Why doesn’t Kuwait have any charter schools? These are independent publicly funded schools (no tuition, religious affiliation or selective student admissions), but are separated from the rules of the Ministry as long as they abide by agreed upon performance standards.
A charter school is authorized to function once it has received a charter, a statutorily defined performance contract detailing the school’s mission, program, goals, students served, methods of assessment, and ways to measure success.
The point is that they end up experimenting with better methods of teaching without being restricted by bureaucracy, while still being held accountable for student achievement. Successful examples in the US include High Tech High and Seattle Girls School.
I would love it if we had such choices in Kuwait. Most of the private schools are getting too expensive for most people and are attracting rich, spoiled kids that demand special behavior because they’re paying exorbitant fees. Students start developing an feeling of entitlement which defines their behavior throughout their lives. Public schools aren’t any better, but that’s because they lost interest and have settled on a comfortable rut that no one in power wants to change. A little competition can’t hurt.
Update: If not charter schools, then at least strictly not-for-profit private schools. It’s the profit motive that, I think, ruins most private schools.
Later Update: The reason why i’m asking for this is that education, like security and healthcare, is a right and not a privilege. Public schools have no innovation and their ability to develop well-rounded, curious and creative young men and women is weak. They teach to the test and have been stuck with the same curriculum taught in the same way for generations.
Experimenting with charter schools, or at least non-profit private schools, is simply a way to disrupt this stagnation. It will show that there are alternatives to the way we teach. If I was in charge of a school, i’d make these changes:
- Have a much later starting bell than usual, in the region of 9am. The school opens as early as 6:30, and parents would be free to drop their kids in anytime they want. Breakfast would be served in school for those that don’t have time at home. Kids that are there early can work on their projects or just socialize with their friends.
- Mandatory 15 minute exercise for students and faculty first thing in the morning.
- School would end much later than normal, somewhere around 4 or 5pm. They wouldn’t be expected to do any homework, all work is done in school. That means that they don’t carry their books home. Most kids don’t have good work spaces at home, and some have loud or disruptive home environments.
- Lots of extra-curricular activities (teachers would be encouraged to each start something in a field that they’re passionate about, for example astronomy, chess, wrestling, dance, gardening, cycling, etc) Every student would have to pick two or three activities as part of their schedule.
- Students would be served lunch in school at around noon, a healthy, nutritious lunch that’s made specifically for each student (there would be a nutrition specialist on staff that would ‘design’ each child’s menu for the year, based on clinical tests and physical exams. And no, I don’t think that’s crazy)
- Major emphasis on creativity and self-empowerment. There’s a test at the end of the year, but the weight of the test would be much less than usual. Team projects will be a main tool of education. The aim is teach kids how to learn.
- Much smaller classes than usual, depending on the subject and students.
- Troublemakers would be weeded out of the normal classes and put together with each other. They would be taught through tough, discipline oriented methods. They would have a second chance to go back to Gen-Pop, but only if they behave and work hard. This idea is from Season 4 of The Wire.
- No useless technology. Sometimes schools think that simply having technology will replace the act of teaching. Technology is a tool, and using it in the wrong way wastes time and money. Only stuff that works and is proven effective will be used.
- Community awareness. The kids would be constantly involved in local initiatives, cleaning up the park for example, or proposing and enacting changes to things they decided needed to change. Basic acts of micro-democracy and showing how when people organize and get involved, they can make stuff happen.
- Students will be constantly encouraged to make things. The school should have a pervasive and contagious feeling of creativity and experimentation. Students are taught not to say what they’re going to do, but what they did. Wet labs, wood shop, photography studio and dark room, art space, a theater. There’s always something happening.
There’s no way that this school could exist as part of the Ministry. It has to be separated from the rules that govern all public schools. I don’t see it being successful as a private, for-profit school, either. The motivation there is to make money, and that drive supersedes the desire to teach honestly and enthusiastically.
It has to be independent from the rules and not driven by profit. The only options are charter schools (free, public schools that are accountable to the Ministry, but don’t follow their rules) or a non-profit private school.