Why Choose Progressive Schools?

As mentioned in the previous post I have been back from traveling – and I know it’s not supposed to be an excuse, but I have to admit I neglected this blog for a week! Eeps! Exactly a week  ago I was eating brownies at the airport!

Anyway, the recent Philippine trip was short. Too short that I didn’t get to do everything I wanted to do, like hangout with family, do some volunteer work in Raya (previous school I worked at which is just a happy place, full stop), chill at hot springs and do some wakeboarding. Everything was rush rush. Lesson now is, book a longer trip, so that I can do everything!

I mentioned Raya School and it being a happy place. It is.  It is a remarkable school in Naga City, offering a very modern take on educating children. It is a progressive school and as a fan of all things innovative and helpful – I really like it.

Now what is a progressive school? Buzzfeed helps us understand it in a hilarious way, but it’s true. The article implies that progressive education is a movement made by hippie parents teaching their children to rebel and love nature and be weird but it’s not entirely true. It’s a reaction towards the standard, mainstream, traditional education where the teacher is the authority and exams are the end all and be all of the child’s ability.

I love that idea where education is practical and not tests-based. Don’t get me wrong, as a kid I aced exams easily but I knew I wasn’t good enough, that my perfect scores don’t mean I’m perfect (I didn’t have any friends so maybe that’s why I thought I was far from perfect lol). One of the key moments in my early childhood education was when I got a perfect score in my science finals test in grade five (taxonomic classification – ha!) but I knew my teacher didn’t know what a blue green algae is. That’s the time when I started distrusting teachers, and school for that matter. Is it really worth it? What’s the point? I mean, my parents aren’t telling me that corals are animals and they belong in phylum coelenterata, you know?

Add to the fact that I was really poor in rote learning. I was one of those rare children who’d rather have essay tests because I can fully express my thoughts given a free rein of thinking. I was a confident speaker and one of my teachers said I didn’t give a fuck in my essays – and I think that gave me the confidence to speak my thoughts and my ideas as a person. I knew I passed scholarships because I can communicate well, like in instances when I’m a mayor of a city and the problem was overpopulation – this was my make or break question at the entrance interview for the Science High School – I answered arcologies because I played with Sim City 2000 then. Gaming helps, I tell you that. I owe Sim City my life, come to think of it.

Progressive schools are student-centered, creative and open. They teach children critical thinking skills, emphasize self-direction and teamwork but also collaboration and communication – not to mention using digital technology. As a teacher, I consider myself not an authority but a guide. I mean, I know I don’t know everything but I also know I know more than them because I have life experiences. My point is, I want to equip my children with life skills and the love for life-long learning. I know I sound like a brochure for your school but tell you what, if I have a child of my own, I can’t care less if she knows about Schrodinger’s cat at age 11 if all she wants is to make a perfect apple pie!

I can go on and on about how making a perfect apple pie is more advantageous in life skills and is cross-curricular across the board compared to learning about Schrodinger’s cat but I will spare you the torture. In order for you to understand it more, here is a table (Source: Robert G. Peters, with thanks to the books Schools of Quality, by John Jay Bonstigl, and In Search of Understanding, by Martin C. Brooks and Jaqueline Grennon, Independent Schools.)

Traditional Progressive
School is a preparation for life. School is a part of life.
Learners are passive absorbers of information and authority. Learners are active participants, problem solvers, and planners.
Teachers are sources of information and authority. Teachers are facilitators, guides who foster thinking.
Parents are outsiders and uninvolved. Parents are the primary teachers, goal setters, and planners, and serve as resources.
Community is separate from school, except for funding. Community is an extension of the classroom.
Decision-making is centrally based and administratively delivered. Decision-making is shared by all constituent groups.
Program is determined by external criteria, particularly test results. Program is determined by mission, philosophy, and goals for graduates.
Learning is linear, with factual accumulation and skill mastery. Learning is spiral, with depth and breadth as goals.
Knowledge is absorbed through lectures, worksheets, and texts. Knowledge is constructed through play, direct experience, and social interaction.
Instruction is linear and largely based on correct answers. Instruction is related to central questions and inquiry, often generated by the children.
Disciplines, particularly language and math, are separated. Disciplines are integrated as children make connections.
Skills are taught discretely and are viewed as goals. Skills are related to content and are viewed as tools.
Assessment is norm-referenced, external, and graded. Assessment is benchmarked, has many forms, and is progress-oriented.
Success is competitively based, derived from recall and memory, and specific to a time/place. Success is determined through application over time, through collaboration.
Products are the end point. Products are subsumed by process considerations.
Intelligence is a measure of linguistic and logical/mathematical abilities. Intelligence is recognized as varied, includes the arts, and is measured in real-life problem-solving.
School is a task to be endured. School is a challenging and fun part of life.

I suppose you can say it is the Montessori-style but geared for older children. Some people call it Holistic Learning. It is curiosity-driven, but I love to think that this will be the future of education. It does not stop at elementary, nor high school. When you instill the love for learning (or reading) in a person, you improve a society. They will be better, responsible and kind adults that will improve and enhance our world as we know it.