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Created on July 29 , 2013 @ 09:48 AM GMT

Applying urban renewal models to education

Many accept that education systems are stuck in the last century, failing to meet the needs of new economies and communities, even with the adoption of education technology. A decade or so into the new century, 'education reform' has become tired policy. Sellout education keynoters diagnose the industrial education factory model problem, yet few speak in detail about a remedy. If mainstream education is trapped in 'the industrial model', perhaps we ought to look at post-industrial change in other places, like the expanding process of urban renewal.

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    • The world is filled with old industrial areas transformed into more creative spaces that deliver timely and valued services and experiences to their inhabitants. Areas of urban renewal remain sophisticated places, but their sophistication is different to their industrial beginnings. Industrial roots are respected but the uses and values of those places have changed altogether. Interestingly, urban renewal zones are more valued for their iconic remnants. People compete to live in urban renewal zones for very different reasons to when the industrial areas were first created. Perhaps schools will follow this pattern, renewing themselves as they are valued differently, as their uses change? Applying the urban renewal analogy, we find that reform just tries to change things, whereas renewal revalues and re-uses things. But renewal also implies rebirth. Industrial sites went through blight, they emptied, stopped and grew weeds. Then came renewal. It seems that schools cannot stop. Perhaps they do stop in a sense even though students and teachers continue to turn up? Could that be why the industrial education problem resonates with so many, topping education conference keynotes and YouTube views? Could that be why dedicated, skilled teachers struggle in many schools; why many talented administrators find things harder than they need to be, and why so many students look for a way out or around, in a home school, a virtual school or just another school?

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    • The global mismatch between required and available skills is arguably due to an education system which, to some extent, prepares students for elements of the past century rather than the requirements of the new, though now not so new, century.

      Many schools are still in the industrial AKA clerical mode (even with hyped ’1 to 1′ programs and interactive white boards) where students merely follow instructions, answer questions and receive grades, rather than make plans, ask questions, and evaluate outcomes – the latter set being a key to resilience, enterprise and creativity.

    • Why do most schools still look exactly as they did in 1950? Why do the design of schools and prisons have so much in common? It's time to replace the "cells and bells" schools of the past with a modern, student-centered version. One that will better prepare students with the skills and competencies needed for success in the 21st century.

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