I dream of amazing learning experiences, and then…

Hasan al Basri wrote, “What is this world but a dream that a sleeper sees?” So today I want to share with you my dream. It’s of a way of educating our children that will draw upon their imagination and potential in a way that we can only dream. Or can we only dream? Dare we hope?
I want education to change, and my passionate belief is that we will never get learners to achieve all that they are capable of, or have the potential to achieve, until the complete focus is on their needs, and not ours, whether we are their parents or teachers. All around the world, from the age of five to seven years, children will begin their scholastic lives not in order to enrich their lives, but for the sake of convenience, and schools begin their roles not as places of learning, but as babysitters.
For this, the blame lies unequivocally at the feet of the parents, who do not ‘do’ enough with their kids to prepare them for school, or being taught, or learning. Most devote little time towards preparing their kids to do as they are asked, when they are asked, and with respect. They have wasted the opportunity of five, six or seven years to prepare their kids for school, preferring to keep them ‘fed and happy’, at whatever the cost, until the school babysitters become a reality.
It’s true. A global analysis of teacher blogs and websites lays bare the challenges facing teachers, the extraordinary resilience they display, yet unfortunately also, a growing attrition rate. Globally, more teachers are being trained, but less of them are being retained.
I dream of a school model based very much more on parents taking a much more active role in their kids’ pre-school development. An active parent would ensure that their child could read and write the alphabet and their own name, before they went to school, wouldn’t they? Surely this would be an intense and fulfilling bonding experience, for both? It would, too, create a climate of compliance and respect for teachers. Parents cannot send their kids to school for supervision, but with an expectation of academic development, if they ‘tie the teacher’s hands behind their back either.’ Failing to support teachers in matters of behaviour management and discipline is a massive no-no.
I dream too of a school learning day that is pitched to a real expectation of ‘learnability.’ Currently pupils attend school for six to seven hours a day, but how much of that time is spent learning? Dr Neal Rojas, M D, a developmental behavioural paediatrician at the University of California, says that “a five to seven-year-old can only focus for as little as four minutes, up to twenty minutes, depending on the task.” I dream therefore, of schools being a complete environment, with pupils having a ninety-minute taught session of quality, reduced numbers of teaching, followed by a ninety-minute ‘play and stay,’ session when the kids can eat, sleep, play, watch TV, whatever their young bodies need, and then go back for another taught session. The potential for two ‘shifts,’ to be run concurrently, at a school, would mean greater use of the facilities, smaller class numbers, less ‘car and bus’ issues, due to the staggered start times, and surely, higher quality learning experiences.
I dream of kids arriving at school eager, participating with enthusiasm and excitement, and leaving with achievement and the joy of learning, all evident in their faces, to be met either at the school gate, or at home, by parents who will get their reward for their commitment to their kid’s development, in their kid’s face, every day.
And so I dream. Or, as Al Basri, understanding that it will never be, concluded, “He delights in it for a few moments, and then wakes up to face reality.”