The best schools in the world embrace the idea that education is an investment in the future. That means adapting to a constantly changing world.
Innovation can look like lots of things — incorporating new technology or teaching methods, going on field trips, rejecting social norms, partnering with the local community.
It can be a floating school in an impoverished region, like the one in Lagos, Nigeria.
Or it can be a school that’s blind to gender, like Egalia, in Stockholm, Sweden.
Keep scrolling to see what the future of education can, and probably should, look like.
Makoko Floating School. Lagos, Nigeria
In the floating neighbourhood of Makoko, the school for all ages serves as a communal learning space and example for future building projects in Africa’s coastal regions.
Makoko’s triangular frame is three stories high, built to resist rising water levels in the lagoon. At 1,000 square feet, the school (created by architecture firm NLÉ, the Heinrich Böll Foundation and the United Nations) includes a play area, compost toilets, and classrooms, all of which can house up to 100 students or residents.
Ørestad Gymnasium. Copenhagen, Denmark
Ørestad Gymnasium is one giant classroom, where 358 high school students learn in an expansive glass cube — a ‘gymnasium,’ as parts of Europe still call secondary schools — to avoid traditional instruction.
By encouraging students to collaborate in wide-open settings, the school hopes kids will be equipped to think flexibly on diverse topics later in life.
‘We want to have teaching where the students make research and work together in solving real problems,’ headmaster Allan Kjær Andersen. ‘So we want to be an open school that is in connection with the outside world.’
The open spaces, which are adorned with equally spacious ‘drums’ for a more relaxed learning environment, encourage students to assume an active role in their own education. Kids break off into groups and form makeshift classrooms, sometimes with teachers to guide them.
Egalia Pre-school. Stockholm, Sweden
The Egalia school system is founded on total equality between students. The system is made up of two schools, Egalia and Nicolaigården, which reject gender-based pronouns in the hopes of grooming kids to think of one another. (as equals)
Instead of ‘he’ and ‘she,’ kids are either called by their first names or referred to as ‘they.’ It’s part of a mission to avoid discrimination of all kinds.
‘That (includes) gender, religion, age, class, sexual orientation, gender expression, disability,’ says Headmaster Lotta Rajalin. ‘This approach is imbued in every aspect of our day to day work with the children as well as in how we interact with the parents and each other.’
AltSchool. San Francisco, California
AltSchool is a complete departure from traditional education, shirking the traditional testing model for one that improves technology skills and gets kids thinking flexibly so they can adapt as the world changes.
Kids turn everyday objects into circuit boards and learn 3D modelling to build playhouses, all in the pursuit of feeling comfortable with the future that greets them.
‘The school experience can be so much more than consumption of facts and figures,’ CEO Max Ventilla. ‘We should be educating children from a whole-child lens where they learn to solve problem, social-emotional learning is prioritised, students should be part of the goal-setting process, and so on.’
AltSchool is quickly growing. The school, which educates kids from ages 4 to 14, began in San Francisco in 2013 and is now expanding to Brooklyn, New York, and Palo Alto, California. In the future, AltSchool plans to go.
Steve Jobs School. Amsterdam, The Netherlands
Like its namesake suggests, the Steve Jobs school rejects the conventional wisdom in full: Instead of corralling kids through the same educational system, they go at their own pace.
Maurice de Hond, the school’s founder, tells Tech Insider that each student begins with an Individual Development Plan (IDP), which is evaluated and readjusted every six weeks by the child, his or her parents, and the coach. (The school doesn’t call them ‘teachers.’)
‘Based on the outcome of the IDP,’ de Hond says, ‘the child is offered new personal learning challenges and instruction moments to choose from.’
All students in the 4th to 12th grade school receive iPads fully loaded with apps to guide individualized learning. The goal is to get kids designing their own education.
‘In a Steve Jobs School,’ de Hond says, ‘no child is an exception as every child works at its own pace nationwide.’
Carpe Diem Schools. Aiken, Ohio
The Carpe Diem school look more like an office building than a classroom.
Inside the main room, known as The Learning Center, there are 300 cubicles (one for each student). These cubes house a computer that guides the student through his or her education.
‘We personalise education,’ Carpe Diem CEO Dr. Robert Sommers tells Tech Insider. ‘We start by understanding the student and then adapt our work to meet their needs to succeed.’ If students have trouble with their online learning, they can turn to instructors for help.
It’s a model that has paid off big time in the handful of Carpe Diem schools, which go from grades 3 to 12, across the US.