First Competition, Published 1969
The School We'd Like
What would the kids say if we asked them what kind of school they'd like? That's what England's Guardian newspaper did in June when they reprised a public competition first conducted in 1967, in which kids across England wrote essays about "The school that I'd like" (edited by Edward Blishen, Penguin Education Special, England, 1969). One 15-year old girl summed up school at that time as "institutions of today run on the principles of yesterday". Has anything changed?
In the summer of 2000, the Guardian conducted a six-month competition, now extracted in a new book by Catherine Burke and Ian Grosvenor,"The School I'd Like: Children and Young People's Reflections on an Education for the 21st Century". Here's what the kids in England wrote:
- A beautiful school with glass dome roofs to let in the light, uncluttered classrooms and brightly coloured walls.
- A safe school with swipe cards for the school gate, anti-bully alarms, first aid classes, and someone to talk to about our problems.
- A listening school with children on the governing body, class representatives and the chance to vote for the teachers.
- A flexible school without rigid timetables or exams, without compulsory homework, without a one-size-fits-all curriculum, so we can follow our own interests and spend more time on what we enjoy.
- A relevant school where we learn through experience, experiments and exploration, with trips to historic sites and teachers who have practical experience of what they teach.
- A respectful school where we are not treated as empty vessels to be filled with information, where teachers treat us as individuals, where children and adults can talk freely to each other, and our opinion matters.
- A school without walls so we can go outside to learn, with animals to look after and wild gardens to explore.
- A school for everybody with boys and girls from all backgrounds and abilities, with no grading, so we don't compete against each other, but just do our best.
The English kids are not alone in their thinking. The International Society of Technology in Education (ISTE) also asked the kids at a special Student Technology Leadership Symposium, June 23-24, 2001, held in conjunction with NECC. As reported by student Pooja Agarwal in "If I Could Make a School" (Learning and Leading with Technology, November 2001), the U.S. student leaders want schools that :
- Are Fun
- End lecturing from a textbook
- Institute problem-based, discovery-based, and inquiry-based curricula
- Implement "real life" situations and hands-on learning
- Shape the curriculum with student internship experiences
- Build relationships and "animated mutual learning" between adults and students
- Provide an "inviting" physical environment
- Provide the technology tools for students and teachers to do their work.
2011 update: The Guardian recently launched a 2011 School I'd Like campaign: "In 2001 we launched a competition asking children to dream up their perfect school. In 2011, we are once again asking pupils for their views, which we will compile into a Children's Manifesto", writes the Guardian." The 2011 campaign is a consultation seeking student input instead of a competition.