Have you ever felt like you don’t fit the mould? Worse yet, have you ever felt like your child doesn’t fit the mould? That they are behind somehow? That their quirks make them different or difficult? The social constructions and arbitrary standards of our society seem like ill-fitting clothes on all of us. Seemingly bearable, yet slowly draining us of our zest for life.

Parents know that babies develop at differing speeds, yet still compare them. As time goes by this comparing seems to spiral out of control. We believe that standardized tests can measure a human. Label it. Fix it. Mould it. Repeat.

Up until now, children needed to squeeze into moulds for the education system to work. If they fail to fit the mould, they are deemed failures on all fronts of life, yet the education system hardly misses a beat when this happens.

An ancient Jewish proverb gives us an answer to this truly modern problem. Train up a child in the way he should go (according to his unique bent) and he will not depart from it.

Children need to be allowed to flow in their natural inclinations and abilities. Is a standard curriculum helpful? Sure. But does it have to be the beginning and end? No.

If we consider that each child is unique, that each family, community and country is unique, is it farfetched to think that there might be multiple routes to achieve lasting progress? Of course not! The one-size fits all solution seems to elude us. I dare say that is because it doesn’t exist.

According to Anthony Robbins change is inevitable, but progress is optional. In the education arena it seems change is abounding, but progress is minimal. Most people have heard and understood that the current state of education is dire. Not just locally, but globally. Every which way we turn statistics all point to a sinking ship. Yet we cling on for dear life.

This is the day and age where anything and everything can be tailored and customised. Vast industries are being revolutionised and entirely new industries are being built upon this phenomena: except education industry. Policies, methodologies, curricula, approaches and many more educational endeavours have progressed, but the one thing that has remained unchanged is the system itself. No matter the wonderful teachers, ideologies and policies it remains a fact: the longer we contain learning in a factory model the longer we will produce, as David Brooks put it ‘docile subjects and factory workers’.

As a wife, of an intelligent husband who struggled at school and university, and mother of two typical boys, I am increasingly concerned.

Most boys don’t fit the ‘be quiet, sit still, raise your hand and speak politely’ mould. Not without tremendous difficulty, that is. As a woman, but also as a teacher, learning support facilitator and child counsellor, I’ve also come to terms that most girls don’t either. They’re just must more inclined, for whatever reason, to conform to predetermined and clearly defined roles. Being more relationally orientated we seem to have a proclivity to please people.

In many, if not most, people’s minds education is the process of receiving or giving systematic instruction, but look and see where that kind of thinking has taken us. What would our world look like if we could rather change our default perception of education to “an enlightening experience?” How would we choose a school for our children? How would we choose to let them learn? Learning is natural and will happen, no matter how hostile the environment, but it will either be stunted or it will thrive.

Join me as I venture into this new and wondrous world of enlightenment with children via the Aventure Learning Centre.

 – Desiree Uys