Teaching in 21st Century: Transitioning from Student Standardization

In his Ted talk on “What is school for?”, Seth Godin informs us that the current school system is in fact like an assembly line that processes the kids to turn them into “standard” human beings.  In this regard, the system aims to train standard students who behave, comply, and fit in the social setting that was created by the industrial revolution. The school tests are also a means to ensure that the aims of the standardization process have been successfully accomplished: The students remain at the same level unless they can pass the tests. However, as Seth Godin explains, the current system has long served its purpose in the era of industrialization, and now it is time to move on to a new one. Rather than encouraging soulless memorization, the new system should develop creativity in the students. In other words, the students should become able to connect dots, rather than passively collect dots. The new system should enhance freedom of thought alongside diverse and multiple-aspect understanding, instead of suppressing the students’ souls to make them obedient. In this new setting, teachers are replaced by mentors who guide the students to learn, rather than enforcing them to memorize the materials. This is possible by the emergence of new technologies like the internet: Students can listen to the pre-recorded lectures at home, and then do the homework and resolve their misunderstandings in the class. Yet, transitioning to such a novel setting is far from trivial and requires overcoming several challenges, a few of which I mention here:

1- If the standard system is gone, how can a hiring manager evaluate the students’ abilities based on their earned degrees?

2- In the real world, the number of available positions is always less than the number of candidates. If the standard system is gone, how can we fairly choose the fittest?

3- On one hand, the students need to be trained in a standard manner based on the requirements of the available jobs to have the maximum efficiency of the education-profession connection. On the other hand, creativity should be promoted so that society and industry can move forward. What is the best system to promote both aspects simultaneously?

4- Considering that many of the students in the middle of their education are already accustomed to the old system, how can we smoothly transition to a new system?

5- What are the unintended consequences of promoting personal creativity and kill the trait of passive obedience? If we go too far, wouldn’t the society become unstable?

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