Educational experts would establish which steps apply... or which group of subjects apply... to advancement to a more complicated area of learning.
Students would advance at their own pace, taking tests at any time they feel ready to take them. Students can "test out" of a step and immediately advance to the next class. For instance, if a student studies at home and masters a "step," then that student needn't take the class, and can advance.
If a student masters a "step" early in the 4 or 6 week lesson plan, he/she can take the test and spend the rest of the block of time in the library or study hall. A teacher might provide a "pre-test" before setting up such a conclusive test at the testing center. The point of school would be... learning.
The idea is to break knowledge into learnable and recognizable pieces. Each step can be studied from a print-out worksheet from the Universal Database of Learning... that anyone can access and print out... and then can also keep for future reference... rather than use a bulky and expensive textbook that they will never see again.
Classes would group students only by which step they are taking. There will be no age specification, except to generally group students as closely by age as can be accomplished. Older students would be kept separate from the younger ones.
Since the classes are only four or six weeks long, if a student does not pass the test... then he/she does not lose an entire year of school or flunk an entire grade. The student just takes the class over again. In the meantime, he/she will advance in the other subjects at his/her own pace.
How it can be done
Tests will be given on testing computers. The questions will be drawn from a computerized pool of random questions to deduce how well the "step" has been understood. There would be no grade per se... a student must only score 85% and it would be considered a "passing grade." A student's portfolio would just show that the step had been passed... not any grade.
These testing computers will be available at all public libraries for the use of anyone who is engaged in independent study. Once a person enrolls and has a student number and picture ID card, a librarian can set up the specific test from its particular website online. Once the test is taken, the librarian would verify and print out the results.
The record of each person's advancement would be kept in a central secure database. Each country might have their own database to track their citizens... or there might be allowance for a student to register on a "General" database if they needed or desired because of problems in their own country. This "General" database would serve well under those circumstances where a nation did not have acceptable practices with their database or when a student transfers between countries.
For those who were schooled under the former method of measuring learning (high school, college, etc.) this learning record would be an addendum to it. For students now in school, tests would be taken in each step... from the very beginning step... to sort through what learning step a student would enter when the "Steps" program goes into effect.
Thus... anyone can take classes, study independently, study online, attend any school, be taught by any teacher... anywhere in the world... and need not pay anyone for their study. The challenge is merely to pass a test in the area of study that interests them... then advance to another "step." Every child would be tracked for his/her access to learning, and if not sufficient... a counselor would address such a situation.
For the benefit of areas of the world where there are no teachers... classes for every step of a multitude of subjects would be accessible on DVDs... in all major languages... for use in classrooms or for independent study. Testing centers would be available in county libraries that will be built wherever possible. These libraries would print out lessons or provide listening booths for classes on DVDs.
It is this computerized testing system... once accessible to communities around the world... that will allow anyone anywhere to study however he/she might be able to... to download worksheets... to read library books or encyclopedias... to watch DVDs... and then to take a test to prove his/her learning on any subject that has been studied.
This is not a new educational model
This model originated at technical schools. At technical schools a class of twenty students study quietly at their own desks, with a teacher nearby to be called upon for help. The teacher is able to give one-on-one instruction to meet the needs of each student. At the end of each working chapter in the lesson plan, the student goes to a testing computer in a sound-proofed room by himself where the teacher has set up the specific test.
The test is at an online website of the book, accessed by the password of the teacher. The questions are pulled from a databank of applicable questions, assuring that they are random and in no particular order. If a student scores 85% correctly it is considered a passing grade and he/she moves on to the next chapter. The teacher can print out the score on that chapter, and then the final score on the entire book.
This is also done with video lessons. After watching a lecture or other lesson on a monitor, the student tests and advances or returns to relearn what was shown.
Anyone anywhere can learn anything
These two devices... the video monitor and the testing computer are really all a person needs for many educational pursuits. Videos can easily duplicate the lectures that are given in universities. Videos can teach anything that a teacher can teach... on any subject in the world.
This can be applied to anything. Thousands of areas of study can be available. Anything learned... either from a NOVA program or from experience in the field... anything... can be measured with a test. Whatever source of information it is, a test can measure skill or learning... and be used as points or credits towards a learning certificate in that area of study or skill.
Thus, authors and producers would provide an accompanying test to their books or their science programs... so that students can prove understanding and knowledge of what was taught. Each item would have a rating as to how advanced the knowledge was, and how many points towards "Accreditation" in a particular subject it should be given.
Experts in all fields of skill and study would establish a set of learning parameters by which understanding of that skill or field of study could be measured and acknowledged. This applies to everything. Music... can be tested... for ability to read notes, know history and biographies, recognize musical instruments, recognize the sounds of instruments, and many other test-able knowledge and skills.
"Education" includes all the practical skills and knowledge that can be useful to a variety of pursuits. People can learn such things as bicycle repair, pet care, farming, farm animal health, fruit and nut tree gardening, food preservation, hygiene, sewing, weaving, and on and on... and earn a "learning accreditation" that can be used in their own businesses or in the larger world of industry.
Lectures, field trips, books, TV programs... all sources of learning would post on their websites a database of test questions with which a student can "prove understanding." The accumulation of a study might eventually earn "Accreditation" in a particular field. There might well be several levels of "Accreditation" in certain fields of study. Some subjects may change requirements "to prove understanding" as such knowledge changes or advances. Professional practitioners might be required to acquire new science as their field advances.
For example: if a student wanted credit in "alternative energy" he/she would have to have points in the wide array of subjects applicable to it. As science advances, the requirements would change to include that new science. Those with earned credits would be notified that the requirements had changed, and to be able to hold accreditation in this subject, the new science must be added to their learning database.
Tests can prove learning and serve as a license to practice in various subjects. The certificate only needs to be printed out.
The possibilities are endless
We can teach hundreds of subjects in our schools... from videos, class work, etc... that previously were excluded from the agenda. Music, ballet, martial arts, languages, and more would be available to any student. Every subject of learning or skill has its own basics, standards, rules, theories, history, historical figures, styles, etc. that can be studied and measured to prove learning and degrees of excellence.
A young person's self-confidence is really gained by understanding their world and being able to function well in it. Many subjects of learning can give this confidence to them. Those subjects would be, for instance:
basic survival skills, first aid, food safety, etiquette, gardening, pet care, basic health and hygiene, how to treat common illnesses, maintenance of a home and a car and other personal property, civics, and other living skills.
Schools would be open from 7am- 9pm, with different shifts for teachers... employing many more in the teaching profession... at whatever schedule they desire... and in whatever subject that they desire. Adults or special needs persons could attend classes at their own pace in the evenings... in age-appropriate surroundings. Rare subjects would be taught by roving teachers who alternate schools with their classes.
How to pay for it?
The money for this total revamping of education will come from those textbooks that will no longer be used in classrooms. The Learning Database would be a permanent textbook, and each step class would use a simple printout from it.
It will come from monies intended for state supported colleges and universities, because all the levels of learning will be available at every school. Colleges and universities would be specifically meant for laboratory lectures in advanced subjects only... those skills that cannot be acquired independently. Universities would be only for advanced lectures in advanced studies. Students would then master their advanced studies in a shorter period of time, allowing more students to attend... at a lesser cost in grants and loans.
This raises the question about the sports programs in universities. This is too American to eliminate. No one wants to lose these programs. But "sports" is also an advanced skill, with sets of knowledge specific to physical and strategic techniques. Each university would have a "Sports College" within the university for the best of all kinds of athletes to advance both physically and intellectually. Every sport... would be recognized and encouraged... and would compete amongst the other Sports Colleges.
Money could come from lessening the need to bus students to school or to provide "after school" programs. Parents would drop children off on their way to work, and pick them up after work. Classes would be available at all times during the day to allow every student access to a block of time for study no matter when they arrived or left. Those students that still needed transportation would be fewer, and thus require fewer buses to serve them.
Money would come from various industries that contribute funds for specific types of training needed by their employees. If an industry needs medical transcribers... then the industry as a whole should provide funding for those classes. It only makes sense that when a company has invested time training their own employees... that that company will adopt policies to attract and keep those employees with better work benefits.
The idea is to count all the monies for all forms of education and then to rearrange them. In the end, there will be enough for all forms of learning.
Day care centers are largely supported by government monies, and are problematic in that it is hard to place children due to available space, especially for infants. Day care centers also try to serve as "pre-schools" and are hardly trained to do this well. And so, day care centers would now be only for children up to age three. Thereafter the children would be taught and nurtured at the schools in appropriate settings by specially trained and accredited teachers. These schools would keep children until their parents picked them up after work, and thus eliminate the unsafe transportation of young children in vans.
After a full round of classes... and what was formerly designated as "school hours," students would have access to playgrounds, sports, dance, arts, music, and food... as they choose. These would be "classes" but would be "peripheral classes." There would also be study halls that provide a quiet place to read or study, or "open halls" where kids could socialize with food and music in a protected and supervised setting.
Report cards? or PORTFOLIOS
Instead of "Report Cards" every student would have a portfolio showing the highest level of "step" taken in a particular subject. It could show subjects of study in a folder-like spectrum... allowing the opening of a folder to reveal all the books and lectures that had been tested in that subject.
Some employers might require a specific level of Mathematics steps. Or, a student could print out all the books and all the programs that he has tested in, to gain acceptance to a laboratory class or other higher learning.
Teachers, students, and parents could suggest classes that enhance a particular area of study. For instance, a science teacher could develop a class called "Rocks" or "Earthquakes" or "The Solar System"... a parent could suggest a class for "Identifying Trees"... a student could suggest a class for "Chess."
These ideas would be researched for text material on the internet or for an available handbook that students could buy (at cost from the school)... and the class would be scheduled and made available for students to sign up for.
If classes prove to be popular, more will be scheduled. If the class does not draw more than a few interested students, then the student should be able to find a book or video on the subject in the library for his own independent study.
The basic idea of all of this... is to give credit for knowledge and learning. If a student earns credit for reading certain history books... independently... he/she will be happily inspired to read more and more. Not for free pizza... but for credit towards their learning portfolio... providing a foundation for a future in which they can prove a rounded learning in many interesting subjects.
A student would advance step-by-step into an absolutely wonderful world of acquiring skills and knowledge... truly competing at his/her own pace and personal will... to achieve their highest potential. Each person... at any age... will be challenged to enhance their lives... thrilled to be able to learn more and more and more... and have that effort acknowledged.