Educational Models – Part I

Educational models are the foundation from which all learning takes place. While educational models vary from country to country, there’s one thing they all have in common. The commonality is they dictate how teachers teach and students learn.

An educational model encompasses all the different educational theories that are accepted as meaningful and the approved teaching methods being used within the classroom. Educational models are designed as a guide to determine how schools operate, the curriculum they focus on, and pedagogy in general.

If your educational model is built on a national curriculum with flexible timetables and teacher choice in regards to delivery, you would have a very different experience teaching or learning than you would with an educational model that’s based largely on reaching age-related benchmarks and assessing students with standardized testing.

Understanding the educational model of a country is important because it illustrates both the goals and priorities of that government.  By comparing educational models between various countries, you can tell which country has a very high standard of education with an emphasis on competitiveness among students and which countries promote teamwork and collaboration.

As a global leader, the educational model of the United States is often studied and debated. That’s because so many educational leaders, politicians, teachers, parents, and students feel a the current educational model of the US is outdated.

Going by data alone, the United States is falling behind many other countries in both academics and innovation.

The educational model in the United States:

  • Is heavily influenced by the 18th-century public school education system in Prussia under Frederick the Great.
  • Is often referred to as a Factory-Model of education.
  • Provides free and compulsory primary and secondary education to all children.
  • Groups students by chronological age rather than abilities or interests.
  • Incorporates mandatory standardized testing for certain grade levels and subject areas
  • Influences school building design reflected in the fact that most schools have similar-sized classrooms on either side of long corridor-like hallways.
  • Includes a school calendar with a long summer break to escape the intense heat of summer in non-air-conditioned buildings.

While there are some exceptions, namely private schools, specialized charter schools, and virtual schools, 90% of American students attend public schools that strictly follow the current outdated educational model.

That means that nearly 50 million students are currently learning under an educational model that may work for some but certainly doesn’t work for all.  The question is, how can we, as a country change this model to meet the needs of today’s students.  Only by change will we be able to compete on the world stage for innovation and thought leadership.