I spent this morning on a conducted tour of the Belfast Model School for Girls here in Belfast, Northern Ireland. The school has been in existence for over 150 years, but has only been in its current location for 18 months, and has a fine record of distinction as an ICT Specialist School and for work it does with its students in a range of other areas. I was impressed with the degree of passion, care and future thinking reflected in the things we saw and had shared with us. The school has been built as a private-public partnership (PPP) and features a number of innovations in design reflecting the particular needs of this community of users.
During the visit the principal reinforced the success measures for the school, that included the numbers of students going on to university courses and the number succeeding in gaining a job after graduating. Achieving such outcomes would certainly be regarded as ‘successful’ in the eyes of most education jurisdictions, but as Zoe Weil, featured in the video above would ask, ‘is this goal too small?’
Zoe Weil is featured her speaking at a TEDx event in Dirigo. Zoe is the co-founder and president of the Institute for Humane Education and is considered a pioneer in the comprehensive humane education movement.
She challenges us to grasp a ‘bigger picture’ view of the purpose of schooling, suggesting it should be something like this:
“…that we provide every student with the knowledge, the tools and the motivation to be consciencious choice makers, engaged change makers, for a restored, healthy and humane world for all.”
Or, as she explains, “we need to graduate a generation of ‘solutionaries’.”
I’d have to agree. Having been involved in discussions around the building of new schools back in New Zealand, it seems we’re always treading a tightrope in terms of retaining what is valuable in terms of what we are doing currently on the one hand, and being prepared to cast off into unknown territory and be truly pioneering in building futures for and with our students on the other.
I applaud Zoe’s approach and her challenge – it links well with my recent post on educating for global citizenship.