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The GEC Manifesto for Education in Practice: Raya Bidshahri

Written by Raya Bidshahri, Founder & CEO, School of Humanity
20 May 2021
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The GEC Manifesto for Education in Practice: Raya Bidshahri

The global education systems arguably transformed more over the course of the pandemic than in the last 10 years combined. Our educators and schools demonstrated incredible resilience and agility over the last year.

The pandemic, despite all of its existential challenges, has provided us an opportunity to reset and reinvent ourselves. The pace of invention and innovation that we experienced in the education space pre-pandemic, is no longer sufficient in the post-pandemic world. What we need to see are more “moonshot ideas” in education, where instead of relying on 10% improvements, we focus on ten times the innovation and radical overhaul.

I firmly believe that it is important to not simply innovate our current education systems, but also reinvent them. We need to create a novel alternative education system that is better fit for today’s world. In order to reinvent our systems effectively, it is vital that we shake off any pre-existing assumptions and narratives that we all carry with us about the status quo. Can we imagine an education system without standardized tests and examination bodies? Can we imagine a schooling model without subjects or grades? What about one without school buildings? Paving the way for novel education systems often requires imagination and creativity.

Globally, we are seeing the rise of alternative models of schools that are challenging the status quo and proving that radically different ways of doing things are not only effective, but arguably more inspiring for the learners. Schools like the Nuvu School in the United States and the Agora school in the Netherlands are examples of this. At these schools, it is the student’s curiosity that directs their learning. Both have ditched the notion of subjects and a standardized curriculum, and instead learning takes place through the process of solving challenges. Both have set aside the idea of classes, classrooms and curriculum. The role of the educator at these schools is not to be an instructor, but rather a coach and facilitator. Learners are given incredible flexibility in their schedules. Similarly, at the School of Humanity, we set out to create an online school with a progressive model, and fully-skill based curriculum. Learners develop future fluencies and mindset by solving local and global challenges, and there is a significant emphasis on human flourishing.

A part of reinventing education is reimagining how we capture and measure student learning. Many forward thinking and innovative schools globally have begun to ditch the traditional school report card and opt-in for the Mastery Transcript. Instead of reducing a learner down to a single letter or number, the mastery transcript demonstrates the transferable skills that a particular learner has mastered over the course of their learning journey. When learners master critical skills and content, they earn “Mastery Credits”, which combine to create a clear, succinct visualization of each learner’s unique strengths. These skills are then tagged to a portfolio of projects that serve as evidence of the skills. The Mastery Transcript continues to hold learners up to high standards while being more flexible, holistic, and equitable than a traditional report card. Universities are already accepting Mastery Transcripts in the United States, as an alternative to a report card.

The point I hope to elucidate with the above examples is that reinventing our global education system is more than theoretical – we are already starting to see this in reality. With a growing number of alternative schools globally and a number of digital solutions to support cutting-edge pedagogy, there is no excuse for failing to innovate. Together we can co-create a new education system that is interdisciplinary, skill-based, inspiring and curiosity-driven. Let us embark on this mission with a sense of urgency, as we have no time to waste.

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