Could Students Design Their Own Education?

An article in the Washington Post describes a high school pilot program (school within the school) where students were given total freedom to decide and implement their education. The students describe the program’s operation in a video. They describe greater dedication, engagement, interest and energy in self-selected areas of interests, skills and competencies and as a result more learning at a faster pace as seen in The Independent Project video.

This self-directed learning concept finds expression over a long period of time in such places as the Sudbury Valley Schools where during five decades K-12 students have determined their entire education apparently with good results and by the recent replication of 22 Sudbury schools in the US and 14 schools in other parts of the world.

A la carte schools allow students to build a personalized curriculum by choosing from 1,000s of courses and vendor programs.

Another example is the concept of unschooling, somewhat related to homeschooling described as “Unschooling places little emphasis on traditional school curriculum and encourages children to learn through their natural life experiences including play, game play, household responsibilities, personal interests and curiosity, work experience, travel, books, elective classes, family, mentors, and social interaction.”

These examples fly in the face of conventional predetermined curricula that trumps personal direction. Might these examples provide clues to break the  precipitous decline in student engagement as shown in a Gallup poll of 500,000 students?