It’s no surprise to me that we’re seeing increasing focus on experimentation with alternative models for schools, aimed at delivering a better and more effective education to prepare young people for the Twenty First Century.

Here’s a new one from a former Google Exec – called AltSchool. Most of the alternative models have common themes; harnessing IT, greater personalisation of the learning experience, more relaxed environments, students working at their own chosen pace driven by their own objectives.

CBS News – AltSchool – The Next Generation of School?

One aspect that is sometimes emphasised in these kinds of projects is about school size (and/ or class size). However, I believe that this may prove to be a red-herring and contributes unnecessarily to stretching the costs of such education beyond the reach of many. Internationally, most research on class sizes has given very weak or ambiguous results. If we look at the US education system as a whole, as the US sought to address issues of weak relative performance on tests like PISA and TIMMS, a lot of money was pumped in to cutting class sizes (and school sizes). However, this brought little or no gain in relative performance in these international comparative tests. Then, as the economy turned down and funds became tight, so class sizes went back up, but this had little or no discernible negative impact.

Do Google ever worry that their company is getting too big to be ‘personal’ or to get the best out of all the people who form its community? I believe this is looking at the wrong issue. I believe that school size doesn’t have to be a driver/ decider about ability to personalise education. In fact, a bigger school can offer students more flexibility in terms of subject choice combinations etc., especially in higher classes. It also offers the economies of scale that facilitate costly investment in IT infrastructure, online curriculum development etc.


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