This is the fourth edition of the Inside Edopia series, focusing on an alternative learning school located in Islamabad, Pakistan. The first, second and third editions are also available in our archives.
By Walter Yeates
Many have aspirations of becoming an entrepreneur, yet aren’t sure of the direction they need to take in order to create a successful business venture. Other hopeful entrepreneurs are hesitant to start their own business due to the fear of failure. Women, especially have unique challenges when going into business for themselves. With these unique challenges in mind, the Edopia School in Islamabad, Pakistan attempts to prepare their students for a future in business.
Life Skills and Community Engagement (LSE) Week is a key part of the progressive Edopia curriculum. The monthly program allows students to immerse within life skills activities, and they do not participate in regular class instruction during LSE week. Recently, the Edopia staff challenged their students to develop business plans. The idea was for the two winning teams with the best business plan would receive funding to start their own small business, with only directional aid from teachers.
The groups who came up with the best business plan ranged in age from 9 to 11. The Freaky Pops and Garden Gnomes concepts are currently being run small businesses from the Edopia School. Below are members of the Freaky Pops group describing the process of developing the idea, comments on failure, and their future goals for Freaky Pops.
The environment in which Edopia and other progressive, democratic schools foster provide reasoning for why students at such a young age can develop complex business ideas. The University of Vermont describes progressive education as the following:
During most of the twentieth century, the term “progressive education” has been used to describe ideas and practices that aim to make schools more effective agencies of a democratic society. Although there are numerous differences of style and emphasis among progressive educators, they share the conviction that democracy means active participation by all citizens in social, political and economic decisions that will affect their lives.
The education of engaged citizens, according to this perspective, involves two essential elements: (1). Respect for diversity, meaning that each individual should be recognized for his or her own abilities, interests, ideas, needs, and cultural identity, and (2). the development of critical, socially engaged intelligence, which enables individuals to understand and participate effectively in the affairs of their community in a collaborative effort to achieve a common good.
These elements of progressive education have been termed “child-centered” and “social reconstructionist” approaches, and while in extreme forms they have sometimes been separated, in the thought of John Dewey and other major theorists they are seen as being necessarily related to each other.
Academic philosopher John Dewey explains the importance of progressive education in developing practical skills for students and injecting life back into the learning environment:
We must conceive of [schools] … as agencies for bringing home to the child some of the primal necessities of community life … as instrumentalities through which the school itself shall be made a genuine form of active community life, instead of a place set apart in which to learn lessons …
As one enters a busy kitchen in which a group of children are actively engaged in the preparation of food, the psychological difference, the change from more or less passive and inert recipiency and restraint to one of buoyant outgoing energy, is so obvious as fairly to strike one in the face …
By] the introduction into the school of various forms of active occupation … the entire spirit of the school is renewed. It has a chance to affiliate itself with life, to become the child’s habitat, where he learns through directed learning, instead of being only a place to learn lessons having an abstract and remote reference to some possible living to be done in the future. It gets a chance to be a miniature community, and embryonic society. To do this means to make each one of our schools an embryonic community life, active with the types of occupation that reflect the life of larger society.
The democratic nature of progressive education allows for students to have an equal say in the learning community no matter their gender identity or sex. The democratic educational philosophy could also help curve the adult illiteracy rate among women across the globe, recent studies estimate that approximately 496 million women over the age of 15 are currently illiterate.
Loving Learning: How Progressive Education Can Save America’s Schools explains how the progressive education model develops critical thinking skills in students:
The most skillful teachers know how to tolerate the ambiguity of experimentation. They also know when to step back and pretend they’re invisible. That’s why, whenever I observe in a classroom, I like to measure the ratio of “teacher talk” to “student talk.” When the ratio tips toward the students, it often means kids are testing their critical thinking skills. A noisier classroom is much harder to manage, but often more productive.
I worry that today all too many conventional classrooms are returning to the teaching style that Pratt and her contemporaries found so deadening: with students sitting quietly at desks, fearful of making any sort of mistake, as they listen to teachers assuming the role of the “sage on the stage.” In contrast, as [Caroline] Pratt wrote, in her school, “nothing was fixed, nothing stayed put, not even the furniture; above all, not the children!” She welcomed the messiness and failure that gave students and teachers alike the opportunity to learn from mistakes.
The interview below features members of the two groups which created the best business plans during LSE Week. The students go into detail about their businesses and how they hope they can grow in the future.
[This post was first published on The Huffington Post and republished here with permission from the author.]
Walter Yeates is a journalist who has covered Anonymous and was embedded with Veterans Stand For when they traveled to Standing Rock. Throughout his young career he has published hundreds of articles in the realms of entertainment, news, and sports. He graduated from East Carolina University with a double major in Political Science and Philosophy.