my husband, and yes, it really is home. But we moved away for a while for family reasons. My poor kids (poor in stability, rich in global life experience) have been schooled locally in Singapore, France, InterHigh (UK-accredited virtual school with a global internet classroom), and homeschooling (actually tutorschooling, since both parents work full-time outside the home). Kahn Academy was, of course, mixed in there as well.

Why such a string of changes? Like many people (and more every day, per Pico Iyer, 2013), we work outside our “home nation” not because we’ve been sent by our companies for a short assignment, but because we live in a global marketplace and are multi-cultural, “multi-homed” people. Families and individuals are increasingly global. I’m from the US, married to a UK citizen, with children who come from Vietnam, Philippines, Singapore, and Malaysia, and are themselves a mixture of UK and US citizens (Author, 2015). Asking, “So, where are you from?” will get you a longer answer than you may have wanted.

But going “home” wasn’t meant to be going homeschool.

Children of global executive parents in Singapore (and many other people in many other places) have traditionally been sent to highly-expensive private schools because the working model was for parents to leave their “home” nation, work for some time (e.g. 2 or 5 years), and return home. The children should not be disadvantaged when returning to their national school system, so national schooling was given abroad, and companies paid whatever was asked (read: no price pressure). With high demand for quality and little pressure on price, private school fees in Singapore for four children today total 2–3 times the nation’s median household income (Department of Statistics Singapore, 2016). Imagine having 2–3 full-time jobs to pay for your chilren’s schooling, plus a job for everything else (rent, food, clothing, medical, etc.).

With a great deal of scrambling around and 3–5 hour admissions exams by individual schools (even at primary level!), three of my kids were admitted to local schools. The fourth hesitated to apply, the rules changed, she spent an entire semester preparing for the foreigner entrance exam, and after she didn’t gain admission, we discovered that only 5–10% of the examinees are admitted. It’s not an admissions exam. It’s an exclusions exam. The third wealthiest nation on Earth (Wikipedia, 2016) by per-capita GDP (over 14 times India’s figure), Singapore hosts the top English-medium public (government-run) school system in the world (Pearson, 2016). Only top academics are admitted. We ultimately did find a school for her and took the last opening at her level, at a school that charges the same as the international-student fees at government schools.

It was the last spot in the only “locally-priced” school I found in the entire nation.

Migrants Poor and Rich

While embroiled in the enrollment drama, I was also working with a school in India, as part of my research and part of my work with a not-for-profit corporation I co-founded. It stunned me that a poor brick-making migrant child in India and my globe-trotting elite daughter had the same problem: no school. Why? Because they’re migrants, poor and rich, and we educators and leaders haven’t yet created a global system that welcomes all children.

Poor children find themselves locked out of school when they can’t buy uniforms or shoes, can’t clean them, can’t buy pencils, can’t leave their employer’s homes (child domestic laborers), or have to work selling vegetables until just after school opening time. Some kids don’t have immunizations, a birth certificate, or an address to write on an admissions form. Some, like the brickfields children of Calcutta, move from one location to another during the year and can’t find schools that will let them come and go.

I learned a great deal working with migrants poor and rich, professionally and as a parent, regarding:

1. what school really does for a child,

2. what is (and is not) available in the global school marketplace, and

3. various models of education that could be used to help school the schoolless, rich and poor.

The implications are enormous — for a growing class of global children who will grow up to lead the world, for millions of children around the world today who might finally go to school, and for societies around the world that could foster growth and stability from a well-educated populace, with less risk of creating and growing a disenfranchised class — the Precariat (Standing 2014; Hanauer, 2014).

What Does School Really Do for a Child?

So what are the needs of poor and rich schoolless children — at least some of them, like my daughter and the kids admitted to our school partner in India? Like taking apart a Lego building, can some of what schools are today be decoupled and recombined in better ways? How might we provide children with …:

· A Place To Be? Half the value of going to schools these days may be just to have someplace to get up and go each morning. My daughter missed that when it was gone. Having to stay home continuously for schooling and homelife was like sitting in jail (although as nice a one as I could make it). For a child on the street, it is also dangerous. Further, parents working outside their home (or home under a bridge) cannot provide supervision. A place to go and be safe until a parent can supervise would be a Godsend to many, poor and rich, and should generally be later than the early-afternoon dismissal time at many schools today. Further, every parent would like to be notified, “Where is my child?” “Is my child where s/he is supposed to be?” “Is s/he safe?” Much of this can be done via mobile phones, used by poor and rich alike. After all, more people have access to mobile phones now than safe drinking water (Casey, 2016).

· Active Society? Most of our friendships are made in school or work. As any internet-schooled child (like my daughter) or virtual-office worker can tell you, having only virtual (internet) friends is not enough. Groupwork, arts, sports, and other interaction (e.g. informal) are essential in a learning environment and necessary to the health and happiness of social beings It’s not really enough even to just be nearby or have occasional lunches or parties. Something different — something important — happens when we work and create together and when we are physically present.

· Learning Outcomes Design? — Yes, it’s nice to note that there is a world of information and buckets of online courses to choose from. If you’ve ever tried to construct your own curriculum from scratch (as I did), you’ll know the value of having a good designer select material and activities from which to choose, offer the selection to a large audience (there are economies of scale in design), and provide some guidance for what to learn (student learning outcomes) and when.

· Help? — A learner will need to periodically reach out, and having a person to tap on is a huge boost to learning effectiveness and efficiency. Ask anyone who has ever tried to solve an IT problem with Google instead of talking to technical support. One of the nice things about “tech support” is that they are often available 24/7. Not so when my daughter went to UK-based internet school while living in Singapore (since no internet school based in Asia was available). Her formal class time began at 5pm and ended around 11pm. I had to excuse her for sleeping in class not because she was naughty but because it was night. Yes, she had a teacher-led class and wonderful help, but she didn’t have the “active society” mentioned above. All her friends were internet friends. The moment other kids in our condo complex finished their school day, completed their sports activities, had a snack, finished homework, and headed out to play, my daughter was heading to class. Some activities (e.g. music lessons, dance, or sports) were available on weekends (I could sign her up and pay at various businesses), but most were individual lessons or conflicted with school evenings, church, and each other.

· Flexibility? — Not everyone learns in the same time zone (as above), at the same pace, or with the same learning style, and not everyone will want the same content, given the diversity of lives and careers to prepare for. Some may be in the classic “expat” situation trying to progress in a national curriculum to which they will return, and others will return to a different nation or no nation in particular. Some will want to interact, and some will just want to be around other learners, like university students studying in a cafe. Some might like to use the physical facility but no curriculum or materials, and some might want full use of curriculum but little or no use of facilities.

· Progress/Outcome Checks? — Someone needs to check progress, be it a teacher, learner, or computer. Economic circumstances — and the appropriate technology to use — will vary widely, perhaps within the same school. In my daughter’s case, a teacher online, online materials, and tutors filled this role. Older students who are self-motivated can check their own progress, but younger learners need supervision.

· Quality & Certification? — Parent, student, and/or school will need to ensure both the quality of the school/process and the graduates/learning-outcomes. There was no quality control and certification, of course, for Kahn Academy (although they are probably building such things now). InterHigh online school was accredited in the UK. Tutors were sourced from an online agency (much easier in Singapore than word-of-mouth France), but any quality checks on tutoring had to be by a parent, and there was no way to certify mastery of a subject at my daughter’s age (10 years old).

· Capabilities for the Future? The immediate need of schoolless children is to gain capabilities needed for today, but we cannot forget capabilities for tomorrow, and we cannot ignore our responsibility to define and design for them.

What’s Available in the Global Marketplace?

I summarize below the solutions we tried, which basically forms a microcosm of what’s available in the marketplace — online self-learning, online accredited school, homeschooling (tutorschooling), and finally a physical school. Nothing fulfilled all our needs.

Table 1: Student Needs and Delivery Methods

Need

Online Self-Learning

Online Accredited School

Homeschooling

Physical School

A Place To Be

Active Society

Learning Outcomes Design

Help

Flexibility

Progress/Outcome Checks

Quality & Certification

Capabilities for the Future

?

?

?

Although homeschooling is performed in a place — the home and possible field trips to library, parks, historic sites, etc. — place is not provided with the materials, and a student under age 16 or so would find it hard to go anywhere for a self-learning session (as my daughter did, basically rendering her trapped at home). Likewise, although she interacted with other people in the online accredited school and homeschooling, it was not the rich, active experience a physical school offers.

Learning outcomes design is part of the online accredited and physical school experience, and may or may not be part of the homeschooling experience, depending on whether a professionally-developed homeschool curriculum is purchased (which we did not, since it was not a viable, permanent solution for us). Help is likewise provided to the student, but the homeschool facilitator may or may not be available when needed or have the expertise needed. Help for students and facilitators may or may not be provided with the homeschool curriculum being used.

Online self-study and homeschooling provide the maximum flexibility, but of course, at a price — self-design. Progress/outcome checks may be provided in particular online self-study modules but are not part of the overall experience. Quality measures are offered for many homeschool curricula, and many online courses offer certification in one form or another, but they are largely unregulated, and a student will generally want to take standardized, internationally-recognized exams to certify what they know (e.g. SAT from the US or “A” and “O” levels from the UK).

A self-motivated online learner will master the 21st-century capabilities of resourcefulness, discovery, creativity, self-management, etc., but those who have trouble along the way may not, and there is currently no way to easily establish and communicate such mastery. The other forums for learning may reduce the opportunity for future-skills development precisely because they provide more guidance, support, and certification. Many of them are growing in future-relevance but remain uncertain at present.

Models that Might Help

I encountered two examples on our schoolless journey that may provide some inspiration for serving schoolless children everywhere. My daughter ultimately was admitted to a private physical school, and many schoolless poor kids have joined the Loreto Sealdah School in Calcutta. However, there is a long waiting list at my daughter’s school, and there are millions more children around and outside India who need schools. The schoollessness problem has not been resolved. Their two approaches — student-led teaching and student-led learning — may be the best place to begin serving the rest.

Lessons from Loreto — Student-Led Teaching

The nation of Mother Theresa and Sister Cyril Mooney (who knew each other before the former’s death) contains 1/7th of the world’s population but fully 1/2 of the world’s schoolless children (C. Mooney, personal communication, November 25, 2015). Even those who are counted as having a school don’t always. When my not-for-profit corporation co-founders and I asked one community in our area (Kanha, MP, India) what they wanted, school was at the top of their list. There is a government-run school, but the teacher (at the time) was rarely sober, and there was no way to get a better one.

Sister Cyril Mooney (Flatt, 2008), retired principal of the Loreto Sealdah School in Calcutta, spent 35 years founding social-educational programs that allow poor children to come to school, schools/educators to go out to children, and more, impacting the lives of over 450,000 of the world’s poorest (C. Mooney, personal communication, November 25, 2015). Her classrooms, once empty at night, are now filled with children who need both school and a place to sleep, off the street. They opened their overnight facility when a 4-year-old girl was raped nearby.

Beyond a safe place to sleep, children who need a place to wash themselves and their uniforms now have it, and they can have a hot meal, as well. The boy who can’t come until just after school begins — because he’s helping his mother sell vegetables in the marketplace — can come when he’s available, not just when the school doors are scheduled to open. Donations are taken to provide uniforms, shoes, materials, medicine, and more.

Students themselves go to homes in the neighborhood and encourage child workers to come or at least learn and play where they are for a little while; and they encourage employers to let them. The Brickfields program provides teachers and schools at brick-making fields themselves. Children don’t have to come to the schools. Schools can come to the children (C. Mooney, personal communication, November 25, 2015).

So, in Calcutta, at least, there are schools for the schoolless. Programs (Flatt ,2008) include:

· Well-respected, fee-based Loreto school, where ½ pay fees + ½ no fees

· Rainbow program for street children at the school, mostly residential

· Challenged-children special classes

· Rural classes taught/led by Loreto students themselves

· Barefoot teacher training & slum learning centres

· City-migrant education (Sampurna Eastern Bypass program)

· Village higher-secondary schools

· Human Rights Education & Childline child welfare hotline

· Hidden Domestic Child Labour education, welfare, & advocacy

· Brickfields & Fisherfolk teacher training, centres, & schools

Sister Cyril’s model integrates social programs and education, different social groups, and emotion, action, and intellect to develop the student as a whole person, including character — seeing beyond themselves, hearing and respecting others in their society regardless of caste or status. Group learning is the norm at the Loreto School, and the physical environment shows it. Groups work around tables, and groups are led by the oldest and second-oldest students.

Interestingly, the second-oldest in a group is the leader, supported by the oldest. Initially, when the leadership was reversed, seconds-in-command sometimes did not support the group well and were not groomed and supported for their leadership role. By having an older child provide leadership support (after having been a leader), the younger one is engaged and growing, and the still-younger team members are well fostered by the other two.

Further, students go to rural areas and poor locations to teach — the best way to learn — which fosters growth in emotional intelligence, leadership, character, and organization/management, besides mastery of the material itself. Ackoff and Greenberg (2008) cited numerous benefits that children gained from teaching others. New initiatives and changes are proposed and led bottom-up, and teacher training is the approach of choice to multiply (scale up) the impact of new programs, e.g. by training “barefoot” teachers in slums (never mind if the child has no shoes, and never mind if the teacher has no shoes — just go ahead and learn).

Learning at Loreto is not about just gathering data, information and knowledge (Flatt, 2008). Understanding and wisdom are emphasized. This has empowered them with the ability to evaluate problems not through mere analyzing but based on sound values and holistic perspectives, with a robust understanding of the implications of their actions to themselves, families, communities, and society. For example, the Rainbow Program, which provides full-room-and-board education to street children, (Flatt, 2008) was a student’s idea.

Notably, at Loreto, analysis, fundraising, massive resources, and policy-writing are not the precursors to launching programs. Where there is a need, they just do it — start whatever good that can be launched now, and improve and scale as they go.

Lessons from ACE — Student-Led learning

The school my daughter ultimately joined has an innovative pedagogy. The curriculum and approach (ACE School of Tomorrow®) have been used for over 40 years in 145 countries for millions of students. Teacher conferences are attended by 20,000 participants per year. Although it is controversial due to the Christian fundamentalist material and uniqueness of approach, its impact is undisputed.

Compared with Sister Cyril’s group work and student leadership approach, this school is “flipped” — it uses an individual-study approach. Teachers are called “supervisors” and do not lecture classes as in the common, industrial-age school model. They come to students when asked and coach students through the material to find their own answers and develop their own understanding. The approach is especially useful now, in the age of IT and globalization (ubiquitous internet), when it is most important that students learn how to learn, how to find information, and how to reason through it themselves.

From age 5, students plan their own daily goals, study the curriculum on their own (with coaching as needed), and mark their own quizzes and self-tests. The approach is highly individualized (along with group activities, sports, arts, social time, etc.), and instead of the standard approach of fixed schedules with variable learning (graduating at a specified age whether the student has mastered the material or not), students have to learn the material to progress but can take as much time as they need — fixed learning with variable time.

The room is inverted, as well, compared with the Loretos. Students sit facing the wall around the perimeter of the room, as opposed to Sister’s classrooms with group tables and students facing their group members. Further, the material and age are decoupled not just in general but also by subject. For example, a student can learn history at the average level for her age, highly advanced in math, and at a slower pace in English. It appears to be the only school in Singapore at approximately the same fees charged by the government schools to foreign students — about 1/3 the fees of the international private schools. Similar to Sister Cyril’s model, leadership is fostered, although with much more emphasis on self-leadership.

Fusing the Approaches to Serve the Schoolless Globally

One approach to fulfilling the needs of kids with no school would be to grab one of these models and transport it. Indeed, transferring innovations like Sister Cyril’s from poor countries like India — jugaad innovations (Radjou, Prabhu & Ahuja, 2012) — to wealthier nations is a powerful way to create value (or stop richer nations from wasting value).

Loreto schools are, in fact, available worldwide and do not exclusively require the students to be Catholic. However, Sister Cyril’s schoolless-outreach efforts at Loreto-Sealdah (now continued at the Kolkata Mary Ward Centre) operate in India only. ACE schools are distributed throughout the world but are strongly Christian-fundamentalist and, so, not generally chosen by parents of other faiths/denominations.

Another approach is just to adopt online learning as the wave of the future and assume it will also be the school of the future. Kahn Academy at present provides courses and materials worldwide, but not an actual system that covers all topics a child would need to learn, as well as guidance for progressing through primary and secondary education. At Kahn, there still seems to be no as-needed human assistance. Online schools like Interschool which do provide teacher assistance will eventually operate in local time worldwide. However, in both cases, the social element of learning is still missing — a place to be with other learners, as well as in-person young-child supervision, group projects, sports, and arts.

Another approach would be to integrate elements of these two approaches into a new model, with a view not of adoption but rather of creation. Design thinking teaches us to start with needs and define, design, and experiment from there (Brown, 2008) to create innovations that really work and solve problems effectively. The approach has been used successfully in education (IDEO, 2014) and begins with deeply understanding user needs.

Before designing a school for the schoolless, however, we should return to the surprise that poor and rich schoolless children have similar needs. Should we design one school for both? Can one school or system fulfill the school-needs of such different children? Surely creating and admitting them to the same school would be inappropriate, given their different socioeconomic status? Not so. As we see in Sister Cyril’s schools, rich and poor can integrate seamlessly, as can kids of different caste (traditionally kept separate), handicapped and healthy, and more, as long as the same needs are being met. We create solutions for needs, not market segments.

In fact, with Design Thinking, the students themselves would play an active role in designing and managing their own education — an approach also core to the Sudbury Model (Traxler, 2015; Ackoff & Greenberg, 2008) and to the Luminar School, founded by Ricardo Semler (Semler, 2015). Sister Cyril, too, encouraged students to launch programs of their own desire and design.

So, given the needs outlined above (plus one — global scale, given my global daughter’s problem and the global nature of the schoolless problem), we might draw on the examples outlined above to create a new vision for a new school model, as follows:

· A Place To Be? Such a place should be flexible, fun, and effective. Parents and students should be able to decide which days and times (if any) a child will attend in person. Kids can be tracked with GPS and notifications given via mobile phones. It should have quiet individual study places, groupwork places, and modular places for sports, music, and more. It might not even be a single place, for example if sports or music facilities are rented from professional spaces. In fact, in the same way that 3D printing may disrupt global factories with local maker centers, could industrial-age schools be disrupted by 21st-century maker-learner spaces?

· Active Society? If online and physical spaces are available, kids can have both local and global cohort(s). If there is group work and group help available, then interaction can be both social and co-creative.

· Learning Outcomes Design? — A project-based model, where the student chooses a project then seeks out what s/he needs to learn is a valid approach, but self-directed though it seems, there is a design even to that. The capabilities to be mastered by graduation needs to be set, even if the path to mastery is a mosaic.

· Help? — Whether help is a student, teacher, “supervisor,” “tutor/mentor,” community member, or elder, and whether in-person or online (e.g. from an overseas call center), help should be available when needed, and the internet, volunteerism, and community ratings (more stars for better helpers) make it possible and economical. Loreto students teach, ACE teachers are supervisor/coaches, and these can be supplemented with student communities who give feedback, help, and even marks to each other, in online &/or physical communities.

· Flexibility? — With self-directed learning (especially online), not everyone needs to be doing the same thing at the same time in the same place or with the same learning style (reading, listening, groupwork, etc.). With the ACE system, for example (as well as Kahn Academy), independent online learners can move to the top of a course cohort, then move down when they have trouble (or need a break, pacing themselves), spend extra time working through difficulties (or just slowing down, as my daughter did after a big honor-roll push), then move up again. The old model of physical schools was basically military — everyone marches at the same speed, and if you get left behind, too bad. Flexibility should be for place as well as pace. Students should, for example, be able to come to a learning center to work on a group project or just to study alongside other people and would not even have to be enrolled in the same curriculum in the same language as the learner next to him. Place and program should be decoupled — used and paid for separately — and pricing models could be flexible, as well, including payment via cash or volunteering or other contribution(s) (welcome to the sharing economy).

· Progress/Outcome Checks? — Some online educators use technology to ensure progression — a video is played, a question is answered, then another becomes available (not available until the prior is played and the question is answered). Loreto and ACE, on the other hand, are paper-based, and progress is checked by a person (a Loreto teacher or student-teacher, and an ACE student or supervisor). A global school in widely varying economic circumstances could be based in both materials — paper and electronic. Wealthy locations that can’t afford teachers could more economically use computers and call centres. Poorer locations that have teachers but no computers could use paper. Even poorer communities that have cell phones (or WorldReader Kindles) but no paper (yes, they exist) can electronically deliver material to a teacher who then talks with students and draws on a chalkboard or in the sand.

· Quality & Certification? — Although accreditation of schools was originally put in place to close down diploma mills that did not teach sufficiently, the accreditation process can impede innovation with its slowness or by focusing on process checks and organizational issues instead of outcomes. In fact, accreditation rules are not always up to date with new processes and organizations enabled by new technologies. Regarding process vs. outcome, I was surprised to find that admission to a good university does not necessarily require a diploma/certificate from an accredited secondary school. All of the higher-learning institutions I investigated internationally accept (or require) an outcome test like GED or SAT from the US, or GCSE A- and O-levels from the UK. In the above examples, Loreto is well-regarded and affiliated to the West Bengal Board of Education, and ACE issues a US-curriculum high-school diploma.

· Capabilities for the Future? Information search and scoping, problem framing, communicating, creating individually or by gathering resources (like teams), learning how to learn, learning through failure, and more are key skills for the future (actually, today, as well, but many of us get by with less). Will arithmetic and spelling be obsolete everywhere? No. Besides the fact that most of the world’s people do not have calculators and spell-checkers, there is some value in learning at least some “industrial-age” skills for convenient use and as a basis for brain-building — but not focusing all a student’s time on them. Because of the difference in skill-needs and circumstances, it will be important to customize for the individual student and evolve what is offered. That said, some things considered “21st century” — learning how to innovate and start-up enterprises — are relevant for everyone. Loreto and ACE offer some flexibility and some evolution, but not as much as tomorrow’s schools will, with adaptive learning and customization, as well as materials improvement by the cohorts themselves (again, the sharing economy).

Conclusions

My kids (especially my daughter) have become extremely adaptable — perhaps the most-important capability for the future — seeing life from different perspectives, using different languages, in city and country, rich and poor, on different continents, with different education systems. They and their schoolless counterparts are inventive and resourceful. Perhaps in this, they are advantaged, and the schooled children are dis-advantaged — to be better-served by schools designed for the schoolless.

Nonetheless, the problem of schools for the schoolless is urgent and growing. With increasing immigration into cities from countryside, globalization, income inequality and disenfranchisement (Standing, 2014), more and more people fall out of the system on both ends. Growth of a dissatisfied precariat is not a future anyone wants.

Whether by coincidence or not, it is interesting to note that although most governments espouse schools for all, Loreto and ACE, which provide schooling for those the government misses, are not government-led. They are faith-based organizations. It may be that schools for the schoolless will not be a government initiative but will instead grow from faith, family, private education, and business. Indeed, government might even inhibit development, if they levy taxes for schools but don’t credit those who use alternatives, and if they place restrictions on families that need alternatives and on new organizations that offer them.

As we see with the Loreto example, schooling the schoolless can be done without expanding the welfare state and government programs. It can be done with the educational model itself. Children are endowed with curiosity, character, passion, determination, confidence, contemplation and communication abilities. All children are capable of learning, contributing towards their own learning, and learning (often better) by teaching others (Ackoff & Greenbery, 2008).

It is a revelation that rich and poor children have similar needs (e.g. migrants) and that rich nations can benefit from some innovative approaches in poor nations. Schools in the US, Singapore, India, and beyond can all learn from each other, as indeed students can when placed in a global, internet-enabled classroom. We teachers need to learn how to listen to ideas from around the world and integrate them into our newly-designed solutions, just as new-age global-internet students do.

My daughter enjoys her new school, although she misses her tutor and her InterHigh friends. She did improve her grammar, and the situation led me to a new understanding and appreciation for student-led teaching and student-led learning, supported by leaders willing to create schools that serve. By deeply understanding the needs of learners, the possibilities of technology, and gathering new business models and other ideas from examples like the above, we can school the schoolless. If we keep people — learners, teachers, parents, and community — at the center of our design efforts, we may find that within the problem lies the solution — the students themselves.

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