A. Executive Summary – 150 words
Albert Einstein stated: “It is a miracle that curiosity survives formal education.” When formal education is focussed primarily on standardized test scores aligned to a rigid, predefined curriculum, not only creativity, but constructive engagement, meaningful growth, and simple enjoyment are often excluded from our students’ classroom experience. Our loss in preparing students to successfully meet the challenges of the future is incalculable.
It is critically important that we begin to change this scenario. For over 40 years Education for Life has pioneered an approach that shifts the focus of education to the specific interests, talents, and needs of the individual student. By working sensitively with the child’s level of motivation, and balancing the development of the body, feelings, will, and intellect, the student is prepared to express his or her full potential. We ask for the opportunity to share what we have learned with the rest of the world.
The Problem and the Solution
Education for Life Statement of the Problem
There is a critical problem with student engagement in education that is world-wide in scope and devastating in its consequences. The World Health Organization 1 reports that the percentage of students saying they “like school a lot” falls dramatically between the ages of 11 and 15 – in the USA from 44% to 22%, in Germany: 51% to 20%, in France: 48% to 25%, & in England: 45% to 15%. The Gallup Student Poll2 describes the problem as the “School Cliff” referring to the drop in student engagement from 75% in elementary school to 44% in high school.
Corroborating studies show that 50% of high schoolers in the U.S. chose the adjective “bored” to describe how they feel in school2, 30% “Felt Sad or Hopeless”3, and 17% seriously considered suicide 3. The cover of Atlantic Monthly’s December, 2015 issue asks: “The Silicon Valley Suicides: Why are so many kids with bright prospects killing themselves in Palo Alto?”
The problem is not due to lack of resources, with some of the worst symptoms showing up in the most affluent areas of the world. The problem stems from a widespread misunderstanding about how to engage children in education.
Children lose interest when the focus is on achieving a prescribed set of curriculum goals, instead of on their individual needs, interests, and talents. By reversing the focus, a child’s uniqueness ceases to be problematic and instead becomes the cornerstone of their education, as well as the doorway to realizing their highest potential.
1 World Health Organization: Health Behaviour in School-Aged Children International Report from the 2009/2010 Survey
2 The 2015 Gallup Student Poll
3 U.S. Department of Health: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance System, 2014
The Education for Life Solution
The problem of student engagement is addressed by shifting education from a rigid, curriculum-based focus, to a flexible, personalized approach that emphasizes the needs, interests, and talents of each student. This approach need not ignore traditional curriculum maps, but simply requires that they be flexibly adapted to the receptivity of each student.
Teachers can implement this approach when they have the opportunity to form meaningful relationships with each student. Ideally this means smaller student/teacher ratios, or at least a reordering of school priorities to facilitate such interactions. Once established, these relationships provide the foundation for personalizing each student’s educational experience.
It is essential to train teachers to provide for a broad, balanced development of each child’s potential through cultivating the four “Tools of Maturity”: the body, feelings, will, and intellect. In this way students can develop confidence and ability in many different aspects of life.
It is equally important for teachers to learn to guide student behavior away from narrow-minded, self-indulgent actions toward more mature conduct that incorporates qualities like calmness, empathy, and cooperation. In Education for Life progress along this “Progressive Development” spectrum enables students to experience increased self-worth as they learn to relate sensitively to others’ realities.
The Education for Life approach redefines the role of teacher into one who expertly facilitates rigorous student growth through providing educational opportunities particularly suited to each student’s needs. When students experience this broad, directional style of education, enthusiastic engagement is assured.
Timeline – 250 words
In chronological order, identify key milestones in the implementation process and the timing of when they will be reached. Your proposed solution must be implemented over a period of between three and six years.
Beginning with 13 employees in year #1, Education for Life and Personalized Learning staff will increase gradually to 100 in year #6.
All new buildings incorporate housing for teaching interns.
Support for start-up schools directly affiliated with Education for Life and Personalized Learning begins with $500,000 in year #1, increasing gradually to $3,800,000 in year #6.
Teacher Development Programs (TDP) include the following components: online courses, onsite presentations and trainings throughout the region, residential intern instruction, ongoing support for new graduates, and annual conference/retreats in that region.
Expand TDP in U.S. & Latin America, implement programs in Canada, Europe & India
100 teachers trained; 10 schools in direct affiliation
Portland Model School: finish building
Nevada City Model School: complete dormitory
Continue developing TDP from Year 1
270 teachers trained; 15 schools in direct affiliation
Italy Model School: completed
Slovenia Model School: completed
Continue developing TDP from Year 2, implement Eastern Asia program
720 teachers trained; 40 schools in direct affiliation
Palo Alto Model School: highschool completed
Seattle Model School: completed
Continue developing TDP from Year 3, implement Australia program
2,000 teachers trained; 60 schools in direct affiliation
Continue developing TDP from Year 4, implement Africa program
6,000 teachers trained; 90 schools in direct affiliation
Continue developing TDP from Year 5, implement Middle East program
15,000 teachers trained; 135 schools in direct affiliation
India Model School: highschool completed
Budget Narrative – 250 words
We are asking you to offer a narrative description of your proposed budget, explaining all of your team’s resource requirements. Later, you will be provided a specific format for indicating projected costs.
Our proposal consists of two separate, but related components. Currently, there are six schools that have been founded as models for the Education for Life approach. They have all been “bootstrap” operations, building slowly without significant outside financial support. Each of these schools could use funding to purchase land, construct buildings, and payoff past building-related debt. If selected for the MacArthur grant, 40 million would be used in years 1 – 3 for these purposes, with 10 million set aside to construct a new international high school in India starting in year 4.
The other half of the money would be used to expand our Teacher Development program so that teachers around the world can learn to implement Education for Life principles in their situations. Our financial model uses the first year of the grant as a base point, with efforts focussed on continuing and developing our existing outreach in the United States, Europe, India, and Latin America. We then factored in an annual 50% increase for the remaining 5 years, gradually broadening our efforts to other parts of the world.
The model schools will serve as centers where people can observe the Education for Life principles in action, as well as providing locations where resident interns can receive direct experience with this approach. As our scope expands, we have designated a gradually increasing item of over $10 million to provide “start-up” assistance for new model schools.
TEAM STORY (150 words)
Lastly, we want to understand your motives for participating in this Competition. Tell us how your team came to work on this problem and arrived at this solution.
The core of our team have been meeting online for over a year. Everyone has had extensive involvement with the Education for Life program, and our conversations have been about how to share this style of education with a greater number of students. As a group we recognize that on a global basis most students are still part of an outdated system of education that does not prepare them to succeed in the 21st century in college, careers, and life. When the MacArthur grant came up, we realized that it could provide a “rocket ship” for expanding our ability to train teachers around the world in these principles that we have found so effective. These newly-trained teachers could then serve as the instruments for making positive change in the lives of many more children.