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Independent Learning Centres

Anyone interested in education in terms of what it really is and what it should be trying to do will probably not need much convincing that it is time to challenge the traditional school model. To do so, though, requires that we ‘think outside the box’ of a traditional school set-up, with its centralised approach, establishing in each local community and providing a hierarchical type of progression through subjects, year-by-year.

One such ‘outside the box’ concept is an Independent Learning Centre. Instead of the conventional system, an Independent Learning Centre would be run on a theme park model.

Before entry, would be given games to play which would be used to develop tailored learning pathways for each individual.

They would then enter the Adventure Zone which would contain a range of modular activities. Children would do these activities for the first term in whatever order they wish. Barriers and enforcements would be minimised. The idea would be that the child plays and progresses up a rank of points simply by engaging. Most children, it is imagined, would reach the required volume of play rapidly and become Champions.

Activities would include the simplest level of fun games in Maths, English, Science, Computers, History, Geography, Art, Drama and Music. There would be a high level of physical play and cross-subject linking: for example, Maths games involving treasure hunts with clues; English and Drama including costumed role play and theatre; Art embracing different cultures; Music involving listening to a range of styles; Science consisting of simple experiments etc. The important thing would be that a participant must be able to engage easily and at a very low level as often as possible. Simple calculation, quizzes, quests, games, puzzles, exercises, easy research tasks, outings, concerts, parties - each component would be worth points and points add up to ranks. Groups may be formed and weekly status reviews would be done with assembled participants.

The purpose of the Adventure Zone would be to remove as many barriers as possible between participants and a wider world of experiences and knowledge.

Once they have achieved a Champion level just by volume of engagement, participants would move on to Guided Play, in most cases by the following term. Here, they would be given a range of set modules through which they would progress at their own pace but on their own or in a small group. These modules would be supervised and each participant would get one-to-one tuition on a regular basis, with additional support where needed. The game element would be extended, but would be now focused on a quality aspect: individuals would have to understand material and produce projects which demonstrate effective learning in order to become a Commander at Key Stage 3.

Most participants would progress through most modules rapidly, but the tuition interviews would quickly detect where individuals might need specific help. Learning support resources would be then targeted where they would be most needed.

Once a set of modules were completed, which would take one or two years, participants would then move to individual tuition on particular routes composed of selected subjects, leading up to Professor level at Key Stage 4. This could take up to two years.

The aim would be not simply to achieve the learning for themselves but to reach a level whereby they would be able to teach others. Professorship would be earned by a) completing a set of modules b) producing a set of projects and c) teaching a required amount through presentations.

Children entering education at any age or level would be given Play first, then Guidance, then selected Projects.

In Play, adults and other participants would encourage individuals to try the whole range of activities, but there would be no enforcements or penalties. The object would be volume engagement, with the purpose of vastly boosting affinity for learning.

In Guidance, once a participant's willingness and affinity for learning had been boosted, regular tuition and support would overcome any specific issues. The object would be quality of learning, with the purpose of vastly boosting reality with fields of knowledge.

In Projects, once a child could participate in particular fields, the emphasis would be on application and expansion, with the object of contribution. The purpose here would be to vastly boost communication until expertise would be achieved.

Play, Guidance and Projects would form a template for the entire pattern of education, from the macro to the micro level: key stages would follow the ‘PGP’ pattern, as would days. Each day would begin with Play even during Guidance and Projects. Participants would be given a choice in Guidance and Projects as to how they would want to spend the first hour - they could choose unregulated, unguided Play, or Guidance or Projects. The rest of the day they would move to Guidance or Projects.

Of course, this would require a great deal of work - but the rewards would be generation after generation of children engaged with, enthusiastic about, and benefitting from learning.

For much more about this, visit Education and Parenting World here.

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