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Learning outside school, education in school?

Futurelab sent out a flier last week entitled Image a way to … support learning outside school. It points out that only 15% of children’s time is spent in school and appeals for ideas about how what it refers to as “informal learning” in the other 85% of their time, outside school, can best be supported.

For some reason, I put that together with the assertion that “Education is what is left when you’ve forgotten everything that you’ve been taught.”

For me this triggers fundamental questions about the purpose and place of school and education (because they are not necessarily the same things). In particular:

  • Which aspects of what skills, knowledge, understanding and “education” are children acquiring in school and is school necessarily the best setting for such acquisition?
  • With the development of learning technologies, are there better settings and processes for “teaching” parts of the curriculum than the conventional classroom?
  • If the important stuff really is what’s left when everything you’ve been taught has been forgotten, why are we teaching it in the first place?
  • Is school too valuable in terms all the social skills and miscellaneous qualities (education) that can be developed there for time to be wasted on teaching “subjects”? IF so, how would school and the learners’ experiences be better designed to deliver the most valuable outcomes?

I’ll admit to not having any neat answers but it has set me thinking about the purpose of school and education in an era when the distinctions between so called “formal” and “informal” learning are increasingly blurred by the potential of current education technologies.

It may be thinking the unthinkable but unless we do, we may find that school will be seen as increasingly irrelevant to the acquisition of the traditional factual knowledge and understanding and opportunities to reframe teaching to incubate the vital social aspects of education will be lost.


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