By Walter Yeates
With mounting concerns about the future of public education after Betsy DeVos’ confirmation as Secretary of Education along with lackluster testing results compared to countries around the world, the future of education in the United States is a hot button issue. So much, in fact, that protesters kept DeVos from entering a Washington, DC public school shortly after her confirmation.
While there is much to be concerned about over the next four years, and indeed for the next generation of school kids across America, around the world there are some revolutionary education systems and curriculums being created to cater to under-served and developing populations. The “land of the free and home of the brave” could learn a lot from one school in particular.
The Edopia school in Islamabad, Pakistan was founded on July 5, 2014, and takes a unique approach to education and could provide a framework for solving the issues facing public education in the United States and numerous other countries around the world.
Edopia explains their mission statement as the following (edited down):
Edopia is a community. It is not a preparation for the real world. It is the real world. A place where laughter, choice, passion, conflict and failure is real.
Choice: We believe that learning cannot be standardized. We personalize our learning at Edopia. Other than the core subjects, all classes are optional. Children devise their own timetable based on their aptitude, needs, and desires. We value children for who they are. There is no pressure to conform as long as individuals are engaged in learning and are respecting all people and opportunities in the community.
Voice: Edopia works on an authority-sharing model. The Head of School shares her authority with teachers and students alike. Jaweria sets the parameters of rights and responsibilities for all members. Within these parameters, we respect the voice and choice of everyone. This structure empowers us and encourages us to respect the community. The voice of all members is heard in democratic assemblies, where each member, irrespective of age, has one vote
Mentoring: Edopia is a center of learning for all ages. The administrators and coordinators support all teachers in their endeavors. The teachers mentor all students. Teachers hold small group and one-on-one sessions with the children alongside formal classes. Formative feedback guides academic goal-setting and progress. Teachers help children to reflect on their choices and make informed decisions through periodic meetings.
Edopia is progressive, alternative and democratic.
“Students lead more than teachers,” explained the founder and head of school, Jaweria Sethi. A statement which is the foundation of the curriculum at Edopia:
At Edopia, it is believed that learning takes place best when it is connected to the needs and preferences of a child. A child is not always a passive recipient of knowledge. He co-constructs meaning with his peers and mentors. The Edopian classroom is a dynamic place, with the students moving from group work to individual work in response to their needs and the needs of the inquiries to which they have committed.
Such approaches to learning accommodate multiple intelligences and give each child the individual space to learn and to come to the right answers with their own understanding.
Edopia is a school without walls and learning is not confined by the boundaries of the classrooms. During the choice time, a child can partake in teacher-led projects, work with friends across ages, get extra mentoring, lead independent studies, read, play..even sleep.
I had the opportunity to interview Jaweria, where she shared details about the founding of Edopia, goals for the school, and the guiding force behind the school’s curriculum (video below). This piece is the first in a four-part ‘Inside Edopia’ series where I will take readers behind the scenes of this progressive school in Pakistan. In the coming weeks I will share more of my report and what Edopia is all about.
With education being a major topic of concern for most Americans, it is imperative we learn from successful initiatives being implemented elsewhere in the world in order to ensure our school systems continue to offer the best for your younger generation.
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.
(This piece was originally published on the Huffington Post, and re-published here with permission by the author).