Bringing down the borders

As the Egyptian army finally close up the last gap in the wall, and Gaza is cut off once more, I find myself pondering the nature of borders, power and ownership as I plod through the six am run….and recall the following from late last year:

‘De-bordering (‘Entgrenzung’) of education’…..a concept to conjure with, first heard during discussions about the revised Curriculum with English Heads of Department at the end of last year.

It is an tantilising idea to conjure with. One might start by contemplating, at a micro-level, what this might mean iin a practical, school-wide context. Education at secondary level in a typical high school is as bordered as those agricultural landscapes you might glimpse from a plane, all stone walls (stone walling…?) and fences, plots guarded and fields carefully demarcated. The secondary school is traditionally one of subject specialisms, the English teacher, the Chemistry teacher, the Maths teacher…each one us ploughing the rich soils of our curriculum area, clutching our allotted lesson time in the face of extra-curricular activities and sporting fixtures. The timetable herds the kids from paddock to paddock, releasing them for occasional grazing time. I recall Jane Gilbert’s notions of the school as battery farm in an early Knowledge Wave lecture and consider that little has changed. And I can’t help but picture the fabulous video for Pink Floyd’s ‘Another Brick in the Wall’, either….

And yet, beyond the traditional classroom walls and timetabling constraints, educational borders are being chipped away in attempts to offer integrated, co-constructive, authentic learning for today’s young people. Consider:

  • the power of Web 2.0 tools in connecting schools on a national and global level, to engage in any-time any-place learning;

I consider, too, that the revised Curriculum offers us another way to de-border education, if one takes the concept of the traditional teacher-student relationship as one that, in terms of a power, is often one of divide. While some might groaningly dismiss the Curriculum as just another educational change with which to contend, we might instead embrace some of its intent with cautious enthusiasm.

The idea that students’ own learning might be at the heart of educational decisison-making, that the student might take ownership of that learning and work alongside the teacher in a partnership, could be another moment of de-bordering, were it to be successfully implemented. Admitttedly, it might be argued that any approach, implemented by teachers, retains the power for the teachers, but I suggest that secondary schools might, instead, take the opportunity to look for ways to hand the keys to the doors and gates over to the students. Or to look for ways to remove the fences and integrate the learning in a way that gives relevance and meaning to the school experience.

After all, how much of our own real education truly happens in a dedicated educational setting? If some of my learning can occur on the way up the hill, as the sun rises, listening to the radio, why can’t the same be said for our students?….

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One thought on “Bringing down the borders

  1. If we place students at the centre of their own learning so they are following their own interests then they will be motivated and what they learn will be considered by them to be relevant. I’m planning to create a blog for my students later on this term. (I had thought about running a blog for each class but this will probably be too unwieldy).

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