'Non-school' movement breaking the mould

When a student is struggling with classwork, it is usually their school’s own programs they turn to in order to lift themselves out of their academic rut. 

However, University of South Australia researcher, Dr Thomas Stehlik, says alternative schooling programs could deliver greater learning outcomes for these students.

In a paper presented at the Education and New Developments 2018 Conference in Budapest in June, Dr Stehlik says that the growing ‘not-school’ movement is challenging the confines of traditional schooling because the one-size-fits-all solution for modern education is not working.

“Compulsory schooling is considered a basic responsibility of civil society, yet for many young people, school is a narrow experience that can restrict their potential,” Dr Stehlik said.

“We need to start looking at education from the perspective of the student.”

Dr Stehlik said the not-school movement is about encouraging different educational initiatives and practices that ‘think outside the box’ to provide young people with positive education experiences that they enjoy.

Including all educational programs that occur outside of the school environment, the not-school movement covers activities from art-based initiatives to home schooling.  

Often unstructured and informal, not-school learning can be delivered by adult educators, youth workers, community developers and parents.

Echoing the findings of the 2018 Gonski Report, Dr Stehlik says that today’s mass approach to education is “outdated” and despite long-term calls for change, little change has occurred.

“Young people have different individual learning needs and talents, but when we try and fit everyone under the same standard schooling model, it doesn’t work,” Dr Stehlik said.

“Different educational experiences can provide options for those who do not respond well in traditional school environments, including alternative career and post-school pathways; as well as contributing to an improved sense of identity and well-being.”

Dr Stehlik points to the gap year as an example.

"One in four young Australians take a gap year post-secondary schooling; it’s essentially formal time out of study, yet is looked upon positively as a means to gaining real world experience,” he said.

Dr Stehlik says that Australia needs to think more broadly about how its schools deliver education, particularly given the growing demand for innovation and creativity and other ‘21st Century skills’ that by definition require unconventional teaching approaches.

“Given the increased use of flexible and online learning methodologies, it is surprising that more alternatives to face-to-face classroom teaching are not being considered,” Dr Stehlik said.

He said that while innovation is considered critical for the sustained success of Australian business, this starts with education.

“If we’re not being inclusive of those young people who do not fit the convention, Australia could be overlooking a whole sector of creative and alternative thinkers,” he said.

“We know that one educational size does not fit all. It’s time to ask ourselves ‘What else can we do?’”