‘De-schooling the Education System – sustainable education through a playful approach’ follows and builds up on previous research from the sustainable design presents, futures and studio modules.
Focusing on the British and Austrian (primary and secondary) education system, based on the experiences and familiarity from the researcher, this work opens a critical discussion about the equality, quality, and value of public schools as well as a critical observation of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and ‘STEAM’ education models. Through primary and secondary research throughout the MA Sustainable Design course it was possible to gain a broad knowledge and insight into the field of education. During the course, and with the impact of COVID-19, the subject got more importance and relevance and showed how impactful a qualitative learning environment and method is for the future society.
The research touched various disciplines, including ‘unschooling’, ‘pedagogy of the oppressed’, individuality and different intelligences, alternative pedagogy methods, ‘decolonization of the curriculum’ and ‘decolonization of design’, racism at school, communal learning, and the importance of learning through playing.
The overall research question of this design research project is:
How can design help to make the education system in the UK and other countries more sustainable, adaptable and resilient?
Issues of particular concern include: decolonizing the curriculum, equality, critical thinking, empowering parents, bringing education to the most vulnerable and putting the learner first.
Taking up from previous projects the main research questions for this particular module are:
What is the value of schools in the 21st century in the UK and countries with a similar education system?
How are the design outputs from previous modules fitting with the critical context and adding value to the education system and society?
Thinking about sustainability and why our society isn‘t acting more respectful towards the natural environment and social relations, the core of this issue could be found in education. As one of the 17 UN sustainable development goals, education is an impact and very complex topic to face. Since children are going to be the next generation who have to embrace and live in a circular system shifting away from a linear one, their knowledge and understanding of sustainability must be more engaged with and focused on. The society of tomorrow has to develop different skills and knowledge than the generations before. The problem with the current education system is that it is built on a capitalist and linear model from the industrial revolution. It is not only about what children get mediated, but how educators are communicating knowledge. Everybody has to learn the same, has to achieve the same grades through standardized exams and has to function like a puppet in a rotten system. This issue isn’t new and has been addressed by several advocates earlier. Already in the early 20th century alternatives to the public school system evolved, like Montessori or Steiner Waldorf schools. Research has shown that changing the curriculum won´t change the system therefore it is time to explore this topic further and figure out how design can intervene towards change. The current discussions about Black Lives Matter and decolonization as well as the circumstances due to Covid-19 have pushed this project a lot further and made it even more relevant to present times. They have shown that education is lacking equality and has to be adapted with modern society. The following graphic shows how design can have an impact into the education system.
This design project is based on a very detailed and long-term research about education and its strengths and weaknesses in general. Several interviews and talks with children and parents from unschooled and schooled systems led to the conclusion of creating a game that makes education (and especially school) more enjoyable, valuable and equal with the goal to achieve a change in society on the long run. In collaboration with Elena Hirsch, a student at the school of education in Salzburg, Austria, I developed “Musu.Bi – learning to explore.”
What is the game about?
An expedition on a foreign planet trying to find the missing pieces of the research-robot Musu.Bi to make it possible for it to explore and preserve the planet’s ecosystem.
A game to experience different learning methods, various research options and the real value of education. The game is focused on equality, self-directed and motivated learning, individual interests, collaboration and communication, creativity and diversity. It is developed to de-school the education system, with special focus on the Austrian and English system.
What home educated children profit from their education will be introduced in a playful way to kids at school, but this product can be used in an home educated environment as well.
The children get asked to find the parts of the robot, who got destroyed by a desert storm, on the different continents of the planet “Pangea” through achieving tasks. Tasks are creative and scientific research and learning exercises which the children will accomplish based on their chosen project. Bonus tasks can be done if children are motivated and have spare time to do so, this will gain them special parts to make Musu.Bi even more skilled than before the storm. The players have to collaborate to keep moving from continent to continent with the space-boat. Nobody should be left behind therefore children can and have to help each other to move faster forward.
Goal of the game is to make Musu.Bi function again and to get expert in a topic of choice with a final research output in the end. The children will experience different ways of learning and researching and can develop their own interests and learning style. They will see that education can be done in a fun and free way as well. 21st century skills are going to be addressed and the game fosters equality and self-directed learning since the tasks are easy to achieve for all kind of social environments and schooling models. “Musu.Bi” can be played from 2-30 people (suggested, can be more as well) and is designed for children aged 10-12 years old. The game continues over several weeks, depending on the education model.
The project got attention from several people around the world and has been discussed in the “New Minds 2020” talks conducted by Drop Out. Along with the game “Musu.Bi” the project involves other design research outcomes, including a website that describes each component and context very detailed.
To view the whole MA project please have a look at the workbook or visit: https://auerva29.wixsite.com/deschoolingeducation