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Nonfiction in response to Quality Education
April 2018
By Georgia Bernbaum
CC Image curtesy of hootandflutter

Education is the premise of progress. Education is what propels societies forward and creates a productive economy. So why is it that according to UNESCO, 263 million children and youth are out of school? Goal four of the United Nations’ seventeen Sustainable Development Goals is to ensure inclusive and quality education for all and promote lifelong learning. However there are many impediments to expanding the opportunities for these children including having no teacher or an untrained teacher, no classrooms, a lack of learning materials, living in a country in conflict or at risk of conflict, and the distance from home to school.


Although these are valid limits, the greatest limit is narrow thinking. People still cling to the idea that education in the developing world must look the same, or at least very similar to, education in the western world. Education advocates like UNICEF and US AID are trying to replicate our education system, that has been proven flawed multiple times. In fact, parents in developing countries are beginning to reject the same methods that we are exporting to less developed countries. Many people are now choosing homeschooling or even unschooling as an alternative to traditional education.


Unschooling is an increasingly popular form of education in which the child determines what he or she will study and when. In fact, there are approximately 2.2 million US school-aged children who are currently being home- or unschooled. The Goodowens family of Winter Park, Florida is one of these families who have decided to unschool their children. The Goodowens family has been unschooling their children for two years now and has already seen tremendous improvement. According to Mrs. Goodowens, “academically the children are having a more dignified and authentic trajectory which, while it is happening, you may not see it, but in hindsight, you will see a very specific path and pattern to their completion.” They are engaged in their learning and are not limited by the pre-conceived notions of educators about what is best for the students.


Many of the ideas of unschooling may be the solution to less developed countries problem. For example, with the unschooling method, there is no need for a teacher nor a classroom. The children are self-taught based on what is going to benefit them when they are older. Children in Sub-Saharan Africa can be taught business skills instead of Shakespeare, and right from their home. In addition to this, with the help of One Laptop per Child, a non-profit that provides children in the poorest countries with connected laptops, children all over the world can have access to technology, thus creating even more possibilities.


With the overwhelming amount of children who are without education, it is time for education leaders not to let the limits of our education system dictate the development of other countries. The point is not that everyone should unschool, but that some of the alternative education movements in our country may have lessons which can inform educational development in others. Alternative educational movements remove the physical restraints of western education – the need for a school house, the need for a teacher onsite, the need for a standard school day and calendar which could take labor away from the home, the need to travel long distances to school. It's time we stopped clinging to the idea of traditional education but look at learning through a different lens.

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