Already, throughout the United States, positive educational change is underway and successes are becoming more visible. The next step needs to be the growing awareness that this kind of educational success is possible for all students and teachers.
The heroes and heroines of the current educational system are those who are no longer willing to use the limitations of existing budget, personnel, physical environment, and diversity of students as excuses for not moving forward. In the foregoing pages you have read about successful researchers and practitioners who are developing creative and innovative ways to overcome perceived obstacles. Their achievements have required a radical shift in perception.
Let’s play with that idea. Throw out any preconceived ideas about schools. Imagine, for example, community learning centers where students of all ages could learn together. Such centers would include not only the education of school-age children, but latch-key programs, day care centers for babies and preschoolers, and programs for the elderly. The advantages are interesting to contemplate. Such centers might be related to small businesses, where students would have opportunities to learn in the workplace as well as in the classroom. The centers might operate around the clock, using the facilities and technologies at night for adult education classes, job training and retraining. Such a system would bring in revenue to supplement education budgets. There are already pieces of such a system coming together in community colleges, community centers, paired business and education partnerships, and the involvement of senior citizens in tutoring programs. It would be possible to create a model for such a community learning center in some community today. The combination of the new strategies for learning discussed in this issue, the new technologies for learning that are increasingly available, and changes in our society make such an approach to learning feasible.
This is but one example of a new perception of the role and form of education. Other possibilities are emerging from various groups which are strategizing new ways to move forward in education. There is much raw material in this issue to work with (see "Resources" in this issue). Perhaps some of the following implications we have drawn may be worth discussing.
Given the information in this issue, it would seem urgent to:
- Recognize that human development is much more complex, richer, and more flexible than many current educational approaches acknowledge;
- Acknowledge and implement what is already known about successful ways to teach and learn;
- Recognize and value individual differences in intelligence, learning style, perception, and culture as strengths through which to learn;
- Convey to parents, guardians, and day care providers their critical role as first teachers, in laying the foundations for the future development of their children. Information and training can be offered through existing institutions, maternity units of hospitals, community centers, schools, and all the media;
- Develop integrative models of education which involve attention to intellectual, physical, emotional, and social development; integrate subject matter areas in meaningful ways that make learning relevant; integrate cognitive, creative, and intuitive processes; integrate process, content, and product.
- Promote intelligent use of technology for teaching and learning, for accessing information rapidly, for exploring thought processes, and for facilitating local and international exchange of information;
- Consider different configurations in restructuring the school day and school year to allow greater variability in class size and flexibility of staff assignments;
- Offer the kinds of information that appear in this issue through schools of education;
- Offer comprehensive in-service retraining to current teachers through interactive teleconferences;
- Promote collaborative, school or community based, shared decision-making models which include teachers, administrators, parents, business people, and students;
- Change educational funding policies to support and reward success!
The continued successful role of any nation in the world community surely depends on the establishment of effective educational systems as one of its highest priorities. The basic research has been done; effective educational strategies have been tried and tested; now their implementation must begin!