No model has, yet, ticked all the boxes for working parents.
In 1907, cities in the US suffered their own kind of plague. As a wave of tuberculosis hit the country, teachers moved schooling outdoors to mitigate transmission amongst young students, according to the New York Times.
Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, people have chosen different models of education to cope with the unpredictable nature of the outbreak. Many schools have closed down completely, although some countries, like Sweden, kept all schools open. We are social beings, after all, they argued.
Let’s face it, this virus could be part of our lives for the foreseeable future, and schooling might never look the same again – especially brick-and-mortar models.
But is that such a bad thing? Perhaps the educational space needed a bit of a shake-up.
At the onset of the pandemic, schools shifted to remote learning. Emergency measures were put in place to accommodate students, teachers and parents. But all the parties involved soon grew disgruntled and sought a return to the old way – the traditional or, at least, a more relatable education system.
No one likes change. But at the very core of these emergency school models, we saw some looking towards a future that’s about more than just educating. It’s about educating students to be future-fit – COVID-proof, as it were.
Moving online, through remote or online learning, scared off quite a few people, even before corona reared its ugly head. Why should a child suffer in isolation? Some kids simply don’t have the self-discipline or struggle to learn by themselves. An online or remote learning environment has been perceived as not being conducive to students’ social development. Plus, there was no or very little support.
Not being able to leave kids alone at home as parents work full-time is another biggie. That’s why so many families chose to keep their children in traditional schools despite social awkwardness, bullying and not fitting in with mainstream educational approaches.
No model ticked all the boxes.
Thus, in the middle of the pandemic, micro-schools or pod schools started popping up in people’s gardens and living rooms. Whether formally organised by schools or arranged ad hoc by parents, pod schools are essentially smaller group-learning setups (3 to 10 students) facilitated predominantly by retired school teachers at a host parent’s home. There are several examples of these in the US and the UK, and now they are emerging in South Africa as well.
Spark Schools uses a combination of in-person traditional and personalised methods of teaching as it “tracks and monitors the students’ level of understanding and progress”. The data collected is used to create a tailor-made learning path for each student to help them to participate in the economy of the future. In turn, Thrive offers individualised educational opportunities and is currently in the process of setting up a micro-school and educational resource centre “offering various and alternative membership options to cater to individual learning styles, students’ personalities and parents’ values’.
Much like cottage schools in the sense that they comprise small groups of students bundled together, often all ages and grades, these school models seek to address the glaringly obvious flaws experienced by families during this pandemic period. Parents, in particular, wanted to be absent parents within this realm; they didn’t want to homeschool or see their kids isolated at home.
While these pod schools offer benefits like socialisation with peers, personal attention and a solution for working parents, it can be very expensive, according to the New York Times. You pay for personal attention as you would a personal trainer, a therapist, etc.
Micro-schools seem attractive in the sense that they could serve as an anchor for a network of schools; however, it is not as scalable as schools that approach schooling in a blended manner.
Sure, they require a lean staff, but teachers are required to teach in-person to a small group of students only. This is not sustainable when we think about educating students to be future-fit. To think critically, students must learn from global teachers, experts and innovators, from classmates scattered globally, and be guided by data that suit their individual learning development.
At Valenture, we use data to track each student’s progress at various points every day. These data allow us to make insightful decisions about a student's individual learning, so we can guide our feedback to every student’s needs and identify any issues before they become bigger learning problems, says Kim Westcott, our Head of Technology.
Our newly launched boutique campuses bring together the best of both worlds for parents who feel the need to send their kids back to school. Students spend their day on a campus where virtual learning is combined with in-person support and experiences with classmates.
Campus life gives working parents the flexibility and peace of mind that their kids won’t be alone at home but will still get to interact socially with their peers and learn alongside like-minded students around the world.
This is a sustainable way to learn the art of adaptability at every turn. Thus, students learn with and from those who are different from them and become globally conscious citizens of the future.