You don’t need to be an educator or a parent to appreciate that all children have different aptitudes, abilities and needs. Every young child begins a quest for self-identity that is concerned with finding out whom they are and who they might become. Since there are essentially no pre-determined outcomes we can consider this a journey of open-ended learning, characterized by interaction, experience and reflection.
Schooling, by contrast, is generally quite a closed learning experience. There are usually clear criteria by which you are measured, tests that you may pass or fail which in turn open or close doors to new possibilities. Schooling systems across the globe were designed and built to serve a world in which closed learning was the dominant model, with each generation having to study the achievements and discoveries of previous generations to survive and to live more efficiently.
Today, in the developed world, where subsistence is not the main goal of education, we are seeing a shift towards a society where open learning capabilities are more valuable. We are witnessing a rapid and dramatic shift in the value of information, the evolving roles of teachers and students, and familiar pedagogical models are being challenged and branded as obsolete.
The demand for personalisation – helping students to recognise and assess their own needs as well as providing more diverse opportunities for learning – is displacing mass-production. But while every educator has always had a responsibility to identify the potential of each individual student, to nurture it and provide opportunities for its fulfilment, no teacher, school or college in today’s world can meet all the needs of all of their students on their own.
World ORT is faced with a unique opportunity as well as a challenge. We are a diverse network made up of educational institutions of every shape and size catering to a full spectrum of students from kindergarten to postgraduate level as well as lifelong learners. The richness of experience and expertise within ORT worldwide is inestimable.
It is with this in mind that the Education Department of World ORT in London is trying to complete a massive audit of the whole system, in order to compile a database of educational and training activities and projects across the network. We are seeking to create a continually-updated resource that all of our educators will be able to access, to draw on this pooled wealth, and to be able to provide our students with the best start in a competitive world.