Malcom X, a prominent human rights activist, once said that “Education is the passport to the future, for tomorrow belongs to those who prepare for it today.” With this spirit of education in mind, we are no stranger to the importance of education here in Singapore. We possess the benefit of compulsory education and heavy government spending on schools and educational programmes, and we reap the benefits of education and knowledge from a young age. Many of us are familiar with the physical classroom setting. Desks and seats oriented towards the front of the classroom where the whiteboard is, a teacher standing in front or walking around the classroom conducting lessons. That is one type of school, one that we are familiar with. But what about alternative schools?
With the advent of technology and globalization, schools have also evolved as well. Distinct from the traditional physical classrooms we are accustomed to learning in when we grew up, the children of today are more familiar with the use of technology and different innovative platforms to learn from. For example, look at the Student Learning Space (SLS) system that the Singapore Ministry of Education uses, or the use of Zoom for home-based learning (HBL) (albeit with precautions due to Zoombombing cases earlier this year). The students of today are well-versed and experienced in using online learning platforms and video conferencing applications to boost their education. There are many forms of alternative schools nowadays, evolved to suit the needs of different types of students in varying communities.
These may include first world countries with top tier resources in classrooms, to less developed countries where there is a challenge of procuring teaching resources or even a good space for educating students. In pursuit of equal education for more children, alternative schools have popped up to offer different types of education in differing ways. These types of alternative schools may include internet courses on Coursera or EdX, enrichment centres and schools that utilize a blend of online and offline interaction to facilitate learning, portable schools that mimic traditional classrooms, or even portable schools that harness the power of technology to improve classes. Without further ado, here are 3 types of alternative schools that you may not be aware of.
3 Types of Alternative Schools that exist today:
1. Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs)
Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) are free online courses available for anyone and everyone to enrol in and begin learning. The teaching content spans across multiple fields. You can expect content from the fields of biology to law, management or history, computer science or the topic of happiness and much more. The wide range of learning providers and free education is a large draw for those that cannot afford to go to college for a full-time education, or for those who want to use their spare time at home (or under quarantine) wisely, making it a great choice as an alternative school. Given the wide range of content, it is no wonder that many appreciate these MOOCs and use them for career development, interest-based learning and/or corporate upskilling purposes.
MOOCs also provide opportunities for online credentials, as with edX, in the form of their MicroMasters® programs and Professional Certificates. These online courses are designed by universities for the purposes of deep learning in a specific field, to help people advance in their career. With the online courses, everyone can learn and upskill from the comfort of their homes. Whether you are an engineer by trade, a small business owner, a newly founded start-up or a CEO of a reputable company, the love for learning can be satisfied with free online courses. It only requires one to have a functional electronic device and stable internet (for the download of videos or course materials). To find out more on MOOCs programmes, check out this beginner’s guide to MOOCs.
2. Teleconferencing Schools
Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic all over the globe, there has been a massive shift towards online classes. As countries are enforcing quarantine and social distancing measures, educational institutions have been greatly impacted as well. Schools can serve as hotspots for infection and the spread of the virus if proper social distancing measures are not taken. With that in mind, measures have been taken to greatly shift learning online, relying on the strength of technology to help educational institutions continue delivering high quality lessons that were only previously conducted offline in physical classrooms.
To continue with the expected standards of teaching, educational institutions have modified their blended learning styles of teaching, replacing face to face interactions (for now at least), with video conferences. The Ministry of Education (MOE) has allowed schools to hold lectures and tutorials using the video conferencing platform Zoom, with enhanced security settings in place. With this blend of online work and face to face lessons via video conferencing platforms, students are able to continue their education without fear of a vast drop in educational quality. If they are confused or need clarification on a certain topic, they can easily raise it up during the video conferencing session, whether it be on Zoom, Webex or Google hangouts. For university students who planned on going for exchange in other countries during the summer or winter breaks, the pandemic might have cancelled those plans. With teleconferencing, you can still attend classes from overseas universities to complete a semester online. With teleconferencing as a good alternative school, it helps to bridge the level and quality of education that one can obtain in times of uncertainty and danger.
3. Portable schools that utilise technology for less developed communities
Imagine this: a rural community with less than desirable school infrastructure, non-existent internet access, unstable electrical sources, a lack of quality teaching materials and teachers. The constraints that the community faces would mean that schools that use teleconferencing are ruled out, as are online courses or learning that heavily relies on the use of technology. In fact, we should not be able to even use technology to teach at all, right?
The Patatas’ handy product CaseStudy proves that you still convert any settings into an alternative school. CaseStudy is a cost-effective digital solution that is meant to operate in unfavourable conditions and yet retain its utility and customizability to the needs of users on the ground. It can be used in areas without internet or a stable electrical grid, and still provide a technological edge to education.
A sturdy waterproof, shockproof and durable case containing portable projectors and speakers, CaseStudy can be deployed to operate as a classroom and provide teachers with audio, visual and database information support. It even has the capability to download Wikipedia for offline usage. Imagine the power of possessing an offline encyclopedia of knowledge! This can help to raise the level of teaching material, as Wikipedia contains a wealth of varied information. From content knowledge in the community’s native language, to the fundamental subjects such as mathematics, the sciences, and art, simply use the projector to display the content and start teaching. The projector can work on a sheet of canvas or on a blank wall, overcoming any infrastructural deficiencies that the environment may pose. With the projector, classes can be held in both day and night-time settings, effective and efficient for both children and adults who want to learn (especially if they have day jobs and can only come for class at night).
CaseStudy uses solar energy, as well as a power bank to charge its devices. The digital devices can also be used offline, which means that your lessons can be conducted rain or shine on full power, and it does not have to rely on a stable internet connection or a local electrical power source. As a portable unit capable of providing technological resources to disadvantaged communities, CaseStudy is a useful tool for Non-Governmental Organizations, youth workers, corporations or volunteer groups seeking to leverage technology to help improve education in disadvantaged communities.
The power-packed processing core of CaseStudy is a Raspberry Pi, a credit card sized microcomputer that keeps your learning resources safe in hand. Who says technology for education needs to cost a fortune? The mini computer that is the Raspberry Pi is cost-efficient and powerful, allowing you to store learning materials such as PDFs, PowerPoint slides, question banks and/or worksheets, ensuring easy access to quality pre-prepared learning materials even when there is no internet connection. As compared to tablets, Chromebooks or even laptops, the raspberry pi is much cheaper and convenient to bring around and set-up with the speakers and projector. With CaseStudy, we provide the tools for you to create meaningful teaching experiences, leveraging the power of technology to bring teaching to the next level.
Here is a video featuring CaseStudy:
The Patatas is a social solutions consultancy based in Singapore that works closely with interested groups for worthy social causes. We are driven by the need to do good and effect change in our sphere of influence and experience, innovating to come up with ingenious solutions for interested partners to effect positive change in communities. Using CaseStudy as an alternative school, we hope to provide quality education in areas where the communities are faced with infrastructural or material challenges.
Check out the projects that we have undertaken throughout the years! You may notice that CaseStudy is a project built on the lessons gained from our pilot and longest running project Digi-Eskwela. With the learning points gleaned from observing Digi-Eskwela, we tailored CaseStudy to market a type of alternative school that organizations and volunteers can leverage on to improve educational quality and opportunities in areas where it may be difficult to do so.
What forms of alternative schools do you like best? Would you like to work with us in creating social change and enhancing education? Check us out on The Patatas, drop us an email at email@example.com or follow us on facebook for more information!