Formal education, today, is packaged learning. The pedagogy is synonymous to the packaging of a product, while the curriculum is the content. Packaged learning is efficient– it is easy to distribute, a fixed package for every grade. It is easy to monitor and assess how that one package is consumed by the child. But it has serious problems.
It is a ‘one size, fits all’ production and distribution for an immensely varied consumer base. It overlooks the unique needs, abilities, and interests of a child. Invalidating their individuality, it assumes authority over what the child should learn at which age.
When all children are assumed alike, laggards appear. Inherently, there is no comparison between two individual personalities. But, when both are provided the same learning, one may absorb it faster than another- which is a difference in preferences and abilities.
In contrast, flexible learning promotes the personalization of learning, catering uniquely to every child. It moves away from the brick-mortar schooling structure, away from the bells which mark the end of a lecture towards a wonderland where a child learns on their own terms.
At the outset, one can think about flexibility in four aspects:
1. Time and place: Education today is timed, usually mornings, and at school. So, if one prefers to learn at night, it is a problem. Flexibility in this aspect is learning when one is the freshest and where is at most comfort. For instance, lounging on the bed in the middle of night with a cup of coffee!
2. Subject: A typical day at school is laden with classes and subjects already decided for you, like an a la carte. When it is flexible, one can learn what they please. They can learn astrophysics followed by guitar lessons right after- it is their choice. There must be a 24/7 buffet for learning. Change your servings with every visit and try something new if you please.
3. Tutors: Currently, for every grade and every division within it, the teaching faculty is fixed. If Lola studies in Grade-3A, they have Ms. Monroe for Math, for the whole year. Their friend may have Mr. Raman whose classes are more enjoyable but that is not an available choice for Lola. When learning revolves around a child, they can experiment with different tutors before they settle for one. Or, they can pick different tutors for different topics!
4. Media of learning: In a packaged framework, only one medium, for instance- a presentation, is used for the entire class of children. Flexibility implies opting for one’s own preferred media of learning. One could like a video for a topic, an audio for another and a book for yet another. One could want videos through and through. If that is what the child wants, let them have it.
The true potential of any child will be harnessed when they are given the power to do so. Flexibility is of paramount importance today if we want a generation ready for challenges of tomorrow.