29 June 2020

Does it work?

Have you seen how everybody talks about the educational system of Finland? How eagerly people share posts on facebook about the innovations in Sweden? How they love the ‘no-homework’ approach in skandinavian countries, the no-testing, the-this and the-that? And have you seen how they comment harshly, reprimanding local politicians about our outdated educational practices, comparing them to the wondrous educational systems of the civilized countries? Well, yes, this is all great until a local school tries to bring something new from Finland or Sweden or Denmark. Then, the answer is ‘but children cannot learn like that’! Because in the mind of any adult there is one rule: children learn the way I learned. And since, you, dear parent did learn, why change anything, right? Then your ‘do-it-like-Denmark’ post on facebook becomes ‘don’t-even-dare-to-do-it-like-anyone-do-it-like-we-did-it-50-years-ago’.

Parents come to my school (a very innovative, daring, alternative school) and they like me. They like my teachers. They like my approach. They like my philosophy, my vision, my way of thinking. But at some point they often wonder “Does it work?”. They say things like “ok, but how can you learn without studying at home? or “how can you learn without 176238 handouts and photocopies and extra exercises?” or “how can you learn without memorizing the verbs?” or “how can you learn without carrying a bag full of 56 books, notebooks, notepads, folders, binders, extra notes and sticky notes?”

Because parents love to hear about the ‘new thing’, love to share the post about schools in this other, amazing, civilized world but…they are scared! What if it doesn’t work with their child? At least the old way, the dinosaur way worked with them. Yes, it’s boring, it’s too much, it’s a pain, but oh well, it does work!

And now the truth:

The old way did not really work. This is why so many people with so many certificates can produce so little intelligible English. And even for the ones it did work, it was an accident!

Languages should be learned as naturally as possible.

It’s not nuclear physics, it’s not quantum mechanics, it’s the most natural thing people can learn: it’s only a language! You don’t need any special talent, any magical trick or any thick book. You only need 3 things:

  1. exposure
  2. reason to communicate meaningfully
  3. engagement

So dear parents, when you ask me “does it work?”, trust me, I respect your fear. But I want you to trust and respect me, my expertise, my science, my field, my experience but above all, please trust, OUR human nature.

And yes, your way might have worked. But my (our) way works way way better!

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