Primary, or what others know as elementary or preparatory, schools operating on a digital base are on trend to evolve faster then secondary/high schools, and to adopt an ever higher order mode of teaching, with all the concomitant implications. The pathfinder primary schools are that step ahead in their evolution of their secondary counterparts and are on course to remain so.
While the difference is not great between the pathfinders, as previously indicated those as yet rare early adopter high schools are where they are today because that have been on their evolutionary for the past 15-20 years.
While the high schools are as indicated (Lee, 2014) encumbered with a sizeable number of challenges most primary schools not only are better positioned to undertake the evolutionary journey but also on present indications are likely to encounter fewer obstacles on their journey.
The general trend, at least for the foreseeable future is for the difference to grow.
A consequence that we are already seeing with the pathfinder primary schools globally is that their graduates are moving, and will increasingly be moving from a higher order digitally based mode of teaching, where the children naturally use their own digital kit to a lower order mode of teaching in the high school teaching where the use of the student’s technology is often still banned.
Not surprisingly the students and their parents are frustrated and invariably they are looking for those high schools where the disconnection is least.
It is a development that has very real student enrolment implications for the high schools.
However on present indications it is a development that most high schools could struggle to redress in the near future.
While not for a moment seeking to defend those high schools wedded to the paper based world the strong suggestion is that
- the different rate of evolution between the primary and secondary schools be better understood, by both primary and secondary educators and the parents and students informed of some of the main impediments potentially impacting the high school
- the evolution of the two sectors of schooling be viewed separately and while understanding that both will ultimately move along the same evolutionary path and move through the same evolutionary stages the high school evolution will in general terms be slower.
In making the latter observation it must be stressed that one is talking in general terms, knowing full well there are secondary schools years ahead in their evolution than some barely moving primary schools.
It should also be underscored that the primary – high school difference is also likely to be evidenced within K-12 schools, albeit possibly slightly later if the school has adopted a middle school model.
Related is the importance of high schools comparing their evolutionary journey with that of like high schools and most assuredly not the typical primary school. One needs compare oranges with oranges.
The now clear and challenging reality, as yet few are seeing, is that the primary schools in general will evolve at an ever greater rate, in so doing increasingly adopt a digitally based, ever higher mode of schooling apposite for a networked world, very often moving their graduates into a more dated educational experience.
In bears reflecting why this might so.
The reality is that the traditional form, size, focus, culture, mindset, teaching of the primary school, coupled with the greater collaboration between the school and the home makes is that easier for astute primary school principals to orchestrate their school’s on-going evolution than their high school counterparts.
Size and the relative smallness of most primary schools, and in turn the significantly fewer staff makes it that much more manageable to shape the desired ever evolving, evermore integrated, complex and higher order school ecology.
Primary schools have for decades had as a focus the learner and the desired holistic learning of all children, and when coupled with their use of an organisational structure with set classes or class groupings that emphasis provides a ready platform upon which to enhance all the staff’s macro understanding of the school’s workings and to collaborate evermore closely with the children’s homes.
Rarely does the primary school have the largely autonomous, subject based faculties or ‘empires’ found in the high school where middle managers are often reluctant to cede their power or vary their micro focus.
Rather the focus of all staff, the principal, the executive, the teachers and the professional support is a quality holistic education for every child. That focus, that thinking is relatively easy to build upon as the school begins lowering its walls, seeks to take advantage of the educational opportunities of the networked world, begins collaborating with its homes and community, and marrying the in and out of school learning and teaching.
Where genuine collaboration between the school and the home in the secondary years has invariably been minimal there is scarcely a primary school where the early childhood teachers have not worked closely with the parents. Once again that is a base that can be readily built upon and extended across all the primary school. In contrast most high schools have rarely collaborated with their homes, they unilaterally controlling the in school teaching and learning and as such in moving to a digital operational base and recognising the very considerable value of collaboration are basically having to start from scratch.
Importantly, except in the likes of England, most primary schools across the developed world have not had to contend with the stultifying external paper based exams that markedly impact the workings and thinking of the upper secondary school.
In brief it has been, and continues to be that much easier for the primary schools to move to a digital operational base, to build upon the opportunities availed, to ready their total staff and the wider school community for the on-going evolutionary journey and to evolve at accelerating pace.
That said there are as indicated a small cadre of secondary schools globally that have overcome the particular challenges of their sector and evolved their school to the point where they are operating as a networked school community, virtually normalising the whole school use of the student’s own choice of digital technologies. Most as indicated (Lee and Broadie, 2014) have been on their evolutionary journey for many years or are newer schools where the foundation principal has been able to select the desired staff, teaching and professional support.
They are well placed to readily accommodate the graduates of digitally based primary schools. However they are in 2014 as indicated (Lee and Broadie, 2014) relatively few and number.
Notwithstanding they, like their pathfinder primary confreres provide the later adopter schools an important insight into how all high schools should be able to go some distance towards providing an apt, ever evolving 24/7/365 schooling for the digital and networked world.
As a former upper secondary teacher and principal, well versed in the belief held by many secondary, particularly upper secondary teachers and principals that they are the superior educators I’d be suggesting it might be opportune for them to carefully scrutinise why in general terms primary schools are evolving faster and why the pathfinder primary schools are so well positioned to provide their students an ever higher order holistic education.
It might occasion secondary schools to analyse the appropriateness of retaining Industrial Age organisational structures in a rapidly evolving digital and networked world.
Lee, M (in press) ‘The challenge of high school digital normalisation’. Educational Technology Solutions, 2014
Lee, M and Broadie, R (2014) A Taxonomy of School Evolutionary Stages Broulee Australia