There are many who want to suspend or cancel the implementation of Senior High School in the K-12 program for lack of readiness. But K-12 is now upon us and postponing it is no guarantee it will be for the better. For how long should the postponement be if nothing much was done in decades past? The traditional approaches of building more classrooms, printing more books, and hiring more teachers will never be enough. Government and education planners will continue to play catch-up with growth and shifts in population. This is even assuming that the hired teachers are all qualified for 21st-century quality teaching.
It is time to consider drastic, non-traditional solutions that are cost-effective, efficient, and, learning-effective. These are specific, measurable objectives that have to be embraced first, with a passion that borders on necessity and urgency. Necessity as a mother of invention still rings true. But short of invention, innovation will probably suffice. These innovations should challenge traditional metrics. Student ratio of 1:50, for example, need not be an iron-clad rule, especially if it is now possible for one to address 50,000 students worldwide just as effectively. Traditional scheduling (Monday-Friday, 6 hours a day) should give way to online, asynchronous learning at least for some subjects. Why should students carry backpacks three times their weight, if learning materials and resources are available in abundance in the cloud? What is needed are teachers who can curate information, guide students, and facilitate online collaboration.
Student evaluation, faculty ranking, certifications, and performance evaluation need review. These are management control considerations that could influence teacher behavior and performance. The regulatory environment should also find ways to adjust.
On a positive note, it is not true that the last great innovation in education was Gutenberg’s printing press. There are dizzying developments that bode well for education, although many are happening outside of academe. Nevertheless, if a medieval student were to somehow travel in time to today’s classroom, chances are he will not notice much difference. He will still find students arranged neat rows like the barrel type classrooms of old, with the teacher in front delivering his lecture for the day. Time for change indeed.