Unschooling : Education without schools

Think of a type of education subtracting the whole idea of school and college experience out of it. Too hard to imagine ?  At present the whole idea of educating a child centres around the aspect of sending the child to a school followed by a good college or university  . Primary school , secondary school and then a degree from an university , this is how we define education for an average child. With such a scenario of education in present India , its quite fascinating to think about education without schools and colleges . Unschooling is basically a philosophy or more precisely  an educational method that rules out the idea that schools and college are only the primary source of learning. The term “unschooling” was coined back in the 1970s and used by educator John Holt, widely regarded as the “father” of unschooling. In 1964, Holt published his first book, How Children Fail, asserting that the academic failure of schoolchildren was not “despite the efforts of the schools” but actually because “of the schools”. The book , not very surprisingly ignited a series of controversies and made Holt quite famous during  that time. In his follow up book How Children Learn  he tried to elucidate the learning process of children and why he believed school short circuits that process. Soon enough he turned into a prominent school education reformer , who hoped to initiate a  a profound rethinking of education to make schools friendlier for children.

Unschooling is easily misunderstood as dropping school or college and bringing a complete end to the process of education but actually unschooling is a style of homeschooling in which parents facilitate their children’s natural desire to learn in the real world with the intent of raising happy, kind, mindful human beings. Unschoolers distinguish themselves from other homeschoolers in that there is no set curriculum which must be completed within a certain period of time. To unschoolers, learning is a lifelong process that is best achieved by living, being curious, and being respectful participants in the world community.  Since unschoolers have no fixed curriculum or some specific subjects to study , they get an advantage of choosing their own field of study. They study what they like to study , what they think suits them the most, they have a choice of what kind of knowledge to gain unlike others who are forced into a system where they don’t have a choice except to study and follow what they are told by their teachers . Teachers become their snake charmers , who make then dance the way they want them to , while confining the knowledge of students only to specific subjects that have importance only through the examination point of view. Thus giving unschoolers an edge over the regular school learners in having more versatility.  Learning is all about making connections – connecting new information with what we already know. The best learning is a byproduct of live experiences and a concrete reason to learn is great motivation. With unschooling learning new facts and skills is more of a side effect – bits and pieces of knowledge and information gained while accomplishing different tasks in life and ofcourse while enjoying the fun in it .

But before we come to a conclusion we must also look into the fact as to why the system of schooling so successful, why is it still considered the best method of learning ? Besides the fact that school is a storehouse of  “calculated” amount of knowledge , one important point that puts schools a step forward is that it’s the perfect place of socializing . Thus schools give  you a chance to interact and witness different people with different cultures.  Conversely, if you stay at home all day long, you will probably not be able to meet many such people. Meeting new people and socializing also broadens your parameters of knowledge. Another striking feature that makes schooling a favourite choice for learning is that , schools keep students engrossed in work most of the times. Unless you are much occupied with various tasks, staying without work during the day can be really boring and tiresome. Isn’t it better to attend school rather than sitting idle the entire day?

 The most important things you learn in life are not in a classroom, they are out in the real world, everyday situations that we learn and grow from. Children should learn only to brighten there own individual knowledge and to learn moral values that are actually important in life. The pressure of being important in today’s world is greater than ever. Children feel that in order to succeed in life they have to get good grades and attend universities , thus making them read and learn for all the wrong reasons while the  massive pressure to perform well in academics exist . And such situations and circumstance compel  us to look for alternative methods of teaching – Unschooling.

Inspired by these ideas and ideologies Dale Stephen , an American entrepreneur , speaker , author and an unschooler himself started the Uncollege movement in 2011. It provided resources to students who wish to educate themselves outside the realms of traditional higher education. It believes that structuring your own learning is the ultimate leadership experience as you develop self-motivation, passion, organization, creativity, and confidence. Self-directed learning also involves recognition that one’s learning is never complete and thus the thirst for knowledge never ends. A researcher at the College of William & Mary, Kyung Hee Kim, discovered that average Creativity Quotients, measured by a Torrance test, began to decline in the United States in 1990. Before 1990, CQ scores had been rising with each generation just like IQ scores. Then in 1990 CQ scores in the United States began declining.If we want to improve the human condition we need creative solutions to common problems.By engaging in self-directed learning you are forced to find innovative ways to learn in the real world. In 2013, Dale Stephens released his first book, Hacking Your Education  where he talks about similar ideas and thoughts.

 Louis-Georges Arsenault, UNICEF Representative in India, said at a media roundtable on the “Progress of the Right To Education Implementation” that  “There has been progress in implementation of the Act in the past three years but children are still dropping out, not for labour, but because they are not learning anything in schools” . Such a statement can be a great eye opener  and a motivation to look for alternate education specially in a country where  eight million children have never stepped inside a school and 80 million dropping out without completing basic schooling . If we can’t bring children to schools then why not bring education to their doorsteps instead? And the solution- Unschooling. Instead of making schooling necessary why not provide all resources like books and study materials needed and let the students decide their own curriculum , what they wish to study.

If for a while we let go all our preconception about education and learning and think over the fact that can we improve the process of learning and gaining knowledge by a method of education that does not require any institution to decide what to learn and what not to be. Unschooling is about being open to experiencing all that this mysterious planet offers us. How can reducing things to headings and subjects, homework and curriculums, bells and timetables ever truly allow our children to feel the wonder of it all? They’re born knowing that they have an innate awareness of the world within them. We don’t need to do anything to ‘make’ them learn. We just need to keep our own passions alive and flowing, and to walk alongside our children with our hearts and minds wide open.  Shifting from schools to the method of unschooling is a far-flung step and can’t be expected in one shot.Now may not be the time for implementing unschooling but definitely a time for serious policy discussion on unschooling. A rigorous study and rethinking on this philosophy can prove to be a vital step towards educational   reforms.

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