School pupils should be allowed to fail too

The Scotsman reports that there’s a mantra in Silicon Valley: “Fail fast, fail often.” It’s good enough for some of the world’s most innovative and powerful companies, but it’s not deemed as appropriate for pupils in UK schools. In the current seemingly assessment-obsessed education system, there’s a ubiquitous fear of failure and pupils are terrified to make mistakes. 

Our education system has not evolved and adapted enough to keep up to the pace with which the real world is moving. Is it because of the cost of change or fear of failure that the UK’s education system doesn’t deliver for all pupils in a time of rapid technological development and global uncertainty?  

Within the exam system, pupils are very rarely encouraged to think laterally, as the answer is all too often binary. There’s no middle ground, which isn’t the case in real life, and that’s exactly what a pupil’s school years should be preparing them for. Young people must have scope to learn how to pivot.

The solution to this will take time, and I believe there’s good intention behind all the system’s foibles. Preparing pupils for the world they live in is as much a part of my job as ensuring pupils excel in their Highers. While searching for the answer on how Kelvinside could better prepare its pupils for the real world, I came across an example of a school in America which is facing this challenge head on.

Boston’s NuVu is the world’s leading innovation school. Its method is based on the architectural studio model. Rather than classrooms and subjects, pupils work on multi-disciplinary, collaborative projects. Through this system, pupils get to grips with the creative process and all its challenges, under the guidance of designers and experts from the likes of Harvard and MIT.

Crucially, mistakes are encouraged as pupils navigate open-ended problems which promote peer to peer teaching. Pupils could be asked to be hands-on and tackle any number of challenges from designing a robot to hacking a drone.

This summer, we managed to secure an exclusive partnership to bring NuVu to Kelvinside Academy. While I don’t think our education system is fundamentally broken, it’s time to take a step back and assess alternative models, such as NuVu, with an open mind. Part of why I am so passionate about teaching is because pupils are all so wonderfully different; that’s why we can’t set out to pigeon-hole them.

Read more Ian Munro: School pupils should be allowed to fail too

What do you think? Does this sound like an interesting idea? Please tell us your thoughts in comments or via Twitter ~ Tamsin

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